Classic White Bread

After having owned Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice for over four months now, I finally got around to cracking it open and breaking it in with a classic recipe for white sandwich bread. I was amazed at how incredible the dough was to work with – soft, easy to shape, and behaved just as it should. And the resulting loaves? Pure heaven. I do love my rustic Italian and French breads, but for the most part I’m a minimalist when it comes to bread – hand me a loaf of simple white bread and I’m absolutely content. No grains, no seeds, no nuts, just a perfectly baked loaf of bread. And that’s exactly what this is.

Another recipe I have made from this book: Cinnamon Rolls, completed for my very first Daring Bakers challenge.

More about the bread, process photos, and the recipe after the break.

I didn’t run into any issues in making this bread recipe. I did have to add a bit more flour to the dough while kneading, approximately ¼ cup (of course this need will depend on the conditions of every individual kitchen), but everything else went exactly as directed in the recipe. This bread is the essence of what you would envision when you think of a loaf of white sandwich bread. The crumb is soft and light without feeling flimsy, and the crust has just enough firmness to hold the loaf together without being overly crisp and separating from the rest of the bread. I can’t wait to use this for what will undoubtedly be some awesome french toast!

I chose to garnish one loaf with an egg wash, and did a simple slit down the middle of the other. I’m fairly new to slashing bread, and am not sure if the slash I did actually came out right – it looks like it opened up more than it should have. Any insight from veteran bread bakers?

Classic White Bread

Yield: Two 1-pound loaves, 18 dinner rolls, or 12 burger or hot dog buns

Prep Time: 5 hours

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 5 hours 40 minutes

Ingredients:

4¼ cups (19 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1½ teaspoons (.38 ounces) salt
3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons (.22 ounce) instant yeast
1 large (1.65 ounces) egg, slightly beaten, at room temperature
¼ cup (2 ounces) butter, margarine, or shortening, at room temperature, or vegetable oil
1½ cups (12 ounces) buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
1 egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon water until frothy, for egg wash (optional)
sesame or poppy seeds for garnish (optional)

Directions:

1. Mix together the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast in a 4-quart bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Pour in the egg, butter, and milk and mix with a large metal spoon (or on low speed of the electric mixer with the paddle attachment) until all the flour is absorbed and the dough forms a ball. If the dough seems very stiff and dry, trickle in more milk until the dough is soft and supple.

2. Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook), adding more flour, if necessary, to create a dough that is soft, supple, and tacky but not sticky. Continue kneading (or mixing) for 6 to 8 minutes. (In the electric mixer, the dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick ever to slightly to the bottom.) The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 80° F. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

My high-tech method of gauging when the dough has doubled - I measure how high the dough is at the beginning, double that and mark the spot on a piece of tape. When it hits the spot, it's done fermenting!

3. Ferment at room temperature for 1½ to 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size (the length of time will depend on the room temperature).

4. Remove the fermented dough from the bowl and divide it in half for sandwich loaves, into eighteen 2-ounce pieces for dinner rolls, or twelve 3-ounce pieces for burger or hot dog buns. Shape the pieces into boules for loaves or tight rounds for dinner rolls or buns. Mist the dough lightly with spray oil and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Allow to rest for about 20 minutes.

5. For loaves, shape as shown on page 81. Lightly oil two 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pans and place the loaves in the pans. For rolls and buns, line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment. Rolls require no further shaping. For hamburger buns, gently press down on the rolls to form the desired shape. For hot dog buns, shape as shown on page 80, although without tapering the ends. Transfer the rolls or buns to the sheet pans.

6. Mist the tops of the dough with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Proof the dough at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until it nearly doubles in size.

7. Preheat the oven to 350° F for loaves or 400° F for roll and buns. Brush the rolls or buns with the egg wash and garnish with poppy or sesame seeds. Sandwich loaves also may be washed and garnished, or score them down the center and rub a little vegetable oil in the slit.

8. Bake the rolls or buns for approximately 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown and register just above 180° F in the center. Bake loaves for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating 180 degrees halfway through for even baking, if needed. The tops should be golden brown and the sides, when removed from the pan, should also be golden. The internal temperature of the loaves should be close to 190° F, and the loaves should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.

9. When the loaves have finished baking, remove them immediately from the pans and cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving. Rolls should cool for at least 15 minutes on a rack before serving.

