In a small microwave-safe bowl, mix milk and sugar. Heat in microwave to a temperature of between 110℉ - 115℉. This should take less than a minute and it’s very important to use a thermometer to get the correct temperature.
Dissolve yeast in milk mixture and set aside for 7 minutes to proof. It should “bloom” or form a foam on top.
In the meantime, add flour and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk together with a fork.
When yeast is proofed, add applesauce, egg and yeast mixture to the flour mixture. Blend with the mixer until a dough forms, 3-4 minutes.
Turn the dough onto a lightly greased surface or pastry mat and use a bench scraper* to fold the dough in half repeatedly for 6-8 minutes until it becomes smooth and elastic. The dough will be sticky.
Turn the dough into a large, lightly greased bowl. Use a pastry brush or cooking spray to lightly oil the top of the dough. Cover with towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise until double in size, about 1 hour.
Gently press a fist into the center of the dough to deflate and turn it into a greased loaf pan (8 ½” x 4 ½” x 2 ½”). Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and allow it to rise for 30 minutes.
Uncover the dough and continue to rise until the dough slightly crowns over top of the pan, about 30 minutes.
Bake at 375℉ until golden brown, 25-30 minutes. Bread should sound hollow when you tap on the crust and have an internal temperature of 190℉.
Remove immediately from the pan to a cooling rack. Brush top, sides and bottom with melted butter. Allow to cool completely before slicing.
*Bench scrapers (also referred to as bowl scrapers or pastry knives) can be stainless steel or plastic and cost as little as $1.00. If you don’t have one on hand, you can use a sturdy spatula, cake/pie server or butter knife. If you must know the truth, I use a plastic drywall mudding tool as a bench scraper!
Hack: Do not add flour to the mat while kneading unless absolutely necessary. This may cause your finished product to be dry. If the dough is sticky at first, spray the mat and hands with cooking spray while kneading. Use a pastry scraper or spatula to fold dough if necessary.
Hack: For better rising, put the covered dough in a sunny spot in your house. I’m not sure this is necessary in warmer climates but it sure helps here in cold New England!
Hack: On the final rise, gauge the readiness of the dough by pressing your finger gently on the top. If it bounces right back, it’s not proofed enough. Your fingerprint should remain after you take finger away, however, if your dough falls to any degree after removing your finger, it’s over-proofed and will probably fall in the oven.
Hack: Bread can be sliced and then frozen or refrigerated for longer storage. You can “refresh” the bread by warming it briefly in the microwave or toasting it before use.
Hack: If the bread stales before you’ve finished eating it, run it between your fingers (or use a food processor) to turn it into bread crumbs. Seal in bag or container and store in the freezer for future use.
Hack: This recipe can be turned into sandwich rolls if preferred. After the first rise, separate the dough into 8 pieces and form into rolls. Allow to rise until double, about 30 minutes.
To make Bechamel sauce, melt butter in a small saucepan. Add the flour, stir until the mixture bubbles. Whisk milk, salt and pepper into the flour mixture and simmer, whisking constantly, until the sauce is thickened.
Remove from heat and stir in 2 tbsp Gruyere cheese, 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese and nutmeg. Stir until cheeses melt.
To assemble sandwiches, spread ½ of the Bechamel sauce on two slices of bread. Top each slice with 2 slices of ham and sprinkle half of the remaining Gruyere over ham. Spread Dijon mustard on the remaining two slices of bread and place, mustard side down, on top of ham and cheese.
Put sandwiches on a baking sheet coated with non-stick cooking spray or lined with parchment paper. Cover with remaining Bechamel sauce and Gruyere cheese.
Bake for 5-7 minutes until cheese melts and the sandwich is heated through. Place under broiler for a few moments, if desired, to brown top of the sandwich.
For a Croque Madame: Top with a fried or poached egg.
Hack: Bechamel sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Cover surface with plastic wrap to avoid forming a skin.
Keyword Croque Madame, Croque Monsieur, French cuisine, French food, lunch, sandwich, toasted
Did you know? Croque Monsieur is the French equivalent of our grilled cheese. And just like grilled cheese, the Croque Madame is one of many variations!
Mix the first 7 ingredients (chicken through salt/pepper) in a bowl until thoroughly incorporated. Shape into 4 patties. Cook in pan preheated pan 5-7 minutes on each side until the internal temperature reaches 165℉. Top each patty with 1 slice of swiss cheese, 1 tablespoon Thousand Island, tomato and lettuce. Serve on a whole-wheat bun.
Hack: Place burgers on a cookie sheet and place them in the freezer until frozen. Put individually into sealable sandwich bags and then into a sealable freezer bag or freezer container. The rolls can also be frozen in the same manner.
Hack: To extend the shelf life of romaine, separate leave and wash. Dry in a salad spinner or with paper towels. Place lettuce leaves in a sealable plastic bag or container with paper towels between each layer to absorb moisture. Replace paper towels if they become soggy.