It started with the tiramisu. I ran out of the stash of ladyfingers that my parents had brought from Toronto, and couldn’t find ladyfingers at the grocery store, or anywhere. Sure, there were anise-flavoured cookies and shortbread and biscotti, but no ladyfingers. So in a fit of inspiration desperation, I seized a box of Nilla wafers and used those instead (and for the record, no one seemed to have noticed so there you have it, pseudoladyfingers in a time of need).
I then ended up with a ~1/4 box of Nilla wafers sitting forlornly in my cupboard and decided to bake some sort of bread with them. The result is a soft-textured loaf that smells a bit like… well… vanilla cookies?
Built upon King Arthur Flour’s Classic Sandwich Bread
Makes one sandwich loaf.
– 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
– 1/2 cup Nilla wafers (15ish wafers), lightly toasted and ground into crumbs
– 1 cup milk, lukewarm
– 4 tbsp (1/4 cup) vegetable oil
– 1 tbsp sugar
– 1 tsp salt
– 2 tsp instant yeast, or 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
– 1/2 tsp vital wheat gluten*
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm milk along with the sugar, and allow to proof at room temperature until foamy, about 10 minutes.
Arrange the Nilla wafers in a single layer on a baking sheet and lightly toast them, just until you start to smell the cookies (I did this hoping to bring out the vanilla cookie aroma in them). Crush up the cookies into crumbs; I did this by putting them in a sandwich bag and crushed them with a rolling pin.
Add the flour, Nilla wafer crumbs, vital wheat gluten, oil and salt to the bowl, and stir until the dough begins to come together and leaves the sides of the bowl. Adjust the consistency as need: if the dough feels too dry, add a little bit of water, stir and check again; if the dough feels too wet, add a little bit of flour, stir and check again.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, and knead until it becomes smooth and supple, around 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and allow the dough to rise till approximately doubled, about 60 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, and shape it to fit your pan. The KAF recipe calls for an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan but I only have 9 x 5-inch pans and they work for me. Cover the pan loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the dough to rise for about 30 to 60 minutes, or until it’s crowned about 1 inch above the edge of the 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch pan (it will probably just reach the top of a 9 x 5-inch pan).
Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 30-35 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove the loaf from the oven and let it cool before slicing and serving.
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