Serves: Makes 1 loaf
- ¼ cup (2 ounces) warm water (110° to 115°F)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast, or 2¼ teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 cup (8 ounces) warm whole milk (110° to 115°F)
- 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, melted
- 3 cups (15 ounces) bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
Procedures:Mass-produced sandwich bread has given white bread an undeserved bad reputation. The homemade version is a whole different species. Real white bread has a soft but sturdy crumb that is perfect for sandwiches or toast, and a neutral flavor that encourages you to pair it with just about anything. This is a fun bread to make with kids because the silky-smooth dough is easy to mix and knead, even by hand. For a real treat, make the sweet monkey bread variation and watch them go wild. The cheddar-mustard variation is fabulous with all kinds of meat and makes an over-the-top grilled cheese sandwich.
- Mix, rest, and knead the dough: Place the water, sugar, and yeast in the small bowl and whisk to blend. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is activated and foamy or bubbling. In the medium bowl, whisk together the warm milk and melted butter.
- Place the flour and salt in the bowl of the stand mixer. Mix for 1 minute on medium speed to blend. Add the yeast mixture and milk mixture and mix on medium speed just until the dough comes together, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel and let the dough rest for 20 minutes to allow it to fully hydrate before further kneading. Turn the speed to medium-low and continue to knead until the dough is firm, elastic, and smooth, 3 to 6 minutes. (To mix by hand, mix the flour and salt in a large bowl, add the yeast mixture and milk mixture, and mix until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead until firm, elastic, and smooth, about 8 to 10 minutes.)
- Rise the dough (first rise) : Lightly oil the tub or bowl, scrape the dough into the tub, and lightly coat the surface of the dough with a little oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel and let the dough rise until doubled, 45 to 60 minutes (longer if the room is cold). If you are using a tub, be sure to mark the starting level of the dough with a pencil or piece of tape so it's easy to tell when the dough has doubled.
- Punch down and shape the loaf: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Press down on the dough firmly to expel some of the air bubbles, but don't knead the dough again or it will be too springy and difficult to shape (if this happens, simply cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes to give the gluten some time to relax). Shape the dough. Lightly coat the loaf pan with melted butter, or a high-heat canola oil spray. Place the dough, seam side down, in the pan.
- Proof the dough (second rise): Lightly oil the top of the dough to keep it moist. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel and allow the dough to rise again until its top is ½ to 1 inch above the rim of the pan, 45 to 60 minutes.
- Glaze and bake the bread: Preheat the oven to 400°F and position an oven rack in the center. Brush the top of the loaf with a thin film of the beaten egg. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and the internal temperature registers 200°F on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Slice with the serrated knife.
Storing: Wrap the bread in plastic and keep at room temperature for 3 to 4 days. For longer storage, double-wrap in plastic and freeze for up to 1 month. To reheat frozen bread, thaw on the counter for 1½ hours, or until it reaches room temperature, then unwrap and heat in a 400°F oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the crumb is warmed and the crust is crisped.