With all the hype, in recent years, about artisan breads, sourdoughs, and preferments, you might get the idea that baking regular, old white has become a dying art. But if you look a little deeper at many baking sites you'll see that the standard loaf of white bread still reigns supreme when it comes to home baking. With all the knowledge out there, why does this humble loaf still get so much attention, while at the same time often being maligned? The answer is pretty simple; it's convenient and pretty easy. Many recipes call for standard all purpose flour, so there is no running to the store to buy bread flour as you probably already have all purpose flour on hand. Secondly, there is the time factor. Most standard loaves of white bread can be made, from beginning to end, in just a few hours, as opposed to many artisan style breads that can involve numerous hours over the course of a couple of days.
Sure, these long fermented, Old World breads and techniques can create breads with an unrivalled depth of flavor, but they can be time consuming and in this day and age people don't always have the time or the energy to be feeding starters, or have the forethought of preparing a starter the night before.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not opposed to experimenting and baking these types of bread, quite the opposite, in fact. I love playing with breads made with these starters, and I think everyone should experiment with baking their own sourdough breads at one time or another. But I also think that everyone should have a simple, no fuss bread recipe that can be made with minimal effort and just a few hours of time.
This bread, makes a great "everyday" loaf, perfect for sandwiches, toast, or just eating as is, smeared with a little butter. It has a soft, dense crumb from using softer all purpose flour, and enriching it with fat, in the form of milk and butter. The flavor might lack the punch or the depth of longer fermented breads, but it makes the perfect conveyance for sandwich fillings or butter and homemade jelly, and guaranteed, it beats the pants off of any store bought white bread you can buy.
makes 1 loaf
1 cup milk, warmed to 100-110°F
2 Tbsp. + more for the top butter, melted
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. yeast, not instant
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
Combine milk, butter, sugar and yeast. Stir well then allow to sit for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to start to activate. Add the flour and salt, and mix, in a mixer with a dough hook, for 10 minutes. Alternatively, mix in a bowl until the dough comes together, then pour out onto a counter, that has been lightly dusted with flour, and knead, by hand for 12-15 minutes. Place into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel and allow to rise, in warm place, for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size. Lightly grease a bread loaf pan. Turn out onto the counter and gently deflate the dough. Pat out into a square, the sides of which are the length of your bread loaf pan. Roll up the dough tightly, pinching the seam together and placing it on the bottom. Fold the very ends under to form a smooth loaf, and again pinch the seams together and place the dough, seam side down, into the loaf pan. Cover with a damp cloth and again allow to rise for about 1 hour, or until doubled.
Meanwhile heat the oven to 350°F. When dough has doubled bake for approximately 45 minutes or to an internal temperature of 205°F. Remove from oven. Remove bread from pan, place on a cooling rack and brush the top of the still hot bread with melted butter. Allow to cool before cutting.