Basic White Bread

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups warm water (100° to 115°, approximately)
  • 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (approximately 1 pound)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons softened butter for buttering bowl and pan

FYI: you will not get the full recipe for this bread.  It is a 14 page wonderfully illustrated chapter out of one of the best cookbooks I have ever read.  That being said, I wanted to share it with you and encourage you to pick up a copy if you want to learn to bake bread.

  1. Proof the yeast by combining 1/2 cup of the water, sugar and the package of yeast in a small bowl.
  2. Meanwhile combine the flour and salt.  Next mix in the yeast mixture.  Add water until dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.  Knead the dough on a floured counter until the ball springs back when pressed with your fingers.
  3. Place the dough ball in a buttered bowl, rolling it to coat with butter.  Leave covered with a towel in a warm place for 1-2 hours until doubled.
  4. Put the dough ball on a floured counter and knead for about 3 minutes and then transfer to a buttered loaf pan.
  5. Cover with a towel and allow to rise in a warm place for 40 – 75 minutes.
  6. Score the top of the loaf and lightly brush with water.  Bake for 35 minutes in a 400° oven and then begin testing loaf by tapping on it with your knuckles.  When it sounds hollow, it is done.

Yield: 1 loaf or 2 smaller loaves

From: Beard on Bread by James Beard

Please do not try to use these instructions for baking this bread.  They would probably suffice if you are experienced bread baker, but this recipe is really intended as an introduction to the art of baking bread, and as such you need to read the full chapter on how to prepare this loaf to fully appreciate it.

That being said, I had to share this, not as a recipe per-se, but because the cookbook is so wonderful that I wanted to review/share it.  This is one of the best cookbooks I have ever read.  James Beard has an excellent conversational style, like he is right there over you shoulder walking you through the pitfalls, and intricacies of the recipe.  He talks about all the things that go into the recipe to make it turn out the way it does, as well as modifications you can make.  His goal isn’t to help you make a dish but give you the means to master and truly own the recipe so you can reproduce it anytime.

The bread turned out wonderfully, and we enjoyed it fresh with butter, toasted with butter and jam, and as french toast.  It was an absolute treat, and even though there are some things that I’m sure I could have done better, baking this loaf is one of my proudest accomplishments in the kitchen.

Katie: Gray did a wonderful job with the bread and puts all my bread making efforts to shame. It is because he took the time to read the whole chapter about the bread and follow the directions and pointers that are in the chapter when making the bread. It just goes to show you that it really is an exact science; even more-so than baking. There are many parts that really must be done just right to have such a good outcome. I haven’t read any of the cookbook yet because Gray has it on lock-down, but his outcome has convinced me that I need to read this cookbook if I want to make better bread.

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2 Responses to Basic White Bread

  1. brender270 says:

    I am currently exploring bread myself. Do you have any recommendations on where to find a good recipe to make a dinner roll that is light and fluffy as the ones they have at O’Charley’s? Everything I have tried has had great flavor but the texture is off.

  2. Sorry, I don’t have any good suggestions, but if you have some that tastes good, you should keep working at it, and experiment with rising times, etc. till you get a better result. That is what I have been able to gather from my reading. To help you along, the cookbook that this recipe is from would be a good start, or any other good bread cookbook should have some suggestions to help you in the right direction. Another thing I know is that it can be difficult to reproduce commercial baked goods at home since those ovens can vary both temperature *and* humidity to achieve the proper result. Good luck with it, and if you get a recipe that turns out, post it here – We love those rolls!

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