Homemade Sandwich Bread
- 2 cups lukewarm water
- 2 Tbls. sugar
- 1 Tbls. dry active yeast
- 2 Tbls. butter, softened
- 5 1/2 cups all purpose flour + more for kneading the dough
- 1 Tbls. kosher salt
- yields 2 standard loaves
Proof the yeast
Put the water and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
Whisk vigorously to dissolve the sugar. (Yeast eats sugar, so consider this its appetizer before you add the flour.)
Toss in the yeast.
Whisk again to dissolve. Walk away from the bowl for 5-10 minutes to give the yeast time to work.
After 5-10 minutes, there should be a thick, creamy layer on the surface of the water.
That means the yeast is alive and kicking, so you can keep right on going.
Make the dough
Toss the flour and salt into the bowl with the yeast.
Cut your soft butter up into a few pieces (to make it easier to work into the dough evenly).
Toss the butter in with the flour.
Mix well to combine the ingredients. If you’re using a stand mixer, use the dough hook. (I use a stand mixer to knead my dough, but I always get it started by hand to keep the flour from flying all over the place.)
Knead the dough for 3-5 minutes.
It’s ready when it’s formed a smooth ball that feels elastic-y when you touch it.
Other signs the dough has been kneaded enough: Very little of the dough will stick to the dough hook when you pull it out of the bowl…
…and there will be very little dough actually sticking to the sides of the bowl.
The first rise
Round the dough up into a ball. Put it in a large, lightly greased bowl.
Coat a piece of plastic wrap with a little oil. Loosely cover the bowl with it, oil side down.
Let it sit in a warm place for about an hour, or until it’s doubled in size. If you check it after about 15 minutes, you should notice that it’s started to grow:
After about an hour, your dough should be doubled in size.
Form the bread loaves
Punch the dough down. (Basically, just poke it a bunch and smoosh the air out of it.)
Knead it a couple of times (I do this in the bowl) and form it into a neat ball. It should be smooth and tacky, but not sticky.
Sprinkle a little flour on a board. Set the dough ball on the flour.
Whack the ball in half with a bencher or a large knife. Each half will become one loaf.
Grab one half of the dough.
Knead it a few times by folding it in thirds over and over.
The second rise
Lightly grease two one-pound loaf pans. Set the formed loaf in one of the pans. Repeat with the other ball of dough.
Set the pans in a warm place, uncovered.
Let the loaves rise like this for about an hour, or until they’ve doubled in size.
About 15 minutes before your hour is up, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Bake the bread
When your loaves have doubled in size, pop them into your preheated 350-degree oven for 35-40 minutes.
When they’re done, the tops should be a nice light brown.
Yank the pans out of the oven.
Let them cool for 5 minutes in the pans. Then, with potholders, tip the loaves out of the pans and let them finish cooling on a rack.
(A good tip for checking if your bread is cooked through? Thump on the bottom of the loaf. If it makes a hollow sound, you’re bread is baked through.)