Basic White Bread

Basic white bread need not be bland or lacking in substance.

| January/February 1989

Over the centuries, white bread’s reputation has waxed and waned. When grinding grain into flour was a slow, laborious process, and making white flour was therefore more expensive than making wheat flour, white bread was associated with wealth and status. When sanitation was unreliable — i.e. it wasn’t always certain whether the dark material in wheat flour was flour or dirt — white bread was seen as healthy. Today it’s more apt to represent blandness.

That perception has probably been helped along by the bleached, airy, nearly weightless loaves disgorged by giant commercial bakeries. Don’t let those admittedly insipid products discourage you from making our basic white bread recipe. It’s really good.

1 package dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup warm water (105°-115°F)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 3/4 cups milk, room temperature
3 tablespoons butter, melted
6 to 6 1/2 cups unbleached or bread flour

In large mixing bowl, stir yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar into water until dissolved. Add remaining sugar, salt, milk, butter and 1 1/2 cups flour. Beat on medium speed with electric mixer 2 minutes, or 200 strokes by hand. Stir in enough remaining flour to make a workable dough, adding flour by quarter cupfuls toward the end. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface, and knead 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Place in greased bowl, turning once to coat. Cover and let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch down, knead 2 or 3 minutes, and divide in half. Let dough rest 2 or 3 minutes, then shape into loaves and place in 2 greased 8" X 4" loaf pans. Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes to an hour. Bake in preheated 375°F oven 35-40 minutes, or until done. Makes 2 loaves.

See Baking Bread for more recipes.

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