Fluffy Sandwich Bread

An attempt to extend the concepts employed by America's Test Kitchen in their Fluffy Dinner Rolls recipe that works so well. This is inevitably a step toward Japanese shokupan. That shokupan recipe doesn't make use of the slurry technique, however.

Yield

2 standard loaves.

Ingredients

Slurry
6 tbsp all-purpose or bread flour
1 cup water
 
Main ingredients
the slurry
1 cup milk
3¾-4 cups bread flour
1 tbsp yeast
4 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
8 tbsp softened butter (1 stick, room temperature at least)

Preparation

Making the slurry

1. Make the slurry by whisking the flour into the water until no lumps remain. Microwave the slurry stirring every 20 seconds until it turns into a stiff, but smooth pudding-like paste that will stand up a bit when you lift and let it drip back onto itself. Typically, you will need only 2 periods in the microwave.

2. In your stand mixer's bowl, not under the mixer, whisk together the slurry and the milk. Park the bowl under the mixer.

Making the dough

3. Add the bread flour plus the yeast. Put the bowl into the mixer under its dough hook and mix on low until all of the flour is moistened, 1-2 minutes, then let it sit in the bowl for 15 minutes.

15 minutes

4. Add the sugar and salt, mix on medium-low for 5 minutes.

5 minutes

5. With the mixer still running, add the butter, one tablespoon at a time as you incorporate it. Let the mixer run for 5 more minutes scraping down the sides of the bowl and the dough hook to ensure perfect incorporation of all ingredients. The dough will be a bit sticky (do put enough flour for the dough to pull away from the bottom of the bowl).

5 minutes

First proofing

6. Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it into a ball. Put the dough, seam-side down, into a greased bowl for proofing. Spray with Pam and cover with plastic wrap. Let the paton proof until doubled, about 1 hour.

1 hour

Making the loaves

7. Grease a standard loaf pan. Transfer the paton to your kneading surface, resist the temptation to add flour. Press gently to expel air and flatten out to a square. Cut the dough into 4 pieces like this:


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8. For each piece of dough, stretch and flatten gently into a long strip. Roll each into a snug cylinder, then curl into a ball (a little like what's done in the shokupan recipe. Put 2 pieces side-by-side into each loaf pan.

Second proofing

9. Cover with plastic wrap, let proof until double in volume, 45-60 minutes.

45-60 minutes

10. Preheat oven to 350° with a rack on the lower middle. Bake loaves on this rack until deep, golden brown, 45 minutes?

45 minutes?

11. Cool loaves in the pans for 3 minutes, then invert each carefully from pan, then reinvert and allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before cutting. Cooling on a rack will guard the bottoms from sweating against the surface they're cooling on.

3+20 minutes