Would you believe — there’s a book entirely devoted to white bread. It’s called, (of course), “White Bread” and has a cover reminiscent of a loaf of packaged Wonder Bread.
I thought the scorn for white bread was something new. But according to the author, Aaron Bobrow-Sprain, apparently there’s been a lot of controversy about this stuff on and off for centuries. Some of it had to do with food safety issues. But some of it had to do with racism (one health advocate apparently thought white bread was “threatening white racial superiority”).
When I was growing up my Mom would buy bakery rye bread and something called “corn bread” which isn’t that yellow, cakey Southern style stuff but more like sour-dough rye bread and was known in Jewish neighborhoods as “Jewish corn bread.” Those were for having with dinner. Or toasting for breakfast. Or for deli sandwiches.
But she bought packaged white bread too. It was the modern thing. The help-the-little-lady convenience food. It was too convenient not to buy. And there weren’t very many choices in packaged bread anyway. Maybe whole wheat, but I didn’t know anyone whose mother bought packaged whole wheat bread.
My mother bought packaged white bread for this reason (which Bobrow-Sprain also acknowledges), and that is, there are certain kinds of sandwiches that just don’t work with rye, corn bread or any kind of fancy artisinal loaves.
Like peanut butter and jelly and mostly, my mother’s fried-to-a-crisp kosher salami with yellow mustard. That salami was hot and sizzling, right out of the pan when she put it on the mustard-slathered slices and when you held the sandwich to take a bite, your fingers would make such deep indentations in the soft bread that sometimes it made a hole in the sandwich. Never mind. That’s the way it was supposed to be with packaged white bread.
I could actually have one of those sandwiches now. It’s been years.
I don’t remember when I last bought packaged white bread.
I do bake white bread though. With one of my help-the-little-lady convenience machines like my KitchenAid mixer and my Cuisinart food processor. With either of those it’s not that difficult to make a good loaf of bread.
I don’t agree with those who say white bread is bland. Sometimes it’s the ingredients on the bread that you want to give a starring role, not the bread itself. Like that fried salami.
So, for any of you who would like to have a good white bread, try this recipe.
Milk and Honey White Bread
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 4 cups all-purpose flour, approximately
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons softened butter
- 3/4 cup warm milk
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Place the yeast and 1/4 cup water in a small bowl. Add 1 teaspoon flour and the sugar. Mix well and set aside for about 5 minutes. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the remaining flour and salt. Add the 2 eggs, butter, milk and honey. Blend ingredients thoroughly. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding more flour if the dough seems too sticky. Dough should be soft but not sticky. Place the dough in a bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place for about 1-1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch down the dough, knead briefly and let rise again for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Lightly grease a 9” loaf pan. Place the dough inside the pan. Let rise for another 30 minutes. Brush the surface of the bread with the beaten egg. Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown and well risen.
Makes one loaf