White Bread, Variation 3

Peter Reinhart in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice has three variations for white sandwich bread. This is the third variation, made with a sponge that is allowed to ferment before the remainder of the ingredients for the dough are added. Variation 1 was made in a previous post. Each of the three variations may be made with a variety of liquids and fats, making for many more than three possible ways to make the same basic recipe.

In general, each post here deals with one batch of bread. This post deals with two separate batches. In the second batch I corrected some problems from the the first batch.



The left picture above is Variation 3. There was very little oven spring and as a result the slices were too short for my toaster. They didn’t stick out far enough when the toast popped up to pick up without touching the hot metal. So I scaled the batch size up by about 10% to 2000 grams. Looking at the right hand picture of the Variation 3a loaves you can see that I over did it, these slices are too big to fit all the way into the toaster.

For Variation 3 the recipe is based on the Baker’s Formula in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice sized to make 1800 grams of dough, which should make two loaves in 9 by 5 pans.

White Bread Recipe, Variation 3

The Sponge

  • Bread Flour 570 grams
  • Instant Yeast 11 grams
  • Room Temp Whole Milk 608 grams

The Dough

  • All of the Sponge
  • Bread Flour 380 grams
  • Salt 19 grams
  • Sugar 76 grams
  • Egg Yolk, slightly beaten 33 grams
  • Butter or other fat 102 grams

In the The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Peter Reinhart mentions that Milk, Yogurt, Skim Milk, and Cultured Buttermilk can all be used in the recipe. I like yogurt so I used whole milk yogurt. Butter, Shortening, or Vegetable Oil can be used for the fat. I used extra virgin Olive Oil.


The left photo shows the yogurt in the 4 quart bowl before adding the dry ingredients for the sponge. I put the liquid into the bowl first because that way I have less problems getting all the flour moistened. With the flour in first it’s harder to get it all off the bottom of the bowl and hydrated. The right photo shows the flour and yeast on top of the yogurt before mixing the sponge.



The left photo shows the sponge as mixed. The right photo shows the sponge after sitting covered at room temperature for about 90 minutes. It is puffed up, but not quite doubled.


I measured out the dry ingredients and added them to the sponge, which was already in the mixer. Then I turned the mixer on low. Big mistake, flour went everywhere. I learned something, don’t add a lot of flour to the dough at once. Adding a little bit at a time and mixing it in before adding more works much better. The same thing applies to the oil and egg, if you add them all at once the dough ball on the mixer will fling oil all over, so only add a bit at once.

Bread recipe instructions typically say to add more flour or liquid to the dough when kneading to get the dough the proper consistency. This is something that I have always worried about, but this time I thought the dough was too wet and ended up adding another 22 grams of flour. I was worried it might still be a bit too wet, but after the bulk ferment the dough was wonderful to work with.



The dough was easy to form into loaf shapes and place into the pans for proofing.


The proofed loaves are on the left above. The right shows them after they came out of the oven. I was disappointed that there wasn’t more oven spring.



The two loaves looked good in the pan and on the cooling rack. They sliced nicely and were good eating. My only concern was that the slices were too short to stick out of the toaster. Variation 3a below was designed to give slices a bit taller. Aside from scaling the recipe up from 1800 grams to 2000 grams the ingredients were changed with skim milk replacing yogurt and butter replacing the Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

White Bread Recipe, Variation 3a

The Sponge

  • Bread Flour 634 grams
  • Instant Yeast 13 grams
  • Room Temp Milk 676 grams

The Dough

  • All of the Sponge
  • Bread Flour 423 grams
  • Salt 21 grams
  • Sugar 84 grams
  • Egg Yolk, slightly beaten 37 grams
  • Butter or other fat 113 grams


The sponge just after mixing is shown on the left. The right shows it after it had expanded to fill the bowl. It sat for about 4 hours because I had to take care of something else before I could get back to the bread. The extra time compared to the sponge from variation 3 above was a factor, but another factor is that I used skim milk, not yogurt, in this batch. Since yogurt has active cultures I didn’t want to put it in the microwave to warm it up and it was not that warm when the sponge was mixed. I nuked the skim milk from the fridge to 90 F so the yeast got working right away.



As the two photos above show, this batch had plenty of oven spring. I was surprised that the uneven spring on the two loaves was between them in the oven. Was it a coincidence, or it it a result of the way they were placed in the oven?



On the left are the two loaves cooling, and on the right it shows one sliced, as at the top of the post. In conclusion, the original variation 3 recipe for 1800 grams of dough would probably be correct to make two 9 by 5 inch pans of bread if the liquid for the sponge was heated to 90 F to give the yeast a good start towards fermenting the sponge and then the dough. I will have to text it in a future batch of White Bread.