This bread will not taste like other white bread. It will have an open gluten network, a nutty flavor, and a wonderful character. Allow it to cool completely before slicing for sandwiches or it will accordion on you. The ingredients for his bread are exactly the same as those for Sweet French Bread, the difference is that the dough is baked in pans.
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl (reserving a little water for adjustments) until the mixture can be formed into a ball. Sprinkle a little flour on the counter, turn out the dough, and knead it for about 10 to 12 minutes or until the dough is tacky but not sticky and has a nice elasticity.
Clean the bowl and return the dough to it. Cover with either a damp towel or plastic wrap, or put the bowl into a plastic bag. Leave the dough out at room temperature to rise for about 1½ hours. The dough will have doubled in size. Punch it down, form it into a ball, return it to the bowl, and allow it to rise again for 1 to 1½ hours.
To form loaves to be baked in pans, it is not necessary to punch the dough down again after its second rise; the process of shaping the loaves will do that. Divide the dough into
Flatten each piece of dough with the heels of both hands and then fold it over, back on itself, so that you are rolling the piece into a cylindrical shape. The seam that forms when the two edges meet when the dough is folded should be kept in one place, at the bottom. Squeeze the dough to release air bubbles and pinch the seam closed. Roll the loaf back and forth under your hands to smooth the surface. Place the dough, seam-side down, in a greased bread pan that measures
Repeat the process of forming a loaf from the second piece of dough and cover the pans with either a damp cloth or plastic wrap. Allow the loaves approximately 1 hour to rise at room temperature or, after a 5-minute rise, put them in the refrigerator to rise overnight.
When the dough is cresting over the top of the pan, bake in a preheated 350°F. oven (300°F. if using convection) for approximately 45 minutes. Rotate the pans 180° about halfway through the bake. Test by thwacking the bottom of the loaf. The loaf should sound hollow and be lightly golden. Remove the loaves from the oven and allow between 20 and 45 minutes before cutting.
Time the loaf to be out of the oven 40 minutes before supper and serve it on a wooden cutting board with a knife so that the guests can cut their own slices. Have plenty of butter or margarine ready.
© 1991 Peter Reinhart. All rights reserved.