Perfect White Bread

We've been spending a lot of time working on the house this winter, and the only thing exciting happening in the kitchen has been bread. We've continued experimenting with the basic bread recipe we shared back in January with some failures, some successes, and a lot of learning, the most interesting one being the amount of time your bread can rise before it actually collapses back on itself (for us this was a second rise that exceeded 24 hours). One of our more brilliant successes is good old fashioned white bread.

Like our previous recipes, this is for two nice-sized loaves.

You'll need:

  • 9 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 1/2 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons yeast
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons salt
  • 1/4 cup dry milk or buttermilk (I prefer this recipe with the latter)
  • 3 Tablespoons vital wheat gluten
 The key is dry buttermilk

The key is dry buttermilk

First combine all the dry ingredients. The add the water and mix until a sticky dough forms. Work the dough by hand until it is smooth and elastic.  Then shape it into a large ball. Coat a large bowl with olive oil and gently roll the dough in the bowl until it is coated with oil. Cover the bowl and store in a warm, dry spot int he kitchen to rise for about 12-18 hours.

 A sticky and elastic dough

A sticky and elastic dough

 Preparing for the first rise

Preparing for the first rise

 Ready for the first rise

Ready for the first rise

When the first rise is complete, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board and gently knead by hand, folding the dough back on itself and pinching it together.

 After the first rise

After the first rise

 Kneading the dough for the second rise

Kneading the dough for the second rise

Shape the dough into two round loaves and loosely wrap in cotton towels for the second rise. Please again in a warm dry place for at least two hours but no more than 12 hours.

 Ready for the second rise

Ready for the second rise

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About 30 minutes before baking, place two cast iron skillets into the oven and pre-heat at 500 degrees. The sugar content of this bread is different, and the bottoms will have a tendency to scorch in the cast iron before the bread is fully cooked. To protect the bottom of your loaves, you'll want to press some rolled oats or sunflower seeds into the bottoms before baking.

Place the loaves inside the hot skillets and cook covered, spraying the loaves with water about every 10 minutes or so to create steam, for about 30 minutes. Then reduce heat to 450, uncover the bread, and cook for another 10 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

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This is a dense, sweet bread with a hint of sourdough if you use the dried buttermilk. It is very good with soups and stews and is perfect for a BLT sandwich.