I don't think there is anything quite as comforting as the smell of homemade bread while it's baking in the oven. Growing up, I was amazed at how my mom could turn a bowl full of flour and water into a warm loaf of bread, and when she let me make it with her, I was thrilled. It's been quite a few years since I made bread with my mom, but those memories encouraged me to try it again (I was also tired of paying upwards of $4.00 for a single loaf of bread that my carb-loving boyfriend could demolish singlehandedly in a few days).
A few months ago, I started sampling recipes for white sandwich bread. Each one that I tried seemed to be missing something. The first loaf was almost tasteless, while the second one crumbled when I tried to slice into it. After looking up dozens of recipes online, and researching my grandmothers cookbooks from the 1950's, I came up with my own perfect loaf of bread. Actually, the recipe makes 3 loaves of bread (which last approximately a week in my household). I really encourage everyone to try making their own bread at least once, it is really simple, and so incredibly satisfying. And it tastes a lot better than the stuff from the store.
4 cups all purpose flour
4 cups all purpose flour
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon melted butter
4 cups milk (I use low-fat)
6 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon salt
Warm milk over low heat in a small saucepan. Be careful not to burn or scald. Dissolve the yeast in the milk, whisking to remove any lumps. In a large bowl, mix the all purpose flour, sugar and salt. Create a well in the middle and pour in the butter, oil and milk. Mix well with a wooden spoon (mixture will be messy looking). When well mixed, whisk in the honey. Begin mixing bread flour into the bowl with a wooden spoon by cupful. Stir constantly and add a total of 5 1/4 cups of the bread flour (dough will be sticky).
Pour onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, adding up to 3/4 cups more bread flour as needed. Dough will be soft and slightly elastic. Place a clean dry towel over the dough and let it rest for 20 minutes. Dough will have risen to almost double in size, punch down.
Knead dough for another 5-10 minutes, until a soft smooth consistency is the result. Form a ball and place in a clean bowl that is lightly dusted with flour. Sprinkle more flour over the top of the dough and cover with a damp towel. Let rise in a warm place for 60 minutes. Dough will have more than doubled in size and you should be able to press lightly into the dough without it springing back.
Turn dough onto floured surface. Gently flatten the dough, lightly pressing out any air bubbles that have formed. Dived into 3 equal pieces, shape into loaves and sprinkle the tops lightly with flour. Place seam side down in lightly greased loaf pans. Cover with the damp towel and let rise for another 40 minutes. When done, dough will spring back slightly after being pressed.
Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes. Loaves should be golden brown. Immediately after taking them out of the oven, remove from pans and place on a wire rack. Test a loaf by tapping lightly on the bottom of one, it should make a hollow sound. Let cool at least 30 minutes before cutting into loaf (it will be hard to resist though!).
Loaves may be stored at room temperature if in an airtight container or covered with tightly with a clean towel or foil. You can also freeze them in a large bag, just make sure to completely cool the loaves before placing in the freezer. Enjoy your homemade bread, and share with anyone you love, this makes a stellar peanut butter and jelly sandwich!