White Bread 101

Today’s recipe is none other than the simple white loaf of bread.  Perfect for sandwiches, this recipe puts store-bought sandwich loaves to shame.  In addition to having more flavor and a better texture than it’s mass-produced cousin, a from-scratch loaf of white sandwich bread has less than ten ingredients, and ones you can actually pronounce!  It’s pretty easy to make too, as you’ll see below.  So, roll up your sleeves, get out your flour, and prepare to be amazed at how good white bread can actually be!

Here’s the recipe as copied from my own King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion:

  • 3 cups (12 and 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons (1 and 1/4 ounces) sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) butter
  • 1/4 cup (1 and 1/4 ounces) nonfat dry milk
  • 1/4 cup (1 and 1/2 ounces) potato flour, or 1/3 cup (3/4 ounce) potato flakes
  • 1 and 1/8 cups (9 ounces) lukewarm water

Ingredients

Combine all the ingredients and mix and knead them together – by hand, mixer, or bread machine – until you’ve made a soft, smooth dough.  Adjust the dough’s consistency with additional flour or water as needed; but remember, the more flour you add while you’re kneading, the heavier and drier your final loaf will be.  Cover and let the dough rise for 1 hour, until it’s puffy (though not necessarily doubled in bulk).

Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface and shape it into an 8-inch log.  Transfer the log to a lightly greased 8 and 1/2 x 4 and 1/2-inch loaf pan, cover the pan (a proof cover works well here), and let the bread rise until the outer edge has risen about 1 inch over the rim of the pan, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Uncover the pan and bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting it lightly with aluminum foil for the final 10 to 15 minutes if it appears to be browning too quickly. Remove the bread from the oven, take it out of the pan, and place it on a wire rack to cool completely.  After 15 minutes, brush it with butter, if desired; this will give it a soft crust.


Ok, now that we have the technical recipe above, I’ll go into showing you step-by-step how I was able to bake the tasty loaf you see up top!

Learning Tip:  Like I said, I’m an amateur baker, so I’m still learning things along the way.  What I discovered is that “nonfat dry milk” is the same thing as powdered milk, and was available in the baking section of the local grocery store.  Also, I learned that potato flakes are the main ingredient in most instant mashed potato mixes, so I used one with no major flavoring (I think it was Homestyle Butter or something) and it worked out great.

Now, once I had all my ingredients measured out, I threw them into my handy-dandy mixing bowl, attached my bread hook to my Kitchen-Aid mixer, and let the machine take the work out of kneading my dough by using the lowest speed.

Ingredients in mixer 2

DoughBallMixer

Normally, I don’t have to add any flour or water to the dough, but today I ended up adding almost 1/2 of a cup of additional flour to get a dough ball  to form (instead of the dough just completely sticking to the sides of the bowl).

After about eight minutes, I was pleased with how my dough ball looked.  I took it out of the bowl, pulled off some dough that was stuck to the very bottom of the bowl, added it to the dough ball, and formed it into a nice sphere.  I then placed the dough ball back into the mixing bowl.

Dough Ball

Next, I covered the bowl with a clean dish rag, and placed it in a warm, dry spot to rise.  In this case, it happened to be my empty microwave.  (Make sure you don’t start the microwave accidentally or you’re going to have a fireworks show and some ruined dough.)

After an hour had passed, I uncovered the bowl and inspected my newly-risen dough.  The picture below might not do it justice, but the dough had almost doubled in size.

Raised doughball

I greased the inside of my loaf pan with a non-stick baking spray, then lightly sprinkled my counter-top workspace with a bit of flour. Next, I turned out the dough onto the workspace and spread it out with my hands.

Stretched Dough

Once it was the length of the loaf pan and uniformly the same thickness, I began to roll the dough into a log.

Roll dough

Form Log

Next, I picked the log of dough up and placed it into the greased loaf pan.

Drop into loaf pan

The crease in mine above won’t affect the way the loaf tastes, it just made it a little less pretty.  Don’t worry if yours doesn’t look perfect either, just as long it’s fitting into the loaf pan like mine does.  Loosely drape that clean dish cloth back over the top of the loaf pan and set it back in that warm, dry spot (again, for me, it was my empty microwave).  Let it rise for another hour (mine took about an hour and twenty minutes) until the loaf has raised up about an inch over the top of the loaf pan.  Towards the end of the rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Raised Loaf In Pan

Now that your dough is starting to look like a loaf of bread, you can pop it into the middle rack of the preheated oven.  I baked the bread for 25 minutes, then draped a sheet of aluminum foil loosely over the top of the bread to keep it from getting too brown.  I then baked it for another ten minutes.  In total, it baked 35 minutes before it came out of the oven to cool.

When it came out, the bread looked like this:

Baked in pan

I then took my clean dish towel, draped it back over the top of the loaf and rested my hand gently on the towel, took an oven mitt in my other hand, flipped the pan upside down and let the loaf fall into the dish towel.  Once I did this, I set the loaf on a wire baking rack and let it cool for a half hour.

Out of the pan.jpg

It’s really tempting to cut into the bread right away, especially because it makes your kitchen smell WONDERFUL!  Don’t do it though, it needs that time to cool down so it’ll slice properly and maintain that nice loaf shape.

In case you needed a reminder of what it looks like when it’s done, here you go:

Final Product

See guys! It isn’t tough at all!  If you decided to give this recipe a try, let me know how it went! Happy baking, everyone!