This bread recipe has been my #1 bread recipe for over 3 years now, it’s a must-have on the Thanksgiving menu, and it’s really not difficult to make!
2 cups water
1 tablespoon yeast
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
5-5 1/2 cups bread flour
Other things you will need:
large bowl for mixing
very large bowl for rising (as in, a really, really big bowl!)
thermometer (a digital instant read thermometer is a valuable kitchen tool!)
2 loaf pans
shortening & wax paper to grease pans, plus fine cornmeal to dust them with (optional)
plastic wrap to cover dough while rising
mixer (a stand mixer makes this a snap!)
clean surface for kneading (I like to use a silicone baking mat if not using my mixer)
Place the sugar and yeast in your large mixing bowl. Heat the water to 105-115 degrees (this takes about 1 minute and 5 seconds in my 1200 watt microwave.) Add the water to the yeast & sugar in the bowl, mix and allow to stand for about 10 minutes.
While that’s happening, I go ahead and add a dab of oil to my very (very) large bowl and use a piece of wax paper to spread it/coat the bowl. Then I lay a piece of plastic wrap on the counter and use the wax paper to oil the plastic wrap as well. This is what I will let the dough rise in, and the oiled plastic wrap does a great job of keeping it covered/moist without sticking!
After 10 minutes, your water/yeast/sugar mixture should look foamy. If it doesn’t, your water may have been too hot or too cold, or your yeast may be old!
Add salt, oil and three cups of bread flour, then mix for two minutes.
Stir in two more cups of bread flour to make a stiff dough, then transfer to your clean, floured kneading surface (or switch to the dough hook in your mixer.)
Add just enough flour to keep it from sticking, and knead for 10 minutes by hand, or about 5 minutes in a stand mixer with dough hook.
When you’re finished, the dough should be smooth and elastic.
Place the dough in your oiled bowl, turn to coat all sides, and cover with your oiled plastic wrap (oiled side down!) Put the bowl in a warm place to rise until doubled (about an hour to an hour and a half.) If you let the dough rise too long, it will taste yeasty, so you can stop the process by putting it in the refrigerator if you need to finish later. Allow the dough to come to room temp before moving on if you do that! Naturally, I got distracted and forgot to take a picture of the dough risen in the bowl!!
When the dough has finished it’s first rise, grease your loaf pans with shortening, making sure to get all the corners. If you wish, you can sprinkle the pans with fine cornmeal, then tap the pans to coat and remove the excess.
Punch down the dough and divide it in half. Shape each piece into a loaf, place in a pan and (if desired) cut gashes in the top with sharp, clean kitchen shears. Cover again with well oiled plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled.
Preheat the oven to 375 with a rack in the center, and carefully remove the plastic wrap to avoid deflating the loaves.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the top of the loaves are golden brown. The loaf should also sound hollow when you tap on the bottom of it. I like to slightly under-cook one of the loaves, tightly wrap it and freeze it. Then I can just thaw it in the fridge overnight, warm/finish baking it and have it with dinner another night!
Remove the bread from the pans as soon as you are able to, so the crust doesn’t get soggy. I like to slide a knife around the edges, then use oven mitts to pick up the pan and flip it onto a rack. Then I place another rack on the bottom of the loaf and flip it back over.
The bread slices best when it is cool enough to touch the outside (it will still be warm on the inside.)
Top with your favorite buttery spread, jam, jelly, apple butter or (my favorite) Nutella! Yum! Excellent dipped in soup or thinly sliced and topped with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes & basil.