Consistently Amazing Homemade White Bread {Recipe}

So many people are afraid to make yeast breads because, somewhere, they got the idea that it's nearly impossible to do so without ending up with a rock-hard loaf or they think they need a bread machine. I've only ended up with a bad loaf once - when I forgot it was baking! And I have never, ever had a bread machine. I think that if I had the space and the money for one, I'd still skip it. There's something about kneading a warm lump of dough while the faint yeasty smell wafts up toward me that gives me a nice sense of peacefulness. That and, if I have any tensions, pummeling the dough for a minute or two really helps! Oh, and don't get me started on the wonderful smell that begins to fill my home about 15 minutes after I put it into the oven... Why don't they make candles that smell like that? Oh, I know! Because that's not a scent that you can replicate - you MUST have the real thing!

I describe this recipe as being "consistently amazing" because we've made it four times in the past month and it's always come out perfectly. The bread has a wonderful flavor. It has a nice, soft texture. You can slice it thinly enough that it makes a great sandwich loaf. And, finally, it doesn't have giant holes from air pockets, so you can spread on some butter, jam, or (my favorite!) Nutella without getting a huge gob of it in your palm.

Now, I am going to give you the instructions for making this bread the way I do them. It's different than the way you'd usually make bread, but I hate doing dishes and this is how I get around it. If you're a stickler for doing it the "right" way, or this is the first time you've made yeast bread, please go HERE for the original recipe and follow their directions!

Milk & Honey Bread (2 loaves)

(adapted from Elizabeth Yetter's Recipe)
1 1/2 c. warm water
1 pkg. active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter (melted) + 2 Tbsp. butter (melted)
3 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. sugar (optional)
1 Tbsp. Kosher salt (can cut to 1/2 Tbsp., but it won't be as flavorful)
1 c. buttermilk
1/2 tsp. cider vinegar
6 c. all-purpose flour (bread flour is even better, but not necessary)

 Pour warm water into a bowl and add yeast. Allow to sit for five minutes. Add 3 Tbsp. butter, honey, sugar, and salt. Stir well. Measure buttermilk and add cider vinegar to it, stir. If you'd like to reduce the rising time by 15 minutes or so, heat the milk to lukewarm. Just don't heat it too much - it could kill the yeast.

Pour milk/vinegar mixture into yeast mixture and stir well. Add 5 c. of the flour, one cup at a time, mixing after each addition. Turn onto counter and knead the final cup of flour into the dough. You may need more flour, depending on the humidity that day. You should knead the dough until it's stretchy and no longer really sticky - about 10 minutes.

Cleaning the counter while the dough rises. Cleaning up your mess is an important part of cooking!

If you have a helper, let them deal with the dough while you wash out the bowl and dry it. Pour around 1-2 Tbsp. oil in the bowl (any type is fine as long as it doesn't have a strong flavor.) Using your hand, make sure the oil is coating the entire inside of the bowl. Put kneaded dough into the bowl and turn, so the dough is also coated in oil. Cover bowl and set in a warm place for about an hour, until it has doubled in size.

When dough has risen, punch it down and divide into two equal parts. Knead just enough to get any large bubbles out. Form into loaf shapes and set into buttered loaf pans. Now, there are a ton of different methods you can use to form the loaves. I just squish it around in my hands until it's cylindrical. It just depends on whether you really care how pretty that loaf of bread is. My family eats the stuff so fast and doesn't take time to even notice what it looks like. I just don't put the effort into gorgeous bread anymore! Now you're going to use the other 2 Tbsp. of butter! Coat the tops of your loaves with it, then set them in a warm place to rise. This time, it should only take 30 - 45 minutes for them to double in size.

Meanwhile, do those dishes!
About 10 minutes before the dough is risen, heat up your oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the loaves on the center rack for 30 to 45 minutes. You'll know they're done when you can tap them and they sound hollow. Now, if you're not going to cut it into thin sandwich-bread slices, you might want to brush the tops with butter once more. Let the loaves sit in the pans for about five minutes, then turn them out and onto a rack to completely cool. The first loaf doesn't usually make it past the first fifteen minutes out of the oven around here. So, the second is the one I slice up. You have to make sure that the bread is completely cool before slicing, or it will smoosh when you're cutting.

That's it for the bread. I hope you try it out! Please let me know if you did. I'd love to hear your opinions and anything you may have done different. Baking is always a science experiment and I love hearing about people's variations.

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