Well, it’s the beginning of a new year, and I thought this would be the perfect recipe to start off with. Plus, this is the best time of year for using your oven. Basic white bread is just that, basic. But it’s amazingly delicious when done right, not to mention useful. I’ll call this sandwich bread, because it’s fabulous for that, but it’s also good for toasting, dipping in soup, or just eating with butter.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
- 1 packet yeast
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- ¾ cup milk
- ½ cup hot water
- 2 Tablespoons butter
First you want to get your wet ingredients together. Measure out the hot water, then add the milk and butter. You want it to be the temperature warm bath water, so pop it into the microwave for a few seconds if necessary. Set that aside so the butter can melt. (If you’re using active dry yeast, go ahead and add it to the liquid mixture and let it do its thing for a few minutes)
If you use instant yeast, it makes this super simple. Throw all the dry ingredients (including instant yeast) into a bowl and stir them together.
Just for a quick reminder, to properly measure flour for a recipe, spoon it into you measuring cup so it’s nice and fluffy.
Then level off the top with a straight edge, careful not to pack it down.
Go ahead and pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.
I like to just stir it until it mostly comes together.
Then bring in the big guns for the kneading part. After about 30 seconds or so, it should look something like this. That is not good looking bread dough. I needs some work.
Allow it to knead for a good 5 minutes or so. You can certainly do all of this by hand if you don’t mind the workout. Count on it taking twice as long by hand, as well. When it’s ready the dough should be supple and smooth, like a baby’s bottom. Not that I’ve seen many baby’s bottoms, being of the child free persuasion, but whatever. It’s a figure of speech. Moving on. While your dough is kneading, butter the inside of a large bowl.
Form the dough into something resembling a ball and place it top side down into the bowl.
Turn it and flip it over so that it has butter on all sides.
Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and leave it to rise.
You want it to double in size which will probably take about an hour. At some point while it’s doing that, butter a 9x5 loaf pan.
Remove the towel and admire the work your yeast has been doing. I might be weird, but there’s something beautiful about bread dough.
Punch it down to remove most of the large air pockets. For just a regular loaf, you don’t even need to dirty your countertop, just leave it in the bowl.
Roll the dough into a sort of log, pinching the seam together.
Place it into the pan, seam side down, and press it down so that it fills most of the bottom.
Cover it again with a damp towel and leave it to rise once more. You want it to peek over the top by about an inch or so. That will probably take 45 – 60 minutes, but don’t rush it. If it needs longer, be patient.
During the last 15 minutes or so, preheat your oven to 350°. Gently, cut a shallow slit down the middle with a sharp knife. About ¼ inch, I’d say.
Then straight into the oven. 350° for about 35 minutes. When it’s done, it will be nice and golden on top, and if you tap on it, it will sound hollow.
Immediately remove it from the pan and place it on a cooling rack. Rub the top with a stick of butter. This will make it soft, shiny, and beautiful.
After a couple of minutes, you might notice little tiny bubbles from the butter. If, like me, you don’t like the look of them, just wipe the gently away with a paper towel.
For the best texture, allow the bread to cool completely before slicing. Good luck, though. Nothing smells better than fresh baked bread. Just look at those perfect slices of bread. Aren't they gorgeous?
What’s your favorite thing to do with really good white bread?