Classic American loaf bread

Having finally worked up the nerve to start using yeast and making breads like the English muffin loaf and multigrain bread, there was a classic that I really wanted to try.  That would be the basic American loaf - or sandwich - bread...otherwise known simply as: white bread.
Nowadays, I'm all about whole wheat breads both for nutritional reasons and because I actually prefer that inherent nuttiness you get with them.  But growing up, it was all about the white bread and it certainly has a special place in my heart.  Sometimes, only a good slice or two of classic old-fashioned white bread will do.  And a piece of buttered white toast is like a taste of childhood; it makes me think of breakfast at the local diner and the stack of very-buttery white toast I used to devour. 
This white sandwich bread recipe from Cook's Illustrated did not disappoint.  It turns out a big loaf of the best kind of fresh, sweet white bread that you might find at a good bakery.  It reminded me of the loaves I buy at Japanese bakeries when I get the chance, and was better than the ones I sometimes pick up at an Asian bakery nearby.  The one thing that always bothered me about the white bread at that bakery was how thin/hallow the bread is.  Once toasted, I could barely butter a slice without ripping it.  No such problem here.  This bread was sturdy enough to be sliced as thin or thick as I liked.

I enjoyed the nice chewiness to the bread, and more importantly...the flavor!  I think it's easy to forget that white bread can actually have great flavor because of the bland options we're used to from the supermarket.  Combined with the lovely sweet aroma, homemade bread is something a girl can get hooked on. 
One thing I was taken aback by was how huge the loaf turned out!  I'm not complaining because I'd much prefer a big, lofty loaf to a squat, flat one but it took me by surprise.  I suppose it was the result of using high-gluten bread flour, without any whole wheat flour in the picture.  When my son and I peeked into the oven, we both thought something had to be wrong.  I half-expected the loaf to collapse but luckily, there were no such problems.

I used bread flour and I've read somewhere that sandwich bread made with it - as opposed to all-purpose - tends to rise higher given the higher amount of gluten.  The recipe called for bread flour but all-purpose can be used as well if not available.  Since I had both flours on hand, I went with the first option.  Next time, I just might use a mix of the two and see how that turns out.

My family and I enjoyed this bread a whole lot.  I've stowed a few of these big slices in the freezer for French toast.  Otherwise, we ate the rest, toasted and slathered with an array of toppings.  
And, of course, it makes a great sandwich!  My son was partial to this grilled cheese and salami one I made for him.  

A couple of things stick out in my mind about making this white bread recipe for the first time.  It reminded me of the chocolate brioche pretzels I made with my son over the summer.  And the reason for that is the racket the stand mixer makes while this dough is being kneaded (same with the pretzels)!  I wasn't quite so surprised this time but for those ten minutes of kneading, I kept a close eye - and hand - on the mixer.  I really was afraid it might fly off the counter.  
For the most part, I followed the detailed recipe but I did not set my dough in a warm oven, as the recipe directs.  Instead, I left it in a warm spot in my house.  Besides doing that because it seems to work perfectly well in other cases, I also thought the timing wouldn't quite work out otherwise.  If I leave my dough proofing in the warm oven before taking it out to shape and then proofing again for 20-30 minutes, I wouldn't be able to preheat my oven for the hour, as listed, before baking the bread.  Unless you have two ovens (and I don't), I can't see how that'd work.  Maybe I'm missing something...
An interesting tip from the recipe is to bake the bread on a heated pizza stone, or a preheated inverted baking sheet if you don't have (which is what I did).  Secondly, you fill some boiling water in another empty loaf pan to bake alongside, and that helps create moisture in the oven (to mimic professional steam injected ovens), which in turn, creates a crisp crust and allows the bread to expand more.    
Expand, it certainly did.  As I said, this turned out one big loaf of bread!  And the crust was crisp, though it will naturally soften once the bread is wrapped for storage.

It really didn't take very long to make and was pretty easy.  It's not very stressful if you don't aim for perfection.  A few years ago, I never would have expected to be baking and eating homemade yeast bread and now, I've been making them when I run low on bread at home and don't want to or don't have time to run to the store.  It's quite an amazing feeling.  

