After much experimentation over the years, I've found that this recipe is the best bread for tea sandwiches. It is hearty and flavorful with a tender crumb, so it provides an excellent base for sandwich fillings from rich tuna and cold meats to light cucumber and fluffy egg salad. It’s also a versatile bread recipe, and I am constantly playing around with flours and additions to make unique loaves.
Plain white flour results in a perfect loaf that rises beautifully every time. Replacing one cup of white flour with whole wheat flour adds a delightful texture and lovely toasted wheat fragrance while retaining the moist and tender crumb. Spelt flour adds a finer texture but doesn’t rise as high and tends to dry out within 1-2 days.
I love adding extra bits to this bread recipe. Mixing in a handful of poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, or sesame seeds brings a lovely crunch and beautiful toasted flavor. Chopped nuts are another good addition. Walnuts and pecans are excellent choices since they bake up tender and crunchy without detracting by being too tough, as can happen with other nuts.
Cheese and fresh herbs are also delicious additions to this bread. Try finely diced sun-dried tomatoes with tangy chunks of feta cheese, tiny leaves of lemon thyme and a generous grating of aged parmesan cheese, or a large mound of extra sharp cheddar cheese and lavish amounts of freshly grated black pepper.
Such scrumptious additions are perfect for tea sandwiches with simple fillings, but for sandwiches with elaborate or strong-flavored fillings, stick with simpler additions. Mix in finely chopped rosemary with black pepper, mash a few bulbs of roasted garlic and mix it into the bread dough with torn tarragon leaves, or caramelize a couple of diced onions and mix them in with julienned sage leaves.
Once the bread is seasoned, baked, and cooled, it's time to slice it up, spread with butter, then play with fillings.
With a nutty or seedy bread, make a pretty and charming variety of fruity tea sandwiches such as Berries and Brie with fresh blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries, zingy lemon and cool cucumber, or Honeyed Asian Pear.
Use fragrant herb bread for these savory numbers. Jazz up traditional chicken salad with a swirl of savory pesto, layer hummus with slices of smoky roasted red peppers, and top fig jam with honey and creamy blue cheese crumbles.
Stick to the basic bread recipe and celebrate the comfort of toasted or grilled cheese tea sandwiches. Try roasted turkey piled with caramelized onions and an aged sharp cheddar cheese, tender corned beef layered with tangy sauerkraut and Gruyere, or these mini Monte Cristo beauties filled with smoky ham and Swiss cheese.
Best Bread for Tea Sandwiches
- 1 1/4 cup warm water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
- 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar or honey
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or melted butter
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups white flour
- 1 cup wheat flour
- 1 tablespoon milk powder
- 1 teaspoon bread improver
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and brown sugar in warm water. Stir in vegetable oil, salt, milk powder, bread improver, and flour, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When mixed, turn dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place (microwave or sunny countertop works well) until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a loaf. Place the loaf into a 9x5-inch loaf pan lined with baking paper. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and bake for 30-40 minutes until crust is golden brown and top of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.