A little while ago, I came across a recipe that I thought sounded interesting: Yeasted Banana Sandwich Bread. When you don’t like condiments or cheese (like I don’t), sandwiches on white sandwich bread are very boring. Thus, I’ve never made sandwich bread. However, this recipe promised to be perfect for toast or French toast, and so I found that I couldn’t really resist. Plus, this seemed to be an unusual way to use up those bananas that keep ripening before we eat them.
I’ve made this bread twice, because the first time I made the dough I made a few errors that didn’t do the bread justice.
[I made this again in 2014; click for the recipe.] The best walk-through you could have for the recipe is on the King Arthur Flour blog. This is what I neglected to follow the first time I made the dough. The pictures on the blog are immensely useful to help figure out dough consistency and how much extra flour to add.
The first time I made this bread I waited until late afternoon to start; I was impatient, so I wanted to take action and ignored the blog.
I started the dough in my stand mixer. Recently I’ve been weighing my bread ingredients rather than measure them, so I used the weights in ounces for the ingredients for everything but the bananas for the first batch. Unfortunately, this yielded a particularly wet dough, even after 5 minutes of mixing with the stand mixer. Not thinking about checking the pictures on the blog, I decided it should be fine without adding extra flour, resulting in a very slack, sticky dough – great for something like ciabatta, not so much for sandwiches, I realize in retrospect. I scraped the dough into an oiled bowl to let it rest, covered, for an hour.
Time came to shape the dough into a loaf to put it in a loaf pan. The blog has great pictures and explanation of what to do – but of course, I didn’t take a look at that during my first attempt. I sprayed a large piece of plastic wrap with oil and dumped the dough onto it. I used the plastic wrap to fold the dough a few times. I didn’t try too hard to make a loaf shape because the dough was so slack that I wouldn’t be able to lift it off of the plastic wrap and into the pan. I just rolled it off of the plastic wrap into the oiled 8×5 inch loaf pan. I covered it with plastic wrap and set it on top of the oven to rise.
I keep my house cool in the fall and winter, so it took the dough a while to rise. In fact, it took 2 and a half hours before the dough rose an inch above the top of the loaf pan! When I took a look at it, the dough had actually fallen over the edges of the pan. Not a good sign for structural integrity, but I cleaned up the edges and put the loaf pan into the preheated oven.
Now is when I rediscovered the follies of not having enough flour and structure in my bread. I didn’t leave the pan in the oven long because the dough rose and dripped over the side of the pan onto the oven floor. I transferred the dough into a different 8×5 pan, thus deflating the dough, and waited for the oven to cool so I could clean up the mess. Luckily, I caught the mess early and it wasn’t burnt on or hard to clean up. I let the dough rise more since it had deflated, but not as much as it had risen earlier.
I baked it for 36 minutes at 350F, rotating it 180 degrees halfway through. It was a rather dense bread, but tasty.
Now, let me tell you what I did right when I made the bread the second time:
I still used my stand mixer to assemble the dough. I measured my ingredients instead of weighing them. I still had to add a little extra flour to get the dough to look like this. The dough should be tacky, which I take to mean that it sticks to your finger but doesn’t leave any dough behind.
I only had half the yeast I needed; this only means that the dough will rise more slowly. I placed my freshly-made dough in the warmest spot in my kitchen – the oven with a gas pilot light – for about 2 or 3 hours. I went over to a friend’s house while it rose, and shaped my loaf when I got back.
To shape the loaf, you basically flatten the dough into a rectangle roughly the size of a sheet of paper on a floured surface. You fold it like a tri-fold letter. Fold the top third toward you and tuck the seam into the dough. Fold the bottom part up and over the rest of the dough, sealing it into the back of the dough. Doing this did not give the dough structural tension along the top, which is what it needed to get a good rise and crust, so I basically played with the dough until the top of the loaf looked tense and stretched over. I placed the dough in the greased loaf pan with the seam-side down and stuck it in the oven for a nice long rise, until the top of the loaf rose 1 inch over the top of the pan.
Honestly, I only let my dough rise about 1/2 or 3/4 inch because it was midnight and I needed to bake the bread so I could go to bed. I baked it at 350F for about 35 minutes; I don’t remember the exact time, but it looked done.
I’ve never particularly liked sandwich bread, but I think it may have been one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever baked. The top of the loaf puffed up like magic!
Yes, I fell in love with a loaf of bread. I never understood how a loaf of sandwich bread managed to have that distinctive loaf top, but it was incredibly exciting to have made a loaf with one!
The bread smelled faintly like bananas if you have a nose that can tease that out. If you’re the kind of person who can’t taste or smell variations like that, I think it’ll just seem like bread to you. The bread was a little sweet, and didn’t taste like banana per se, but had a slightly fruity undertone to it. You wouldn’t want to make a roast beef sandwich with this bread, but it was perfect for toast with jam (or mango butter, which is what I had). It also made a delightful French Toast Peanut Butter and Jelly. It was tender although still a little dense, and seemed more dense if I didn’t cut my slices thin enough.
Overall, I think this was a fun loaf of bread to make. It wasn’t difficult if you follow the picture instructions on the blog I listed above. It smells lightly fruity as you bake it, and it’s perfect for toast, which is basically all I use sandwich bread for. It’s an innovative way to use up old bananas when you get tired of traditional banana bread. If you want to give sandwich bread a try, I recommend this recipe.