...Now speaking of bread making, I revisited that first whole wheat loaf I made last September.  That was my first real foray into making bread and because I didn't cover the bread during the second rise (which now seems like such an obvious mistake), the loaves had this creased Frankenstein-like gash on top of them.  I needed a re-do and baked it again recently.  Talk about contrast!  The bread below, made with half white whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour, is tiny compared to this white sandwich bread we're talking about today!  Working with whole wheat flour in bread-making seems a bit trickier but I enjoy the flavor and extra nutrients from it.
Recent whole wheat bread re-do (made with half white whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour)

Recipe:

American Loaf Bread
From The Cook's Illustrated Baking Book

- Makes one 9x5 inch loaf - 

1 cup warm whole milk (110 degrees)
1/3 cup warm water (110 degrees)
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 1/3 cups (19 1/4 ounces) bread flour (or all-purpose flour can be substituted)
2 1/4 teaspoon (1 packet) instant or rapid-rise yeast
2 teaspoons salt

In a 4-cup liquid measuring cup, whisk the milk, water, honey, and melted butter together.  Place flour, yeast, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment.  Mix together on low speed, then gradually add the milk mixture and allow dough to come together, about 2 minutes.  Increase speed to medium and knead for about 10 minutes, until dough looks smooth and has a satin sheen to it.  Scrape the dough from the sides of the bowl or the hook, if and as necessary.  

Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it by hand just enough (about 15 seconds) to form a ball.  Place dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 40 to 50 minutes. [Note: recipe suggests preheating oven to 200 degrees, maintaining that temperature for 10 minutes, then turning off the oven.  Place the dough into the warm oven, set on the lowest position rack, to proof.]

Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and shape it into a rectangle, an inch thick and no longer than 9 inches.  Roll dough towards you into a firm cylinder, keeping the roll taunt by tucking it under itself as you go.  Turn dough seam side up and pinch it closed.  Place loaf, seam side down, into loaf pan.  Cover pan loosely with greased plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled in size, 20 to 30 minutes.  Dough is ready when it just barely springs back when pressed lightly with a knuckle.


About an hour before baking, set a baking stone or overturned baking sheet onto the lowest rack in the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place another empty loaf pan (or other heatproof pan) onto the stone or baking sheet.  Bring 2 cups of water to a boil.  Quickly, and carefully, pour the boiling water into the empty loaf pan (doing this creates moisture in the oven, allowing the bread to expand more and develop a crispy crust).  Place bread loaf into the oven on top of the baking stone or sheet.  Bake until crust is golden brown and the bread registers 195 degrees, about 40 to 50 minutes.  

Let bread cool in pan on a wire rack for about 5 minutes before turning out to cool completely, about 2 hours.  

For storage, wrap bread in two layers of plastic wrap and keep at room temperature for up to 3 days. Freeze bread for up to 1 month, wrapped with an additional layer of foil.










44 comments:

  1. What lovely loves! Ain't homemade bread the best?!

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    1. I'm starting to get a little hooked on them...so many good reasons to go homemade!

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  2. You made that?! Looks perfect! :) ela

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    1. haha...I was scratching my heading wondering if they're too big but it's great to have these big slices for sandwiches and French toast. I better not complain.

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  3. Hi Monica, your homemade bread is perfection. Baking bread is so daunting to me, but little by little I am conquering my fear, currently I am working on biscuits.

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    1. Definitely not perfect but I'll take it. Thank you so much, Cheri. I have to much to learn but I'm actually putting yeast on my pantry items list now...little by little...

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  4. Holy cow that is one huge loaf. I know my boys would love some gold old fashion white bread in our home once in awhile. French toast, grilled cheese and toast taste so much better with home made white bread.

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    1. You should have seen my reaction when I turned on the oven light to check on it while baking. I thought it would fall over or something was wrong. My 8-yr old was convinced too...but all was well. : )

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  5. Now this is waht I call a gorgeous loaf of bread! It turned out amaaaazing, look at how tall it is! Nothing can't beat homemade bread!

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    1. Homemade, fresh bread is a beautiful thing, I agree! Thanks, Consuelo.

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  6. Wow that is one huge loaf!!! I love making yeasted breads but I have yet to make a classic white bread. I'm like you where I actually prefer the nuttiness of the whole wheat, etc but you may have convinced me to give this a try : ) Have a great weekend!!

