What’s better on a cool fall afternoon than the scent of baking bread, am I right? Baking bread has always been one of my favorite things to do — there’s nothing better than warm loaves of bread, fresh from the oven, resting under white flour sack towels on the counter!
This is one of my favorite recipes for a basic, go-to bread that is great for sandwiches and perfect for toast and grilled cheese sammies. There’s a bit more sugar in the dough, but not too much for every day use. This has been a favorite of guests on mornings when we toast it up and slather with butter!
I’ve included a few hints below, but my two absolute requirements are good yeast and good flour. For whatever reason, I’m always unhappy with the dough when I use the yeast from the envelope — the jars of yeast yield a better dough. If you have a hard time finding the jars at the market, check the refrigerated section. The other trick I’ve learned is that spending a bit more on bread flour will yield a better loaf of bread. My favorite is King Arthur for a really nice, light, squashy texture!
Since this dough doesn’t have dairy in it it also keeps very well. We keep our bread in large zip plastic bags and it is great for sandwiches for a few days, and still good for toasting and grilling for a few more days after that
- 2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C) - should feel warm to the touch, but not hot
- 1/2 cup white sugar (note: For sweeter bread -- great for cinnamon rolls! -- go up to 2/3 of a cup. We usually use just shy of 1/2 cup)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast - I always have the best results with the yeast in a jar
- 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 6 cups bread flour - I prefer King Arthur, HATE Pillsbury
- In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water, and then stir in yeast. Allow to proof until yeast resembles a creamy foam.
- Mix salt and oil into the yeast. Mix in flour one cup at a time. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth. (I usually knead for around 10 minutes)
- Place in a well oiled bowl, and turn dough to coat. Cover with a damp cloth.
- Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
- Punch dough down. Knead for a few minutes, and divide in half.
- Shape into loaves, and place into two well oiled 9×5 inch loaf pans.
- Allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until dough has risen 1 inch above pans.
- Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes.
- Now for my super special tips!!
- Maybe it’s me, maybe it’s the altitude… but I swear to all that’s holy the yeast that comes in a jar versus the stuff in the packets works better.
- Re. the above note: if the bread isn’t rising like you think it should…. give it more time. It usually will get there eventually. The times listed a re a bit skimpy. I usually give it about 2 hours in the bowl, 1 hour in the pans.
- Pans and removing the loaves. I use some non-stick business from Target (probably, can’t remember.) I oil by dumping in some vegetable oil and spreading it around with a paper towel. Bake the bread. Immediately after removing from the oven slide a butter knife around the edges and tip the pans over to release the bread. It should come right out. I clean with a dry cloth (no soap and water!) and stash away. It’s sort of like a wok. If you don’t mess with the surface, your bread will come right out….
- Final tip: under no circumstances should you, in a fit of know-it-alledness, try to prove to any smug, silver-haired men in your lives that you can mash cold butter and jam together to create a pink, sweet, smooth concoction. What you will get is laughed at and an impossible to deal with purple glob of preserves with butter balls suspended in it. It will not spread well. But you will have a decent reason to eat balls of butter, which we normally try to avoid in the interest of not being freaks.