A Very Good (and easy) White Bread

White Bread: good with jam and better with butter and salt!

Funny story: I was an extremely picky eater as a child. I had a fixation with Oscar Meyer Hot Dogs (no other brand would do – I would demand to see the packaging before taking a single bite) and white bread. We’d have to ask my parents, but I’m pretty sure those were the only two foods I ate for at least a year, maybe longer. My favorite snack was a sprinkle of table salt on a slice of white bread, smashed thin and rolled up like a burrito.

So you can imagine how traumatized I was when I spent the night at a family friend’s house and they only had seedy, wheat-y, healthy bread. I asked our family friend, “What’s wrong with your bread?!” I’m pretty sure I didn’t eat on that trip, but you can rest assured that the next time I spent the night, I came prepared with a loaf of my own sugar-laden white bread.

While I’ve given up hot dogs for good, I still have a taste for sweet, gummy white bread – and I still like to eat it sprinkled with salt.

Note: I’ve written some instructions below, especially aimed at those that haven’t made much bread before. If you know what you’re doing, you can get the straightforward (bare bones) recipe from Allrecipes here.

In a large bowl, whisk together:

  • 2 cups warm water (I’ve heard it should be the temperature of a baby’s bathwater, although I don’t have children. I imagine this means fairly warm, but not scorching)
  • 2/3 cup sugar

Once the sugar is dissolved, sprinkle and stir in:

  • 1.5 tablespoons active dry yeast

After about 5-10 minutes, this mixture should proof, meaning the yeast will foam and bubble up. If nothing happens, you probably have some old yeast and should start over! If the mixture does get foamy, stir in:

  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Now, we’re going to add 6 cups of bread flour into the yeast/water mixture, 1 cup at a time. After adding each cup, gently stir the mixture until the dry flour is incorporated into the liquid. You will see with each addition of flour that the liquid gets less liquid-y and more dough-like. Make sure to incorporate the dry flour that forms along the edge of the bowl, as well as pockets of dry flour that may be hiding at the bottom of the bowl.

Once the dough is all mixed together, generously sprinkle some additional flour onto your work surface (feel free to use your kitchen counter; I prefer to do this on a butcher’s block or bamboo cutting board). Turn the dough out onto the work surface and sprinkle some extra flour on top of the bread.

We’re going to knead the bread for a few minutes. We want it to get a smooth, elastic-like texture. If your dough is sticking to your hands or the work surface, add some more flour. When I was new to making bread, I was always scared that I was going to add too much flour and make the bread dry. Don’t worry too much about this – always add extra flour in small increments and you’ll be fine. I like to knead by using one hand to turn the dough 90 degrees and the heel of my other hand to fold and press the dough. If you’re not sure what this is supposed to look like, there are some great videos on YouTube that show you how to do it.

When your dough is smooth, pour a little bit of vegetable oil in a large bowl and spread it around with your fingers. Transfer the dough to the bowl and roll it around in the bowl so all sides of the dough have touched the oil. Cover the bread with some Saran Wrap and place in a warm, dry place to rise. We keep our house pretty cool and drafty, so I always store my rising dough in the microwave with the door closed.

After about 1 hour, the dough should be doubled in size (or, at least, quite a bit bigger). At this point, we want to punch down the dough and knead it in the bowl for just a minute or two. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into two equal-ish pieces.

Pour a little bit of vegetable oil into 2 9×5 inch loaf pans and spread it around with your fingers. Gently shape the two dough pieces into loaves and place them in the loaf pans. Put the pans back in the microwave (or other warm, dry place), cover loosely with more Saran Wrap and let rise again until the dough is about 1 inch taller than the top of the pan (the original recipe said this would take 30 minutes, it look my loaves about 40 minutes).

While you’re waiting for this second rise, go ahead and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. When the dough rises above the loaf pans, transfer the pans to the oven (be sure to remove the Saran Wrap!) and bake for thirty minutes. After thirty minutes, place the loaf pans on a wire rack to cool.

My husband said this tasted like the Amish Bread he grew up eating in southern Indiana and recommended you slather it in apple butter. I’m sticking with salt.

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