Yield: 2 8-by-4-inch loaves

This was my standard, easy sandwich bread for years. Below, I’ve also listed the quantities for 3 loaves, or 2 9-by-5-inch loaves (you need 3 1/2 cups minimum of flour for a 9-by-5 loaf). To make it more nutritious, substitute white whole wheat flour for some of the all-purpose; this flour maintains the slightly sweet, creamy crumb I want from white bread. You can sub up to about 2 cups of white wheat flour. Also, I often use dry milk powder for the milk, mixing it with hot water and the butter  — easy and cheap.

5 to 5 1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons instant dry yeast

2 teaspoons fine sea salt

2 cups milk

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter or vegetable oil

In a large bowl, whisk together 5 cups flour flour, sugar, yeast and salt. Heat milk with butter to 120 degrees (butter doesn’t need to melt; if you use oil, just add it to heated milk). Stir into flour mixture until you get a shaggy dough. Knead dough, using a mixer’s dough hook on medium speed for about 4 minutes, or by hand for about 10 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic. Add remaining 1/2 cup flour if  needed while you knead, but keep dough as moist as possible. Cover with a piece of greased plastic wrap pressed directly to the surface of the dough and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. If your kitchen is quite chilly, put the dough in a cold oven with a small pot of boiling water.

When dough has doubled (a finger pressed gently into dough will leave an indentation that will not spring back), gently press it down, divide into two pieces, and shape into loaves. To shape, press dough into a rectangle, fold into thirds like a letter, turn a quarter-turn, and fold in half, pinching the bottom seam together. Gently press and roll each loaf until it fits, seam-side down, into greased 8-by-4-inch loaf pans. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake loaves for 30 minutes, until the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Turn loaves out of pans and cool on a wire rack.

This bread also takes well to various add-ins — make it into cinnamon-raisin bread, or add dried cranberries or herbs, or shape it into small rolls.

Proportions for 2 9-by-5-inch loaves, or 3 8-by-4-inch loaves:

7 1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon instant dry yeast

1 tablespoon fine sea salt

3 cups milk

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter or vegetable oil

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