Updated: Aug 26, 2021
I LOVE a well-made sandwich with all my heart. Correct proportions of ingredients, balanced flavor, the ability to be eaten with one hand while the other is free to hold a book open; these are the qualities I look for. I equally disdain a sandwich that splooshes out it's innards when bitten into requiring many napkins and a strategy to eat, or - total fail - utensils to eat. I don't enjoy one that has an inch thickness of deli meats, but I especially give a big Liz-Lemon-style eye roll to a towering sandwich that no human mouth could ever encompass. Stop. making. these. hamburgers.
For the above reasons, I decided to try out an all-in-one baked sandwich using the sourdough recipe from King Arthur Flour that I've been baking with since February of this year (recipe link). I followed the same steps leading up to the pre-shape. At this point, I divided one loaf's worth of dough (their recipe is for two loaves) into two pieces and pre-shaped into a rough 10"x10" square. I also tested this with frozen store-bought pizza dough, included in the recipe below. It's good, but not as good as the sourdough version. I used a mix of salami and hot soppressata for my meats, julienned and stacked to a reasonable height. I had some leftover eggplant & pepper spread so of course that went into it, though sautéed mushrooms or roasted red peppers would be great as well. Top it off with some thick slices of whole milk, low-moisture mozzarella and my friends, you got yourself a sandwich. Sans sploosh.
This has quickly become a staple, and of course you can use an infinite variety of fillings and admixtures to the dough. Make this on Sunday and be set up for the week's lunches, or super happy when you don't feel like cooking on Thursday and remember that you have Big Sandwich in the fridge just waiting to be re-heated in the toaster oven. YES!
6-9 sandwiches, depending on your appetite
About 5 hours with sourdough, or 3 hours with pizza dough. This is a weekend activity, or maybe a slow work-from-home day, with the most of time being the proofing phases.
225 g active sourdough starter
300 g all-purpose flour
45 g whole wheat flour
200 g room temperature water
1 1/2 teaspoons fine kosher salt
1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme (optional)
2 portions of store-bought pizza dough, brought to room temperature from refrigerated or frozen
2 tablespoons e. v. olive oil
4 oz cured meats (such as hot sopressata, salami, prosciutto)
6 oz (about 9 slices) whole milk, low-moisture mozzarella
eggplant & pepper spread, or about 3/4 cup of sautéed mushrooms or roasted red peppers
1---Mix the starter, flours, and water in a bowl until just combined. Rest the dough for 20-30 minutes, called the "autolyse" phase. (With the addition of flour to water, the enzymes which break down protein in flour begin to do their work, gluten bonds form, and required kneading time is reduced. This is a relatively new method, invented in 1974). If using store-bought pizza dough, skip to step 4.
2---Add salt and thyme (if using) to the dough and begin mixing by pulling up dough at sides of bowl, folding into the middle, turning the bowl a bit and repeating. After a minute of this, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. I use the swing-the-dough-in-an-arc-and-thwap-on-table method, alarming the dog, but there are many ways to do it. After about 10 minutes, or when the dough passes the window-pane test (meaning you can take a piece of dough and stretch it to translucent without it breaking), put it back into the bowl from whence it came, cover with a towel and large rubber band, and go about your business for 45 minutes.
3---Envelope fold. Turn dough out onto floured work surface and pull dough out into a rectangle roughly 16" wide x 12" tall. Fold like a business letter, one third over one third, then do that again top to bottom this time. You'll end up with a folded ball of dough. Place back into bowl, cover, and do what you were doing for another 45 minutes. (dough pictured below is from a seed bread bake, but it's the same fold concept)
4---Envelope fold, same as above. Place dough back into bowl, cover, and proof for 45 minutes.
5---Pre-shape. Divide the dough in half (use a scale if you don't feel confident about estimating) and stretch each half into roughly a 10" x 10" square. Allow to rest, covered, for 20 minutes on your well-floured work surface.
6---Final shape & fill. It should have shrunk a little, so pull it out again to 10" x 10" to ensure it will cover the bottom of a 10x10 baking pan. I use a metal pan and foil, but one with a lid would work just as well, maybe better. Pour olive oil into pan. Spread oil evenly over the bottom of the pan and up the sides. Place one piece of dough into the pan and dimple it a bit with your fingers. Add your veggies in an even layer, leaving about 3/4" clear at the edge. Add the meats (I highly recommend slicing them into strips as noted in the ingredients, otherwise you may end up with slices of salami pulling out and slapping you on the chin) and finally, add the sliced mozzarella leaving the same 3/4" clear at the edge. Using a pastry brush or your finger, moisten the dough edge. Do the same for the other portion of dough before adding it, wet side down, to the top of the pile. Gently push the edges down, giving the dough an opportunity to seal as it goes through its final proof.
7---Final proof & bake. Cover and proof for one hour at room temperature. About 15 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450F. When ready to bake, score the top a few times. I do a pattern that look likes this, meant to be a guide for final cutting, but often ignored:
Cover with foil or lid and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil, reduce heat to 425F and bake an additional 18 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and after a few minutes, you'll notice that Big Sandwich has shrunk from the pan enough to easily fit a spatula on the sides. Lift Big Sandwich out of the pan and rest on cooling rack for at least 10 minutes before digging in.
Store in the refrigerator for up to one week. To reheat, wrap loosely in foil and heat in oven or toaster oven on 300F for 15-20 minutes.
I hope you enjoy this Big Sandwich as much and I've enjoyed thinking it up and creating it. It's a very simple thing and of course has been done in many other forms before me, but like I said in the beginning, I can't resist a good sandwich.