How to Make Soft White Bread, the Old-Fashion Way

For Regina


Let’s start with the basics.

I’m not an expert bread maker but this recipe delivers.

Taken from Anneka Manning’s Mastering the Art of Baking.

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  Ingredients:

310 ml (10 3/4 fl oz / 1 1/4 cups) lukewarm water
2 Tbsp caster (superfine) sugar
9 g (1/4 oz / 2 1/2 tsp) dried yeast
60 g (2 1/4 oz) butter, melted
250 ml (9 fl oz / 1 cup) milk, warmed
900 g (2 lb / 6 cups) plain all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt

Method:

1. Combine 125 ml (4 fl oz / 1/2 cup) of the water and the sugar in a large bowl. Sprinkle over the yeast and set aside for 5-6 minutes or until foamy.

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(Notes: 1. The original recipe only asks for a large pinch of sugar. Of course it has to be 2 Tbsp of sugar for me because I prefer everything sweeter. 2. Getting the right temperature for lukewarm water is tricky since I don’t have any thermometer for that. What worked for me was to use 1/4 c of water straight from the thermos plus 1/4 c of water from the tap.)

2. Add the butter, milk, remaining water, half the flour and the salt and use a wooden spoon to mix well. Add the remaining flour, 150 g (5 1/2 oz / 1 cup) at a time, stirring until a course dough forms.

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Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 8-10 minutes or until it feels smooth, elastic and fairly soft, adding a little extra flour if it is too sticky.

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3. Put the dough in a lightly oiled large bowl, turning to coat in the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 1 1/2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.

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4. Preheat the oven to 200 C (400 F). Lightly grease two 8 x 17.5 cm (3 1/4 x 6 3/4 inch) loaf bar tins.
5. Knock back the dough with just one punch to expel the air. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and use a large sharp knife to cut in half. Working with one portion at a time, use your hands to pat the dough out into a rough rectangle, about 1.5 cm (5/8 inch) thick. Roll each rectangle up, like a Swiss roll (jelly roll) and place in the greased tins, seam side down, pushing them in to fit. Cover with a damp tea towel and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 45 minutes or until the dough has risen just above the edge of each tin.

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6. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 180 C (350 F) and bake for 20 minutes more or until the loaves are deep golden and sound hollow when tapped on the base. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

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I added some butter-cheese toppings.

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