Honey Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

I know this isn't a dessert, but I've been looking for a good sandwich bread recipe and this is it so I had to share!! I've had issues with wheat bread not rising well and being very dense. I wanted something that was light and fluffy and didn't crumble. This bread has a soft center and the crust is crusty. If you don't like the crust that way, just bake it at 375° for 25-30 minutes. Initially baking at 400° gives it a harder crust. I used 4½ teaspoons of active dry yeast and had to let it rise longer (the first time for 1½ hours and the second time for an hour). I think I will try the rapid rise next time to see if it makes it rise any higher/faster. I brushed honey butter on the tops, which was delicious, but you may just want to do butter. The honey definitely gives the bread a sweeter flavor that may not taste good with sandwiches. Brushing it with butter also softens the crust a bit.

This recipe make 3 loaves. While I was able to do most of the mixing in my 6qt KitchenAid Mixer, I ended up kneading the last cup of white flour in by hand. I also put the dough in a large greased bowl, covered with a damp towel, in the oven and heat to 120° with a smaller bowl of water on the lower rack. Turn the oven off and let it rise until doubled in bulk. The low heat and humidity help it rise better and stay soft. I know that's a lot of information, but I've been trying several recipes to get it right. Anyway, this is the best bread ever! I don't think I will be buying store bought bread anymore! It's perfect!

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 packages yeast (rapid rise)
3 cups milk
½ cup honey
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
4-5 cups all-purpose flour

Combine the 3 cups whole wheat flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl. In a saucepan over low heat, combine milk, honey and oil. Heat until about 110°. Pour into flour mixture and blend well until all dry ingredients are incorporated. Add the 1 cup of wheat flour and 4-5 cups of all-purpose flour one cup at a time, until the dough is no longer sticky. Knead dough about 8-10 times and place in a large greased bowl. Cover with damp cloth and let rise for 45-60 minutes, or until doubled in bulk.

Punch down dough and divide into 3 sections. Knead each section 4-5 times before shaping into a loaf and placing into greased loaf pans. Cover pans with a damp cloth and let rise for another 45-60 minutes, until doubled.

Place pans in a COLD oven. Set temperature to 400° and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 375° and bake for an additional 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans. Brush tops with butter while warm, if desired.

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