My Favorite White Bread Recipe
Bread! We all want the perfect bread recipe. It's the unicorn hiding in our cookbooks and recipe boxes. While this might not be the best ever, it's the best I've ever found, and I'll take those odds. I've tinkered with this recipe for months, and it's my favorite by a mile. Great flavor, pretty simple to make as far as bread goes, and smells like you live next door to Laura Ingalls Wilder and Paul Hollywood's baby.
If you want a more thorough understanding of how to make bread, listen to The Lazy Genius Bakes Bread to learn the twelve principles of bread baking, no matter the recipe.
Want a recipe? Here you go. And that video up there is this recipe down here. YOU'VE GOT THIS.
Basic White Bread: One Dough, Two Ways
- 4 1/2 tsp. instant yeast (two standard packets)
- 3/4 of a cup + 2 2/3 cups water
- 3 tbsp. sugar
- 4 tsp. salt
- 3 tbsp. soft cubed butter
- 9 cups (1.3 kg) all-purpose flour (bread flour will work, too, and will create a more sturdy texture)
- Make the roux. Put 3/4 of a cup of water in a one-cup glass measuring cup, and add two spoonfuls of flour. Whisk them together until smooth, and then microwave on high for 25 seconds. Whisk, and microwave another 25 seconds. Whisk, and microwave ten seconds at a time until the consistency is like runny mashed potatoes. Set aside.
- Mix the dry ingredients. Add the flour to a large bowl. Put the yeast on one side and the salt on the other. Mix them each into the flour separately and then all together. Add the sugar in there, too.
- Combine the dough. If the butter isn't completely soft yet and easily worked into the dough, add it to the roux. It'll bring down the temperature just fine. Add most of the 2 2/3 cups of water to the dough, along with the butter and roux. Work it together with your hands and then add the rest of the water. It'll be a hot mess. Don't worry about it.
- Mix the dough. Keep working the mixture until it resembles a really decrepit ball. Your hands will be gross, and your resolve might feel shattered. YOU'RE DOING NOTHING WRONG.
- Knead the dough. Remember that kneading changes the texture, so as you work the dough, don't add more flour to keep it from sticking. Instead, put a little oil on the counter and your hands, and use a bench scraper to move the dough around if it starts to stick. Knead 15-20 minutes. If you want to use a stand mixer and a dough hook, no problem. I prefer using my hands, but I'd rather you use a mixer than not bake bread at all. If you do use a mixer, you want the dough smooth and bouncy.
- Let the dough rise. Put the dough in a large bowl, put a cotton towel on top (something that isn't linty), and let it rise for at least 90 minutes and at most 2 1/2 hours. If you want to make the dough at night and bake it the next morning, put the dough in the biggest plastic container you can find or cover a giant bowl with plastic wrap instead of a towel. Pop the dough in the fridge, and it'll slowly rise overnight. You'll get awesome flavor that way, too.
- Shape and let it rise again. Whether you let it rise at room temperature or in the fridge overnight, you'll do this part the same. Cut the dough in half; you'll get two loaves from this one recipe. Flatten each piece out to get out any air bubbles, and then fold it in thirds like a piece of paper. It'll look like a fun cylinder of dough, and you'll put in a greased loaf pan. Do that with both pieces to make two loaves (or follow the instructions in the video to use half for dinner rolls), cover with your towel, and then let it rise for 20-40 minutes depending on the temperature and humidity of your kitchen. You want a nice bounce when you press the dough; no bounce means it's not ready and too hard of a bounce means it's gone too far. Still bake it, but the rise won't be as good.
- Bake. Bake loaves in a preheated 425 oven for 40-45 minutes. Rolls will go for 15-18 minutes. To know when the bread is done, I love an instant-read thermometer. If the bread is around 200 degrees inside, you're good.
- Brush with butter, and let it cool. Right when it comes out of the oven or even for the last few minutes of baking, brush the top with butter. Don't fight me on this. Then let the bread cool in the pan for a few minutes before taking it out and cooling on a wire rack. The cooler the bread, the better the texture when you slice it. Take that as your warning.
The bread is great for a couple of days. On days three and four, revive it in the toaster or in baller grilled cheese sandwiches. After that, use for bread crumbs, croutons, or bread pudding.
You can also freeze slices once it's completely cool on the first day to have fresh bread whenever you fancy.
Timing For When You Want Bread Rolls At Dinner
anywhere between 12:30pm and 1:45pm - mix dough, knead, and let rise
no later than 4:30pm - shape rolls and let rise a second time; preheat the oven to 425 degrees
5:10pm - in the oven (or earlier if they've risen enough)
5:30pm - ready to eat
Timing For When You Want Bread For a Weekend Breakfast
between 8pm and bedtime - mix and knead the dough, and let rise in a giant plastic container (with a lid) in the fridge overnight
You'll need at least two hours in the morning from first step to eating, so plan your timing accordingly.
If you want to eat by 8am, preheat the oven and shape the loaves for their second rise by 6am at the latest. The bread should go into the oven by 6:45am and cool for about half an hour.