A Basic White Bread How-To
Sure, there are thousands of bread recipes all over the Internet, but when Laura tried my Sandwich Bread, she asked for instructions on how to make it herself. Since I’d be writing everything down for her, I figured why not just share it with our loyal readers here while I was at it?
I’ve baked a lot of breads over the years, different flavors, different flours. But the one that I keep baking for everyday use is this basic white sandwich bread. It’s perfect for everything from tuna salad to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I even use this bread in my herb dressing that I pair up with roast turkey.
Never baked a yeast bread before? Don’t worry. I’ll try to walk you through step-by-step.
The bread freezes well, so you can hide away the second loaf for later.
Oven: 350° F – Baking time: 40 minutes – Yield: 2 loaves
Grease two 8 ¼-inch (1 pound) loaf pans.
Place milk and cubed butter into a microwave-safe bowl or large measuring cup. Heat in the microwave for about 1 minute 45 seconds or until most of the butter is melted.
Sprinkle sugar over the warm milk and butter mixture. Sprinkle instant yeast over the mixture, stir once or twice to encourage the sugar and yeast to dissolve.
Add two cups of the bread flour to the milk mixture and stir until well blended. Stir in another two cups of bread flour and the salt. Add in about a cup more of the bread flour to the mixture and mix until most of the flour has been absorbed by the remaining liquid.
Dust your work surface with some of the remaining flour then dump your dough onto it. Work enough additional flour into the dough blob to make a slightly sticky dough. Sprinkle additional flour onto your surface as needed to prevent the dough from sticking to it.
Your dough should look similar to the last photograph in the series above and is now ready to be kneaded into a soft, smooth ball.
Begin the kneading process by pushing away from you onto the dough with the heel of your hands. Turn the dough a quarter turn and fold the dough back onto itself, then push it back again. Repeat until the dough becomes smooth on its surface. Don’t worry; you can’t over-knead the dough when you’re working by hand. The process should take about five or six minutes to complete.
The bonus is the upper body workout you’re getting by beating up on the bread dough.
Form the final, well-kneaded dough into a ball as pictured in the first photo in the series above. Place the dough ball into a greased bowl, turning once to coat the ball with a thin layer of the grease. This helps prevent a dry “skin” from forming as the dough rises. Cover the bowl of dough with a clean kitchen towel.
Place the covered bowl in a warm place free of drafts and allow the dough to rise for about an hour until doubled in size as shown in the last photo of the series.
Once the dough has done its first rise, punch it down. Yes, just form a fist and jam it into the middle of the risen dough. Poof!
Place the punched down dough on your board and divide it roughly in half. If you’re really keen on having two exactly even loaves, you can fiddle with a scale until both halves are equal. Or walk on the wild side and just guesstimate (which is what I do).
Place one piece of dough back into the bowl and cover it with a towel while you work on the first piece.
To form a loaf, first roll out the dough with a rolling pin of your choice into a long rectangle with about the same width as your bread pans. Roll up the dough as for a jelly roll from the short end, pressing down slightly with each roll. Once you’ve got the dough all rolled up, pinch each end of the dough to seal and tuck them underneath the loaf, again pinching the dough to the bottom of the loaf to seal the joining. Then turn the roll of dough over to seal the long seam by pressing and pinching the ending flap of the dough into the main loaf shape.
Repeat the process with the reserved dough to form the second loaf.
Place the loaves into the greased loaf pans with the seam side down. Cover the pans with a towel and allow to rise for the second time, for about an hour.
Your twice-risen dough should be just above the top of the rims when ready to bake as shown in the picture to the right. Don’t worry if the loaves look a bit wobbly. The extra rise, called “oven spring” once they are baking in the oven should even them out to look like properly formed loaves.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake for about 40 minutes, turning pans around once after 10 minutes, then cover them loosely with aluminum foil after 20 minutes to avoid the crust over-browning.
Remove baked loaves from pans and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
See, that wasn’t so bad, was it? Just take things one step at a time and you’ll do just fine.
Keep in mind, even if your loaves don’t look perfect the first time you try it, they’ll still taste delicious. Much better than store-bought, for sure! And it will give you an excuse to bake more bread more often to perfect your technique.
Now that you’ve got wonderfully fresh sandwich bread, try pairing it with a delicious version of Remoulade spread that tastes great with almost any deli meat such as roast beef or leftover turkey or chicken you might have on hand.
Combine the dry spices together in a small bowl. Mix until combined.
Stir in lemon juice, relish, and horseradish until combined. Fold in mayonnaise, stir until well combined.
Refrigerate until ready to use.