Calling any bread recipe foolproof is a bit of a tricky thing. A lot can go wrong when it comes to baking bread that the baker in question has limited control over. Perhaps your yeast is a little past it’s prime. Perhaps your ancient oven is a little wonky and doesn’t cook things evenly, leaving you with a rock solid inedible crust and a mushy, tasteless centre.
So that’s why this recipe is mostly-foolproof. It is more foolproof than the average bread recipe, but if it doesn’t work out, feel free to blame your yeast or your oven or your cat that distracted you while you were measuring the flour and made you lose count of the number of cups you’d already added.
This recipe makes a delicious, but very simple and basic white bread recipe. As you get more confident with the recipe, you can add new flavours, herbs, spices, etc, but I’d recommend sticking with the basic recipe for your first attempt. I originally got this recipe here: http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Traditional-White-Bread/Detail.aspx but I’ve tweaked it and made some small changes, which are reflected below. I will also add in a few of my own notes in italics to help out rookie bread-bakers.
Delicious Traditional White Bread
- 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
- 3 tablespoons white sugar
- 2 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C) (rookie note: the temperature of the water is actually important, so don’t ignore this detail. If you don’t have a thermometer, the water should be hot, but not so hot that it’s uncomfortable to the touch)
- 3 tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 6 1/2 cups bread flour (don’t feel like investing in a new type of flour? Plain white flour will work too, but if you’re going to be making bread regularly, bread flour’s worth the investment)
- In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. Stir in butter, salt and two cups of the flour. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. (Rookie note: you might want to keep track of each half cup on a scrap of paper as you add it, otherwise distractions can cause you to lose count) When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes.
- Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth (don’t use damp papertowel like I did the first time, disaster) and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
- Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and form into loaves. Place the loaves into two lightly greased 9×5 inch loaf pans. Cover the loaves with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).
- Bake at 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. (VERY important note: it is NOT a mistake that it says to preheat the oven to 425 but bake at 375. Do what it says!)
The end result should be two delicious loaves of homemade bread, and a very nice natural air freshener (nothing smells better than homemade bread wafting through the house!)