Two years ago I baked a couple loves of white bread using Julia Child’s recipe. They were nothing particularly special as far as breads go – the kind with the not-too-crusty crust that’s shaped like a caricature of toast when sliced. Soon after I made a peanut butter and jam sandwich on the aforementioned bread to pack in a school lunch (no allergies!), and it has since become referred to by W as My Favourite Bread. He asks for it by name, with butter or peanut butter or poached eggs or as a sandwich, and always quietly smiles when I have a loaf of it, or he sees me making a batch. But at one point I started to feel guilty for doling out so many thick slices of white bread, and figured I’d best inject some nutrition into it. In the form of pureed white beans, of course. They’re starchy, thick and have very little flavour on their own – they literally blend right in.
I’m a fan of grainy breads – as a kid, it was whole wheat or nothing, preferably thin, square slices of dark bio bread that were so loaded with whole grains and seeds they practically crumbled when you took one out of the bag. (I asked for Wonder Bread for my birthday one year, and actually got it.)
I get the appeal of white bread, unfettered by tweedy grains, and I can empathize with W’s love for white bread sandwiches. And yet – there’s no reason white bread should consist of little more than white flour and yeast. I’ve done plenty of baking with pureed white beans in the past – they boost fibre as well as protein – and so I whizzed up a can to add to the dough, and hey! They blend right in – a sleuthy nutritional boost to his PB & J and morning toast. I am the bean ninja.
White Bean White Bread
2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1 19 oz (540 mL) can white kidney or navy beans, drained
6-6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup butter, softened
Pour 1/2 cup of the water into a bowl and sprinkle over the sugar and yeast; let stand for 5 minutes, until foamy. (If the yeast doesn’t do anything, toss it out and buy fresh yeast.)
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the beans with the remaining 1 1/2 cups water until as smooth as you can get it. Add to the yeast mixture along with about half of the flour. Stir until well blended. Add the rest of the flour, the salt and butter and stir with the dough hook (or by hand) until well combined and shaggy. Continue to knead (I let the dough hook go for about 8 minutes, poking it down once in awhile) until it’s smooth and elastic. You could do this by hand, too. If you used the dough hook, turn the dough out onto the countertop and knead a few times to make sure it’s evenly smooth. Doesn’t it feel great?
Shape it into a ball and put it back into the bowl. Cover with a tea towel and let it sit for 1 – 1 1/2 hours, until it’s doubled in size.
Butter two loaf pans. Punch the dough down and pat each piece into a rectangle that’s about – or a bit bigger than a standard piece of paper.
Starting at a short end, fold it in thirds, like a letter. Place seam side down in the loaf pans, tucking the ends in. Cover with the tea towel again and leave them for an hour, until they puff right up out of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 375°F and put the rack in the middle of the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the loaves are honey brown. Immediately turn the loaves out of their pans and onto a rack to cool.
Makes 2 loaves.