One of the first things I made with my new Cuisinart SM-55 stand mixer was my stand-mixer adaptation of my strictly by-hand Classic White Sandwich Bread. Though I've always loved kneading bread (it is so therapeutic!), I have a feeling I'm going to be using the Cuisinart a lot more often than my bare hands! (my review of the Cuisinart SM-55)
Bread--all kinds of bread--is one of my favorite comfort foods. I call this white bread Classic because it's the bread you should master first (unless you're gluten-free, of course) even if you prefer whole-grain bread. It's perfect for any kind of sandwich, including tea sandwiches. Once you've got it down, you can start experimenting with add-ins.
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When I started using instant yeast for no-knead breads, I converted all my active dry yeast recipes for it so that I'd only have to keep one kind of yeast on hand. And, just to keep life simple, I keep just one kind of wheat flour on hand, organic unbleached all-purpose. (Of course, half my freezer space is taken up with a vast array of gluten-free flours and starches!)
People have a tendency to make a way bigger deal out of making bread than it needs to be! Whether it's taking the temperature of the dough or calculating hydration percentages, sure, have fun with it if it interests you; if not, don't let all that keep you from making homemade bread.
Do leave a comment and tell me about your favorite method or best tip, or ask a question. Do you use a bread machine? That's the one thing I haven't tried.
Classic White Sandwich Bread
(Makes 4 loaves)
This recipe can easily be halved, but make all four loaves and freeze or give away what you can't use!
10 packed cups (50 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast
4 cups milk or water
4 tablespoons unsalted butter or extra virgin olive oil
1 In the mixer bowl, whisk together 4 cups flour, sugar, salt and instant yeast. Attach the flat beater and mixer bowl to the mixer. Heat the milk or water and butter or oil until quite warm, about 120 degrees. On speed 2, mix in the warm liquid until thoroughly mixed. Mix in 4 cups flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a dough forms. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.
Or do the initial mixing of the dough by hand. In the mixer bowl, stir together 4 cups flour, sugar, salt and instant yeast. Heat the milk or water and butter or oil until very warm, about 120 degrees. Stir the warm liquid into the flour until thoroughly combined. Stir in 4 cups flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a dough forms. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.
2 Remove the flat beater and attach the dough hook. On speed 2, add about 1 cup flour until dough forms a smooth ball that cleans the bowl. Continue kneading for 2 minutes, adding flour (from the remaining 1 cup) just 1 tablespoon at a time as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the bowl. Set the timer for 4 minutes and knead the dough on speed 3.
3 Clean out the mixer bowl or use another 5.5-quart container (preferably with straight sides). Lightly oil the bowl and put the ball of dough in it, turning dough to oil all sides, cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 1 to 2 hours, or until doubled.
Note: This time I divided the dough and did the first rise in two containers, one a 2.5-quart bowl and the other a 2-quart Pyrex measure (pictured below), as I wanted to use my mixer bowl for something else. Note to self: An extra mixer bowl would come in handy!
4 Lightly oil four 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pans, also known as 1-pound loaf pans (another 1-pound loaf pan). Turn risen dough out onto lightly floured (still from that remaining 1 cup) surface, flattening gently to break up any large bubbles. Divide* dough into two equal pieces, then each of those into two equal pieces. Work with one piece at a time, keeping the others covered. Press each piece into a 9-by-12-inch rectangle. Fold in short ends of dough until piece is about 6 inches long. Roll from one rough edge, pinch seam to seal and roll gently to form a tight log the length of pan. Place seam-side down in prepared pans and press dough into pans so that it reaches sides, ends and corners.
* I'm a rather precise person, so I always use my OXO Good Grips 11-Pound Digital Scale to divide the dough precisely, making sure all my loaves and rolls are the same size.
5 Cover loaves loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for about 1 hour, or until dough rises just above top of pans and springs back just a little when lightly poked with a floured finger.
If your house is cool and you want to help things along, heat oven to 200 degrees, allow to heat for 2 minutes, turn off oven and put dough in to rise. When baking just two loaves, I sometimes put the pans and a mug of hot water under an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet held up by a 1-pound can in each corner and covered with a towel (see above). Unless I'm in a hurry for some reason, I prefer to let the dough rise slowly; that's when flavor is developed.
6 During the last 20 minutes, heat oven to 450 degrees (taking the rising loaves out first!). You don't have to do it--I don't always--but sometimes I like to score the top of the loaves just before putting them in the oven; with a very sharp small knife, cut a not more than 1/4-inch deep line down the middle of the dough.
7 Put loaves in oven and reduce heat to 375 degrees. Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 to 40 minutes or until loaves are golden brown, shrink from sides of pans, and bottoms of loaves sound hollow if tapped (internal temperature 200 degrees on instant read thermometer). Remove immediately from pans and let cool on wire rack for 1 hour. Wrap well as soon as bread has cooled thoroughly. Store at room temperature or freeze in zipper freezer bags.