Basic White Bread

Great Breads

2 tsp active dry yeast

2 cups lukewarm water

4-5 cups AP flour

2 tsp salt

Dissolve the yeast in the water in a large bowl and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, or until creamy. Mix together 3 1/2 cups of the flour and the salt in a medium bowl. Gradually beat the flour mixture, 1 cup at a time, unto the liquid mixture, with a wooden spoon; the dough should be stiff enough to turn out onto the work surface.

Dust the work surface with flour and turn out the flour. Knead, using a pastry scraper to facilitate folding, for 10 to 15 minutes, adding flour to the work surface and to your hands as needed. At first the dough will be sticky, but it will become resilient after the first 5 minutes, and by the end of the kneading, it should be smooth and elastic. Sprinkle the work surface and your hands with more flour and shape the dough into a ball.

Rinse, dry, and lightly oil the large bowl. Place the dough in it and turn to coat with the oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and a towel and let rise in a warm spot for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until doubled in bulk.

Punch down the dough and let rise a second time for another 1 1/2 hours, or until nearly doubled in bulk again.

Turn the dough out of the bowl, moisten your hands, knead it a couple of times, and shape it uinto a ball. Cut the ball in half and shape into 2 balls. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.

Oil or butter two 8×4-inch loaf pans. Form the loafs by flattening the balls of dough into rectangles. Roll the long ends up tightly and pinch the seam. Take the short ends and fold them into the center, pinching those folds as well. Place the loaves in the pans, first seam-side up, then turn over with the smooth side up (so the loaves are coated with oil). Let rise until the tops curve up above the sides of the pans.

Heat the oven to 375 when the loaves are almost done with their final rise. Move a rack to the middle. Slash the loaves across the top with a razor blade or sharp knife. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the loaves are brown and respond to tapping with a hollow sound. Remove from the pans and cool on a rack.

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