Have I mentioned to you guys my love for all things bread?
Recipe from the Complete Step-by-Step Cook Book, published by Better Homes and Gardens.
No substitutions were made
Basic White Bread
1 package active dry yeast (approx 2 1/2 tsp)
1/4 c warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
2 c milk
2 tblsp sugar
1 tblsp shortening
2 tsp salt
5 3/4 to 6 1/4 c all-purpose flour
Soften yeast in warm water. For best results, check the water temp with a candy or roast thermometer. It should register 110 to 115 degrees. If the water is cooler, the yeast won’t grow as it should. Hotter water will kill the yeast.
In a saucepan heat together milk, sugar, shortening and salt; cool to lukewarm (105 to 110 degrees). Use a thermometer for accurate results. The mixture must be cooled before adding the yeast or the yeast may be killed. Using milk instead of water as the liquid give the bread a softer crust.
Transfer the cooled milk to a large mixing bowl. Add 2 cups of the flour and beat well. Batter at this stage should be smooth with no lumps. Adding the flour before the yeast also helps make the dough temperature right for the yeast.
Add the softened yeast to the milk-flour mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon to evenly distribute the yeast throughout the batter.
Stir in as much of the remaining 4.5 c of flour as you can mix with a wooden spoon. – I used another 3 1/2 c of flour. To maintain a smooth dough, add the flour in portions and stir after adding each.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Using a well-floured pastry cloth makes the dough easier to knead, so less flour is worked into the dough. This is an advantage, since adding more flour tends to make the bread drier. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough. To knead, fold the dough over and push down with the heel of the hand, curving your fingers over the dough.
Give the dough a quarter turn, then fold over and push down again. Kneading is important in determining the final structure of the loaf as it develops the gluten of the flour. If the dough is not kneaded enough, the loaf will be more likely to have a coarse texture and will probably not rise as high in the pan.
Continue kneading in the fold-push-turn procedure till dough is smooth and elastic (6 to 8 minutes). To be sure you’ve kneaded enough, set a timer for the maximum time suggested in the recipe.
Shape the dough into a ball and place in a lightly greased bowl that is at least twice as large as the size of the ball of dough. Turn dough over once to grease entire surface. This helps keep it from drying out.
Cover the bowl of dough with a cloth. You may first want to cover the dough with lightly greased waxed paper or plastic wrap. This way, the dough won’t stick to the cloth if it rises to the top of the bowl. The oven is a good draft-free place to set the bowl of dough. Place on upper rack with a bowl or pan of hot water on the lower rack. Keep the oven door closed.
Dough should be allowed to rise until it doubles in size (approx 1 1/4 hours). The dough is ready to shape when you can lightly and quickly press two fingertips 1/2 inch into the dough and the indentation remains.
Punch down the dough by pushing your fist into the center of the dough. Then pull the edges of the dough over and place on a lightly floured surface.
Divide dough into two portions. Shape each into a smooth ball. Cover with a towel to keep warm and to help prevent a dried-out surface. Let rest about 10 minutes; this allows the gluten to relax and makes the dough easier to roll.
Grease two 8 inch loaf pans. – I used Baker’s Joy for this step. Shape each ball of dough into a loaf.
Cover loaves; set in a warm place and let rise. Dough should rise over top of pan in a rounded shape. Loaf is ready to bake when an indentation remains after touching lightly with finger. This will probably take 45 to 60 minutes.
Bake in a 375 degree oven about 45 minutes or till done. Test by tapping the top with your finger. A hollow sound means the loaf is properly baked. If top browns too fast, cover loosely with foil the last 15 minutes of baking.
Remove bread from pans; cool on wire rack. When completely cooled, wrap in foil or clear plastic wrap or place in a plastic bag. Store in a cool dry place (refrigerator storage is not recommended since it causes yeast breads to stale). To freeze, wrap cooled bread in moisture-vapor proof wrap. Thaw at room temperature, then warm in 250 to 300 degree oven.