The Kitchn is one of the greatest resources for everything cooking, baking, and kitchen oriented. I found this recipe on their website.
If you’re interested in the results and my life, I wrote a few paragraphs under the recipe and recipe notes.
Superhero Bread (aka Basic White Sandwich Bread)
- 1 c warm water
- 2 tsp (or 1 packet) active dry yeast
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 c milk
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp salt (yes, tablespoon)
- 5 1/2 c all-purpose flour, divided
- Canola, vegetable, or other bland oil
- Warm the bowl of your stand mixer (or any large bowl) by filling it with hot water and dumping it out.
- Pour the one cup of warm water into the bowl. (If you are unsure about whether or not it’s warm enough to proof yeast, start with hot water and then hold off on the yeast until you can hold your finger in the water without cursing.)
- Sprinkle the yeast over the top of the warm water. Let this stand for 5 minutes until the yeast is dissolved.
- While you’re waiting for the yeast to dissolve…
- Take the chill out of the milk by microwaving it for 30 seconds to 1 minute (depending on the strength of the microwave.) Aim for lukewarm or slightly warm (not hot.) I find that a Pyrex glass measuring cup works well for this.
- Stir the sugar and salt.
- Cut the butter into smaller pieces. Melt the butter in a small dish in the microwave for about 30-45 seconds. Again, you don’t want hot butter, just melted butter. You can do this by melting to the point where there are a few lumps and stirring until you have liquid butter.
- Stir the butter into the milk mixture and stir until you feel confident that the sugar and salt have dissolved.
- By now, the yeast should be proofed up and ready to go. Add the milk mixture and 1 cup of the flour over the yeast. Stir until this comes together into a loose, lumpy batter.
- Add another 4 1/2 cups of flour and stir until a floury, shaggy dough is formed.
- Using the dough hook attachment on a stand mixer on medium speed, knead the dough until it is smooth, feels slightly tacky, forms a ball without sagging, and springs back slowly when poked. If the dough is bubble-gum sticky against the sides of the bowl, add extra flour a tablespoon at a time until it is no longer sticky.
- Coat a medium or large mixing bowl with a thin film of oil. Form the dough into a ball, place it in the bowl, and turn it to coat all over with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the rise in a warm spot for about 1 hour. If your kitchen is cold (like mine gets in the winter,) turn on the oven while you’re prepping the dough and stick the bowl adjacent to the oven. (I don’t recommend putting it on top of the oven as the dough might rise too much.)
- After the dough has risen, divide it into 2 (roughly) equal pieces and shape each piece into a loose ball. Let the balls rest for 10 minutes.
- Grease 2 (8 by 4-inch) loaf pans with oil.
- To shape the dough…
- Flatten the dough into a rough rectangle.
- Much like folding a letter, fold the bottom up by 1/3, then fold the top down to cover the bottom fold. Do the same to the left side and right side.
- Flatten again and put the top and bottom and pinch.
- This process should stretch the top of the dough until it’s taut. A much better description and tutorial can be found on the Kitchn website.
- Put the shaped dough into the loaf pans.
- Using a serrated knife, slice a long, shallow slash down the middle of each loaf.
- Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 40 minutes.
- While the dough is rising a second time, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F.
- After the dough has risen a 2nd time, place them in the oven and immediately turn down the heat to 375°F.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Finished loaves will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom and will be brown on the top.
On the yeast: 1 packet of yeast is the equivalent of 2 1/4 tsp of yeast. I’ve done the 2 tsp out of a jar and also used 1 packet (on separate occasions) and did not notice any difference.
On the milk: I’ve used whole milk and cream so far, and I haven’t noticed the difference between the two.
On making things warm:
- My kitchen: My kitchen runs cold, especially in the winter. In order to make the space warm enough, I turn on the oven to about 350. That seems to do the trick.
- The mixing bowl: I like to warm the bowl before proofing the yeast so the bowl doesn’t affect the warm water I use to proof the yeast.
- The milk: Taking the chill off the milk (making it lukewarm or warm,) helps to dissolve the sugar and salt and prevents the butter from clumping when added.
On the rising of the dough: There are a lot of recipes that say things like “rise until the dough has doubled in size.” Well, I tried that and because I lack the skills to tell when something has “doubled in size,” I ended up with dough that smelled and tasted strongly of yeast. Since then, I’ve been sticking with rising according to the time.
The first time I made this bread, I felt like a goddam superhero.
And the smell of fresh-baked bread? Heaven. Seriously, if I believed heaven was an actual place, I’d think I was in it.
I say… I’ve never been all that into bread, but… let me tell you… this is fabulous. Grilled cheese made with this bread is heavenly. And, as I have said before, every time I make it, I feel like a damn superhero.
James says… I think bread is just bread to him, although it is much tastier when it’s on Daddy’s plate. (I don’t argue with toddler reasoning.)
On storing… I was able to keep the bread on the counter in a ziplock bag for about a week. Beware of moisture as it will grow mold quickly if there’s any in the bag. We usually keep our bread in the fridge, and it was fine in there for about two weeks.
Freezer friendly? Heck yeah. It thaws on the countertop quickly. It’s not a bad idea to make a few loaves to freeze and have on hand.