Not only is it easy, but the bread comes out so fluffy and delicious that you'll be hard-pressed to keep it stocked in your kitchen! We love this bread because it makes great sandwiches and even better toast.
Bread-making isn't an "instant" sort of task, so before you bust out those pans, make sure that you're prepared to give up the time. Take it from me though, it is so, so worth it. It usually takes me about 3 hours (which includes clean-up) from beginning to end to make two loaves of bread. The majority of this is the time it takes for the bread to rise, which means that you can be doing something else (laundry, watching TV, etc.) while this is going on.
My thanks to BreadWorld, which is where I found the original recipe that I based this one off of.
Easy Beginner's White Bread Recipe
Makes 2 Loaves
- 5-1/2 cups flour, minimum, on hand (the amount of flour you use will depend on how much it takes to get the dough to the right consistency)
- 3 tablespoons sugar, plus one teaspoon for yeast-proofing (yeast proofing is the act of testing the yeast to make sure that it is "alive")
- 2 envelopes of active dry yeast OR 4-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast, depending on what you have on hand (We buy jarred yeast instead of envelopes since I bake a lot of bread and it's more cost-effective)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup water, plus an extra 1/2 cup for yeast-proofing
- 1/2 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons salted butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (for greasing dishes - do NOT add this to your bread!)
You Will Need:
- One large microwave-safe bowl
- One small or medium microwave-safe bowl (or a large, glass measuring cup)
- One (preferably wooden) mixing spoon
- Two 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 inch loaf pans
1. Heat the extra 1/2 cup water for 30 seconds in a large, microwave-safe bowl. (Glass bowls work best.) This will bring the water to the appropriate temperature for the yeast to grow (approximately 100°F - 110°F) and make sure that the bowl retains enough heat to keep the water from going cold too quickly.
2. Mix the yeast and the extra teaspoon of sugar into the bowl (preferably using a wooden spoon), then let sit for about 8 minutes. The yeast should be foamy on top, which means that it is good to use. (This is called yeast-proofing.) If there is no foam, wait another couple of minutes. If nothing occurs, you will have to start over again. If you aren't having luck proofing your yeast, it could be because you are using a metal utensil to stir. Yeast can react oddly to metal, causing it to fail.
3. Mix the remaining one cup of water, milk, butter, and sugar in a microwave safe dish. (I use a glass Pyrex measuring cup.) Heat in the microwave for 30 seconds so that it is warm enough that it won't cause failure when you add it to the yeast.
4. Stir the water, milk, butter, & sugar mixture WELL before adding it into the yeast mixture. (You don't want to leave any of that tasty sugar behind!)
5. Add the salt, then begin carefully pouring in flour a few handfuls at a time while stirring.
6. Mix in flour at a steady speed until the dough is soft and only slightly sticky. Do not add more than four cups worth, as this will make your dough taste floury and give it a bad texture. The goal should be to add as little flour as possible, while still having a dough that isn't too sticky to knead. Make sure you are scraping the sides of the bowl so that no ingredients are left behind!
7. Spread a little flour on a clean surface, this is where you will knead your bread. Add small handfuls of flour during the kneading process to keep it from getting sticky on you and to perfect the texture. With this recipe, 7-9 minutes of kneading should be plenty.
Below I've listed a video that demonstrates how-to knead bread. It isn't difficult, although it can be a bit tricky to know when your dough has been kneaded enough. Just remember that a dough that has been kneaded to perfection will be smooth, bubble-free, and feel slightly like pushing on a memory foam topper (it will have a bit of "bounce" to it). Make sure you aren't over-kneading (since that will make the bread tough) or under-kneading (since that will make the bread full of bubbles).
8. Grease a large bowl (I just wash out & use the same bowl I made the dough in) by spreading a tablespoon or so of oil around the inside. Put your freshly-kneaded dough inside (roll once to coat all sides with the oil), cover with a clean kitchen towel, and place the bowl in a warm area. The easiest thing to do is to put the bowl on top of the oven, and heat the oven to about 200°F. (Don't heat the oven higher than this or too much heat may transfer through the top of the oven and start to make your bread dough crusty!)
9. Allow your dough to rise for an hour, then (while still in the bowl) punch the dough down. This is exactly what it sounds like - just put your fist right into the dough to let out the air!
10. Divide your dough in half, then head back to your kneading area (which is hopefully clean again!) so you can make your loaves. Your dough shouldn't stick to the table or your fingers at this point, but if you do find a spot that seems slightly sticky, it is fine to lightly dust that spot with flour so it stops sticking.
11. Spread each half of your dough out into a rectangular shape. For best results, try to make a rectangle that is approximately 12 x 7 inches. I have had rectangles that were bigger (and some that were even not-exactly-rectangle-shaped) and they always turn out just fine, so don't sweat it too much!
12. Roll your halves up (beginning at the short end of course), until they look like jelly rolls. Pinch the seam running across the bread and turn the loaf so that the pinched seam is on the bottom.
13. Scoop both ends of your bread under and wiggle slightly. This will make sure that the ends aren't full of little cracks and creases when it's baked. Roll the bread over and pinch together any cracks or open seams you find. (If it doesn't look beautiful, it's no matter - the bread will expand enough during the second period of rising that any uneven pinch lines should disappear anyways!)
14. Grease both loaf pans (don't forget the sides!) and place your freshly-rolled dough loaves inside, seams down. Cover your loaf pans with a towel and return them to the top of the oven so they can stay warm.
15. Allow loaves to rise for 45 minutes.
16. Heat oven to 400°F. (I like to start preheating the oven when my loaves have about 10 minutes left to rise.)
17. Bake loaves in the oven for 25-30 minutes. (Mine usually do well at 28 minutes each, but all ovens vary, so keep an eye on your loaves the first time you bake them and write down which time works best for you.)
18. Remove bread carefully from pans. If you properly greased them, the bread should come right out. If not, a flexible pie scoop works nicely to help ease the bread away from the sides and bottom of the pan.
19. Allow the bread to cool on wire racks, then seal into plastic bags or containers to keep fresh. (This last part is optional of course, my husband and I usually eat about half a loaf of bread while it's still piping hot!)
Do you have a bread recipe you love? What do you think of this recipe?
Chat with me in the comments below, I love hearing from my readers!