Stupidly Easy White Bread

by Lisa Linderman on April 7, 2011

in baking,bread,recipe

I remember when I was first really learning to cook from scratch, I tried making bread a few times.  Abject.  Failure.  Invariably, the bread would rise high and then crash in the oven, becoming brick-like and flat, even indented, on top.  Eventually I learned how to make decent “rustic” breads, but making white bread kept eluding me.  The kneading.  The “doubling”.  The fussiness of it all.  But I decided a couple of years ago that it would not remain the one basic baking skill I lacked, so I learned to make it.

I started with a no-knead bread because it seemed pretty non-intimidating, and worked my way up from there, to finally tackling White Sandwich Bread, which for some reason I’ve always seen as the Master’s Level Course in Bread Baking.  Turns out, it wasn’t that hard.  Who knew?

First, I use my stand mixer.  I have a Kitchen Aid, and I love it.  LOVE it.  Seriously, if my house were on fire and my kid and husband were already out, I’d have a hard time deciding between my photo albums and my Kitchen Aid. (Okay, not really, but I love it a lot.)  The dough hook means no hand kneading, which is a bonus for me, since I have tendonitis in one wrist, and that kind of hard kneading motion leaves me in pain for days.   It’s got a large bowl, and it serves well for rising as well as mixing.

And second, I use a good recipe and good ingredients, fresh yeast and good flour being the keys here.  I find that recipes that call for “packages” of yeast are a little more prone to failure than recipes that actually call for a measured amount, but that may just be my experience with a particular recipe or particular brand of packaged yeast.  (Plus, packaged yeast is MUCH more expensive per ounce than a jar of yeast.  Keep it in the fridge, it will last months.  Keep it in the freezer, it’ll last even longer, but if you don’t warm it up before you use it, it’ll take longer to “wake up.”)

I thought I’d share my favorite “sandwich bread” recipe.  I don’t often use it for sandwiches, I admit; I tend to just slice and eat it.  But it is SO good with fresh turkey, or as toast…

White Bread

A loaf with a buttered top, straight from the oven.

Stupidly Easy White Bread

(Adapted from King Arthur Flour)

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar
  • 4 Tablespoons butter (room temperature is best)
  • 1/4 cup dry milk
  • 1/4 cup potato flour or instant mashed potato flakes
  • 1 1/8 cups lukewarm water (give or take, start with a cup and add the rest if needed)

Attach the dough hook to your stand mixer, and put all of the ingredients in the bowl of your mixer.   Don’t worry about making a well, or adding the sugar and yeast first, or whatever.  Just glob them all in and turn on the machine.  Mix until the dough is soft and smooth, about 5-7 minutes.  Overmixing isn’t really a problem with this dough, so if you’re in doubt, keep mixing.  You might need to add a little bit of water or a little bit of flour to achieve the right texture.  I would err on the side of too little flour, as the more you add, the heavier the bread will be.   Remove the bowl from the stand mixer, throw a tea towel over it and let it rise for an hour until it’s puffy.  Don’t worry about letting it double, just let it get puffy.  (I often rise mine in my top oven while cooking something in the lower oven.  Just enough heat without too much.)

Grease an 8 1/2″ by 4 1/2″ loaf pan.  Take the dough out of the bowl and shape into a log that will fit nicely in the pan.  You can do it on a work surface, but I usually just manipulate it in midair and flop it in the pan.  Cover with the tea towel or a proof cover and let rise again, about an hour.  This time you want to wait until the dough has risen about an inch above the rim of the pan.  I find the second rise goes faster than the first almost every time for me, but YMMV.

Preheat your oven to 350.

Remove the cover from your loaf pan and bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes.  Err on the side of too long, or the interior may not be thoroughly cooked.  If the loaf starts to get too brown, cover with tinfoil for the last 15 minutes.

Remove the bread from the oven, and it should turn out of the pan easily.  Put it on a wire rack to cool.  If you want a softer, “sandwich bread” type crust, brush the top with melted butter while the bread is still warm.  Cool it completely before you cut.  I know, it’s hard to wait with warm bread, but this type really does cut better if you wait until it’s completely cool.


Elizabeth April 7, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Looks great. I used to knead my bread, making it in the enamel pan that was my grandmother’s, then my mothers , then mine. But 23 years ago my husband bought me a Kitchenaid and I know exactly what you mean. I have the grater and grinder attatchment also. LOVE it. I gave my 23 year old daughter one for Christmas 2 years ago…my attatchments seem to have migrated to her house.

I always make 2 loaves and 1/2 the dough gets formed into a loaf and the other half always becomes pecan rolls or monkey bread or homemade pizza crust or soft breadsticks.

I buy dry yeast in 1 lb bricks. I keep in freezer and refill jar I keep in fridge for ease. I like to add 2 T of gluten to my recipe for extra sproing. I walked down bread aisle at store yesterday and noticed bread was going for 4.24 up to 4.75 a loaf. Wow.

Lisa Linderman April 7, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Where do you get your yeast? I still buy in the jars, and though the store I buy them at is relatively inexpensive, I go through enough that I’d love to get a brick.

I sometimes add gluten to my bread too, but this recipe doesn’t seem to care much one way or the other. When I’m adding the gluten, I always think “Bag O’ Instant Misery” on behalf of some of my celiac friends….

Bread is getting very expensive, but so is flour, which is I think the main driver. Wheat crops are failing in the bread basket of the US. Never a good thing. I’m contemplating ripping out part of my back lawn and installing some wheat as an experiment. :)

Farrah April 7, 2011 at 8:59 pm

Thank you, Lisa! I can’t wait to try it! How long do you knead the dough if you, unfortunately, don’t have a Kitchen Aid? Until it’s soft and smooth?

Lisa Linderman April 7, 2011 at 9:02 pm

Knead it until it’s soft and smooth, but 8-10 minutes is a good time. You can divide the kneading into two five minute sessions with a 5 minute rest in between if you want; sometimes it actually helps. If it sticks a lot to your hands, use a dough scraper if you have one and spray your hands with something like Pam. The less additional flour you add, the better the product will be. If it’s even a little bit sticky, that’s fine. Dough that is kneaded a long time and allowed to rest a lot has a deeper flavor. Let me know how it comes out!

Meg April 8, 2011 at 9:04 am

I have some bricks of yeast that Peter brought home from the resaurant. It’s more yeast than I’ll use in a lifetime, so if you want a brick (or 2), let me know, and I’ll send it your way.

Lisa Linderman April 8, 2011 at 7:54 pm

Meg – I would love a brick or two! I love everything about the concept of cooking with something that comes in a “brick”. 😉 Thanks!!

Elizabeth April 9, 2011 at 4:25 am

We get the yeast at a restuarant supply store. 2 bricks come shrink wrapped together and it is Fleischman brand.

My daughter bought me a second mixer bowl for my Kitchenaid a few years ago. That comes in so handy…if I have dough rising in one I can go onto to cake mixing or what ever with the other…I store them inside each other on the stand.

I was given the advice years and years ago that when sufficiently kneaded the dough should “feel like a baby’s bottom”.

Lisa Linderman April 10, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Never heard the bit about the baby’s bottom, but it makes sense! :)

I ended up getting a dough rising bucket. It’s handy, though I don’t use it super often. I like the idea of getting another bowl, though my husband will likely view it as just “more dishes to do”…

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