I’ve been baking bread since I was little, and have tried many different basic, or ‘master’, bread recipes over the decades. This is by far the best easy basic bread recipe I’ve ever run across. Actually, I had to tweak it a bit, as the ratios of yeast to flour weren’t quite right, but this end result is perfect.
Baking bread from scratch doesn’t have to be a pain in the you-know what. In fact, when you’re making just plain old white or wheat bread it shouldn’t be. This dough can be thrown together in just ten minutes, less time if you have a stand mixer.
3 cups flour, sifted
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (just over one packet)
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup warm water
2 Tablespoons olive oil
In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Stir together well. Set aside.
In a liquid measure combine warm (not hot) water and olive oil. Slowly pour wet mixture into the dry mixture, stirring thoroughly. Work dough with flour-dusted hands until it forms a ball, then turn out onto clean surface (not floured) and knead for 8 minutes, or until uniform and smooth in texture.
If you have a stand mixer you can simply combine all ingredients in the mixing bowl, stir it together with the stir paddle until the dough forms, then switch to the dough hook for 3-4 minutes.
Grease the dough ball generously with shortening or butter (your choice), cover with dry kitchen towel, and then rise in warm place for at least 45 minutes.
After first rising, rework the bread dough into the shape you want, grease generously again, and let rise a second time for at least 45 minutes. You may choose to preheat your oven at this time.
Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, or until all uncovered portions are browned. Elevation significantly affects the baking time on this recipe. Those at lower levels will experience shorter baking times, and those at higher levels will experience longer baking times. It’s important to keep an eye on the loaf as it bakes to watch for the browning effect. The browning should just touch the pan the bread is being cooked in.
For best results, let loaf sit for 5 minutes, remove from pan, and then let sit for another 5 minutes. The radiant heat from the exterior of the loaf will finish off the last bit of bread dough on the inside, helping to ensure that your bread is completely done, without having to let it bake until the crust is black and burned.
I like to set this dough to rise on my lunch break and give it several hours on each rising. But, it will come out nicely even if you give it the minimum time.
Note: Most bread recipes call for the towel used to cover the bowl during rising to be damp. This is to help the air around the dough stay humid to reduce drying. But, since this recipe calls for greasing the dough itself, not the bowl, a dry towel works better. Damp towels sucks the heat from the bowl, and thus the dough in turn. This heat is essential to a good rising, so keep your towel dry and your dough warm.