There is a loaf of memory….some alive still remember it, others know it from the whispers of culture which form resonances or even from pictorial evidence … the Sandwich Loaf.
What makes the Sandwich Loaf?
Apart from reference to the man, there is bread hidden within the story ... what was it? Probably the sort of loaf I have before me ... its 6 days old and should be consigned, but no, toasted this morning it is a triumph. It is still soft, has the characteristic dense crumb which mostly doesn’t fall, retaining its integrity ... fine crumbs ... the crust starts to shale and separate in layers…the thickness of crumb is not damp as in all industrial breads, but rather baked through with a pleasing cakey mouth-feel.
This is an important distinction because no matter how tolerant of modern white bread, without going on ... it doesn’t chew well ... has a poor mouth-feel really. I cannot swallow it accustomed to chewing as I am…one must not chew, simply swallow the wad, which is unsatisfactory ... but THIS bread is chewy, substantial but not too much so, yet dissolves/digests comfortably ... yes “comfort” I suppose, but also deeply meaningful on many levels!
Baked in a “tin”, a metal form which dictates the new racial memory of bread…we all know it ... the sandwich-role of this loaf is a culinary distinction of the UK ... yes, despised relegated and ignored, but made with proper bread, the sandwich, or especially toast, is a worthy bread experience ... nourishing , moreish ... fattening? ... I do not believe one would fatten merely eating this bread, but simply fill-out more attractively!
Further, this is easier and the process more forgiving than with crusty bread ... wonderful and resonant with superiority as crusty bread may be.
This is the sort of loaf we want around all the time. Bread is such a basic food, the original “fast” food, always there to feed the starving masses who trudge in from school work play or war! If wholesome, what could be better? The demonising of bread refers to industrial pap, not this type of loaf which can be the foundation of good eating.
Unlocking the secret
The secret is that proper fermentation of good flour creates flavour and liberates locked up nutrients, as well as creating more nutrients during the ferment, simply developing good taste and a specific quality.
The sandwich loaf is best made with the sponge and dough process in which a dough or batter of flour and water with some salt, is seeded with a small amount of yeast and allowed to fully ferment, classically overnight to be made into various breads in the morning. The addition of extra flour forms the dough which ferments rapidly, the sponge conferring valuable and precious ripeness in the same way a ripe peach is in all ways better than an unripe one.
Traditionally there were a number of idiosyncratic methods using 3 or more stages, often employing malt, which again is almost a signifier of traditional British bread.
The good news is that such loaves are easily within reach of home bakers.
The Proper Sandwich Loaf - a quick-ish one…..nevertheless, good.
The Overnight Very Best Sandwich Loaf - longer and better!