(Source: Peter Reinhart The Bread Baker's Apprentice pages 265-269)

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24 Responses to “Classic White Bread”

  1. Amber on July 13, 2008 at 8:31 am

    White bread is my favorite too! This recipe looks delicious. Perfect results as usual. Great job.

    Reply

  2. westmont on August 24, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    this bread is sort of like a brioche due to the addition of the egg. It didn’t come out as high as I would have liked, but it was tastey, which is always a goal.

    Reply

  3. Suhaina on March 24, 2010 at 7:32 am

    Wow, I love soft breads. I will make this next week. I make oats bread every Sundays. http://mysingaporekitchen.blogspot.com/2009/09/oats-bread.html
    Kindly check if time permits.

    Reply

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  5. Hind on January 17, 2011 at 4:48 am

    hello, it looks great.. i only have one problem which is we have bread flour in my area so, can i use whole wheat flour instead ? thanks.

    Reply

    • Michelle on February 15th, 2011 at 9:29 pm

      Hi Hind, You can try subbing whole wheat flour; the texture and flavor will obviously be different but it should still come out well!

      Reply

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  7. jennifer on December 28, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    Can you make this bread in the bread machine?

    Reply

    • Michelle on December 30th, 2011 at 8:00 pm

      Hi Jennifer, I’m sure you can, but I don’t own a bread machine. I would consult your machine’s instruction manual for how to do it.

      Reply

  8. Sara on January 18, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Can I use all purpose flour for this?

    Reply

    • Michelle on January 18th, 2012 at 10:09 am

      Hi Sara, The result of the bread – the texture, crumb, etc. will be different with all-purpose flour. Bread flour has more protein and gluten, which gives it slightly different properties than all-purpose flour. You can still use AP, but just know that the results may vary.

      Reply

  9. Myrna Inglis on January 23, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    I use an old recipe that I got from a Gold Medal Cookbook. I’ve found that after the first rise and it’s time for kneading that if you can knead it quite a bit you’ll get such a fine texture and to me it’s just better. I don’t do an eggwash or split the loaf, but right after I take it out of the oven I use a cold stick of real butter and rub it all over the top of each loaf. I’ve been baking bread for over 30 yrs. now and this recipe has never failed me.

    Reply

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  11. Mom24@4evermom on September 5, 2012 at 9:35 am

    I’m curious as to whether you prefer this recipe or the Baking Illustrated American Sandwich bread? Thanks!

    Reply

    • Michelle on October 5th, 2012 at 11:26 am

      I would choose the Baking Illustrated American Sandwich Bread, which I discovered after making this recipe.

      Reply

  12. Myrna Inglis on September 6, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    Good job! I’ve used an old recipe from the “Gold Medal” cookbook and it’s always good so I don’t change anything. I have found that the longer I knead the dough the tighter the bread is when baking is done. It doesn’t leave room for bubbles and holds together so it can be cut very thin or thick without tearing.

    Reply

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  17. JB on July 30, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    i’ve made this several times now, and it has never risen more than 2″ in the pans…pretty discouraging for sandwiches.

    Reply

  18. Vab423 on August 18, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    I notice this recipe calls for choices: (butter, margarine, shortening or vegetable oil and buttermilk or whole milk). Do you have a preference or any critiques using one or another of the ingredients?

    Reply

    • Michelle on August 19th, 2013 at 5:50 pm

      I use butter and whole milk.

      Reply

  19. Tee on April 24, 2014 at 8:21 am

    Made this bread twice since coming across the recipe a week ago. Its a very good recipe. If you follow the recipe exactly (except for adding about 3 tablespoons more milk or buttermilk) you will end up with a delicious, homemade loaf of bread.

    When I first did this recipe I used the entire dough to make 1 loaf of bread (I somehow overlooked that this amount makes 2 loaves). It was dense but moist and yummy. Even my kids ate it up.

    The second time I attempted the recipe, I divided the dough into 2 loaves as the recipe directs. I Baked one loaf and the other is in the freezer for another day.
    The loaf I baked is sooo good. I’m like a bit surprised that I made such a “better than the store” loaf o bread.

    One important tip I’d like to share, let the dough rise in the bread pan for up to 5 hours. The longer the better.
    I also made your Classic American Sandwich Bread. While it was good, this is definitely a better recipe.

    ThanQ sooooo much for sharing.

    Reply

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