There are few things that smell and taste better than homemade bread. It’s the ultimate comfort food for the time we spend waiting for the warmer months to arrive.
This is a basic bread recipe. Once you’ve mastered the art of kneading and working with dough,there’s a good chance that baking breads of all shapes and sizes will become a hobby.
Baking can be finicky. When you’re cooking, you can improvise a little. Baking is less forgiving. Every oven is different, so it will bake differently. The altitude of the area you call home will factor into it. Even the water you use will change the outcome and flavor of the bread. And that’s OK. If the first loaves don’t turn out, don’t get discouraged. Just try again. You won’t be sorry.
Traditional White Bread (makes 2 loaves)
- 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
- 3 tablespoons white sugar
- 2.5 cups warm water
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 6.5 cups white bread flour
1. Empty the two packages of yeast into a large mixing bowl and add the sugar. Stir the sugar and yeast together while adding the warm water. Let them dissolve for a couple minutes, then add the oil, the salt and two cups of the flour. Take a little time to make sure there are no patches of dry flour in the bowl and that everything is mixed together really well.
2. Stir in the remaining flour one half a cup at a time. You’ll notice that it’s going to become increasingly hard to stir it, but keep stirring and making sure all the flour is mixed in as well as it can be. When all the flour has been added and mixed, take a second to wash your hands again, and after they’ve been rinsed, keep your hands wet and move the dough ball out of the bowl and onto a clean, flat and lightly floured surface like the kitchen counter.
3. Use the heels of both of your palms to press down upon the dough ball, pushing it away from you like you’re shoving it. Once your arms have extended, fold the dough back over itself. This is kneading. Give the dough a turn and repeat the previous step. Remember to put your weight into the movement and try to get into a rhythm. After a while, the dough will become somewhat shiny and smooth. All the little pockets of dry flour will be fully incorporated into the very elastic dough. When you think the dough is done, press your finger into the top of the dough ball. If the indentation from your finger stays after you’ve pulled your finger away, the dough is finished.
4. Lightly oil a clean, large bowl. You can use the same bowl you used to mix the dough, but it must be clean and dry. Into the oiled bowl place the dough ball. Then turn the ball in the bowl so that the whole thing has a coat of oil on it. Then cover the bowl with a clean, damp cloth and let it rise in a warm spot for about an hour.
5. You’ll notice that the dough has doubled in size. That’s normal. Lightly punch the top of the risen dough so that it deflates, then take the dough ball out of the bowl and divide into two equal pieces. Grease two 9×5 bread pans and place a dough segment in each of them, trying your best to make the dough fit properly. Drape the same damp cloth you used before over the loaves, and let them rise again until they’ve doubled in size. This will probably take about a half an hour.
6. Place the loaves in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Every oven is a little different, so keep a keen eye on the bread as it’s baking. The loaves are done when the tops are golden brown. Also, using an oven mitt, tap the bottom of the pan. It should sound hollow. Remove the loaves from the oven and let them cool for about 15 minutes, then remove them from the pans. They should come out really easily. If they’re not coming easily, just wait a little longer to remove them. If they still won’t come out easily, use a little more oil when you’re greasing the pan next time.