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    1. Hi Ashley - yes, this white bread was definitely just one of those things nagging at me that I wanted to try. The guys in my house love white bread (of course) and I do buy some occasionally when I'm at a good market and Iove the sweet milky smell of it. It was fun. : )

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  7. Wow your loaf is amazing Monica! So satisfying. I am certainly a girl that loves some buttered white toast - like you, reminiscent of my childhood. Have a great weekend :-)

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    1. This bread was perfect for those buttered condensed milk toasts, Jo! : ) Thanks for your kind words.

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  8. Monica! Your bread came out PERFECTLY! I love how much it rose and how soft the texture looks. Beautiful!

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    1. Thanks, Marie. It was a monster of a loaf. : )

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  9. Monica, You have become an expert. This is a perfect loaf!

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    1. That is so not true but I thank you for being so sweet. Thank you, my friend!

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  10. This bread looks wonderful! A buttered piece of white toast is one of my favorite things to eat. At least when you make your own white bread you don't have to feel as guilty as buying it at the store since it doesn't have all those preservatives in it.

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    1. I hear you. I try not to feel guilt when I eat things but it is impossible not to have those kinds of thoughts all too often. I agree about knowing exactly what went in and having a short ingredient list without the preservatives. I have a feeling I'll be making this again before long. : )

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  11. Wow, what an gorgeous looking loaf of bread - I love how high it got and it looks so soft and perfect :) Love homemade bread and I'm with you and prefer whole wheat breads but after seeing this I am totally craving a piece of buttered toast or grilled cheese on white bread - looks really delicious Monica :)

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    1. Thank you, Kelly! Homemade bread is awesome...unless you can go to an artisan bakery every morning for a fresh loaf. : ) I'm glad to realize there are some simple recipes that I can do at home.

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  12. There's something so satisfying about making homemade bread, isn't there? Your loaf looks gorgeous!

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    1. Yes, you feel like you're making something basic, hearty, and nutritious for your family. : )

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  13. I'm amazed by how perfect and pretty your loaf looks! If you lived closer I'd be buying bread off you! ;)

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    1. ha - that's so sweet of you. In reality, I probably can't give my stuff away but I appreciate your encouragement. : )

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  14. love the density and texture of this bread! oh my...that grilled cheese!

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    1. Thank you! It really held up well to buttering and making sandwiches and was still light.

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  15. Your bread is just GORGEOUS!! I love my whole wheat, but white will always have a place in my heart. It makes the perfect toast, in my opinion.

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    1. Awww..thanks, Joanne. It does make an unbeatable slice of toast...you forget how good it is til you take a bite. : )

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  16. Gosh Monica - you nailed it! This is the most beautiful loaf of bread. The toast looks amazing. Congratulations on a super successful baking experience!

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    1. Thanks, Tricia. I learned a lot so it was a good experience.

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  17. What a beautiful loaf of bread! It really raised nicely and I love the color of it! Great job! I can totally imagine having a piece of toast with this for breakfast! Love!

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    1. Thanks, Kristi. A piece of white toast is almost nostalgic these days. It was fun to make!

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  18. This bread is just perfect!! Is it weird to say I like the shape of it when you slice it because it reminds me of the bread I ate when i was a kid?? Love this!

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    1. Not weird at all! I was thinking about the shape, too, and how it's like a mushroom cap...definitely familiar. Thanks, Ashley!

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  19. Wow!
    never made bread at home. Looks gorgeous!

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    1. It's pretty rewarding, Asmita. And there are many easy recipes out there...if I can do it, you surely can if you wanted to.

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  20. Wow, what a beautiful loaf of bread! And very interesting tip on baking with another pan filled with water for moisture. I had no idea. This looks fabulous!

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    1. I learned a lot, too, Tiffany. Thanks!

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  21. Now I'm envious! I would love to put nice butter on the tasted bread! Oh looks so fabulous, Monica! I wish I can have this bread every breakfast, and I know I won't be tired of it. I want to tackle with bread making soon. I really need to make time for it!

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    1. I love good salted butter on fresh bread, too, Nami! It is too good... : )

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  22. That really did make a fun tall loaf! It looks beautiful.

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