This super easy-to-make recipe will guide even the most novice bread bakers to a loaf of homemade white bread that’s soft, tender, tall, and perfect for sandwich making.
I think in the past few weeks we’ve all been discovering new things about ourselves. Answering the question of “what would I do in a global emergency situation,” you know? Turns out, I’d accomplish nothing of merit and self-soothe by eating several entire loaves of freshly baked bread a week. Surprise!…
The truth is, I’ve never been a huge “sandwich bread” person. I could eat bakery bread with chewy crumb ’til the cows come home, but the wonderbread sort of stuff did nothing for me. However, in recent weeks, I’ve been baking up the softer, fluffier stuff, still with the gorgeous crust (you know, the kind that would make your kids beg you not to cut the edges off) and I can’t get enough.
I’m eating this homemade bread fresh out of the oven. I’m toasting it and eating it with butter throughout the day. I’m making an — if we’re being honest– sick and concerning amount of grilled cheeses. I’m slathering it with hummus or peanut butter or whatever I can dig up from the back of the pantry. I can’t stop myself.
This. Bread. Is. So. Good. And considering it’s ridiculously easy to make as well, I truly can’t imagine myself ever going back to the store-bought stuff again. There’s just truly nothing like freshly baked, homemade bread.
WHAT YOU NEED TO MAKE HOMEMADE SANDWICH BREAD
This is a really simple recipe. All you need to grab from the store (or your fridge, or pantry) is:
- Yeast. All you need is a packet of active dry yeast. If you’ve never worked with yeast before, don’t worry– this truly couldn’t be easier, and the yeast is essential for getting your dough to rise for a lovely loaf!
- Milk. Milk creates a richer, more velvety bread and allows for a softer crust, so it’s a great way to improve homemade sandwich breads.
- Sugar. Good white bread needs a slight sweetness, but sugar actually does more than that. It creates a more tender crumb, helps feed the yeast, aids in the browning of the crust, and can even help the bread to stay fresh longer.
- Salt. Like with sugar, salt has functions for both flavor and texture. Not only does it make your bread taste better, but it tightens gluten structure, helps the crust to brown, and even affects yeast behavior.
- Butter. Fat is flavor, so butter makes for especially tasty bread. But it also prevents the bread from becoming overly chewy. While you might want a jaw workout from, say, a nice french bread, a good white loaf should be more pillowy and soft, and butter will do the trick!
- Egg. You don’t need to brush your bread with an egg wash, but for a truly gorgeously golden, shiny crust, a bit of egg can make a big difference.
You’ll also need water, a bread tin, a pastry brush, and plastic wrap or a kitchen towel.
Luckily, this bread recipe is incredibly forgiving, but I know that a lot of people are nervous to try making their own bread for the first time (or even the fiftieth. I’m not judging). If you have never made bread before, of if you just never can quite get it right, I have some tips that might help.
- Don’t rush it. You want to give your dough time to come together– Don’t run to add more water just because it doesn’t INSTANTLY form a shaggy dough, don’t hurry through the kneading process, don’t rush the rise, and so on. I’m not a very “zen” person, but bread-making is as close to meditation as it gets for me. Give it your patience and enjoy the process and you’ll have good results.
- Listen to your dough. I know, I know. I just said above not to run to add more ingredients just because things don’t instantly seem perfect. But if after several minutes of mixing and kneading you’re still not getting the right consistency, you may need to add a bit more water or flour. You want your dough to feel smooth, slightly elastic, and to keep its shape when you lift it up and hold it in the air. If it’s not right, add a tablespoon or so of what you need at a time: water if your mixture is too dry and grainy; flour if it’s too wet and sticky.
- Let the dough rise in a warm place. If you’re worried about your house being too cold or drafty, let your dough rise in the oven. Here’s how I do it: Preheat the oven to the lowest setting. Let it sit at the lowest temperature for 5 minutes. Then, turn off the oven (don’t forget this step!) and place a small oven-safe bowl of warm water at the bottom of the oven. This will make sure that the oven is warm and humid, which dough loves. Put your dough in the oven –in a lightly oiled bowl, and covered, of course– on the middle rack and close the oven door. It will rise without issue this way!
- Don’t aim for perfection. I loved the bread I wound up with for this video and these photos, but I won’t lie: It didn’t turn out perfect. Why? While filming, my camera stand knocked over and that knocked some of the rise out of my bread, so it didn’t bake up quite as light and airy as it should have. But you know what? It still tasted absolutely amazing. Just as amazing as my many other test loaves. And it was devoured just as fast. It’s okay if you get a little extra browning on one side, or if it’s a little bit dense, or if you wind up with a lumpy loaf. It will still taste great. I even sent a sneak preview of this recipe to a friend who was looking for a homemade bread recipe and she forgot to add salt until after the dough had already risen, and hers was still great in the end. It will be okay!
WATCH THE HOW-TO VIDEO
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
- 2/3 cup warm milk (see note)
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus more if needed
- 1 large egg
- In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the warm milk, warm water, granulated sugar, and active dry yeast. Whisk to combine. Let sit until foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Add the melted butter, salt, and flour and mix until a shaggy dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes, or continue to knead with a stand mixer until a smooth dough forms.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover, and set aside in a warm place. Allow to rise until roughly doubled in size, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Deflate the dough and transfer to a flat, lightly oiled surface. Gently flatten into a large circle, then pull in one edge at an angle 2/3 of the way. Press down with your knuckles. Pull in the other edge at an angle, overlapping the other edge, to create a tall triangle. Press down with your knuckles again. (See video for example.) Roll into a log starting at the thinnest point, being sure to press to seal edges after each turn.
- Place, seam-side down in a lightly greased loaf pan. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let sit until risen about 1” over the edge of the loaf pan.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly beat the egg with a teaspoon of water and a sprinkle of salt. Brush the top of the loaf with the egg wash.
- Decrease heat to 350°F and bake until golden brown and cooked through, about 35-40 minutes.
The milk and water should be at about 110°F in order to get a good rise on your dough. You can mix together cold milk + hot tap water, or microwave each and then test by thermometer or finger. If testing with a finger, the mixture should be very warm but you should be able to submerge your finger and keep it there without any discomfort.