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Basic White Bread

Basic White Bread

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Makes 2 loaves.
By Dennis W. Viau; adapted from other recipes.

I think a lot of cooks shy away from making bread because they can’t participate in the entire process. When you make a stir-fry you chop stuff and cook it in a wok, controlling every step. With bread, you are forced to rely on nature. You assemble the dough and set it aside to rise without any help from you. Will nature succeed or fail? She has been succeeding for thousands of years. Trust her. I know whole wheat bread is healthier, but I like white bread.

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon active dry or instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup (237ml) water, 105°F (41°C) to 115°F (46°C)
1½ cups (12 ounces/355ml) water (or lager beer*—optional)
About 61/3 cups (2 pounds/900g) bread flour (weighing is more accurate)
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten (optional)
2 teaspoons salt
¼ cup (50g) butter, room temperature

Directions:

Place the yeast and sugar in a large bowl and add the 1 cup of warm water. Let rest a few minutes, until the yeast develops a foam on the surface (indicating the yeast is good). Add the remaining water (or the beer), then add half the flour and blend until smooth.

Add the remaining flour, a little at a time, with the optional vital wheat gluten the salt and combine. Transfer the dough to a clean surface and knead for 6 to 8 minutes (or knead 10 minutes in a stand mixer). The mixture should be a little sticky. Use a knife to cut a deep slit in the dough. Press about 1 tablespoon of butter into the slit and seal the dough over it. Knead to blend the butter into the dough. The dough will separate because of the butter, but continue kneading and it will eventually come together again. Repeat until all the butter is incorporated.

Place the dough in a large buttered bowl. Coat the top surface with a little butter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 45 minutes to one hour (longer if your kitchen is cold).

Grease two standard 9–inch by 5–inch (23x13cm) loaf pans with butter (or line with parchment). Divide the dough in half and shape two loaves; place each in the loaf pans. Pat the tops with butter. Cover and let rise about 45 minutes to one hour.

Heat the oven to 375°F (190°C) with a rack in the center of the oven. Bake the bread 35 to 45 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the pans and cool thoroughly on a rack.