Soft White Bread

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I have my pilot’s license, I’ve jumped out of airplanes with a parachute strapped to my back repeatedly and I haven’t met a hot spice I don’t love. My point here is that I ain’t no skeerdy cat. But the idea of making bread by hand (no bread machines here) scares the bejeezus out of me. This recipe comes from Grandma Lorraine who was as French as the day is long and I’d always heard about her homemade bread. I finally got my hands on the recipe and immediately freaked out. Bread by hand? Who does such a thing nowadays? Turns out: Grandma Lorraine & me. We do. The first batch was a complete mess. I literally put the final product in the freezer because I figured I could probably make them into good croutons at some point. Yes, it was that bad. Probably shouldn’t have left to run errands with my dad while the bread was rising and let it rise right over the edge of the bowl and all over the bottom of my oven {ahem}.  Thankfully the second time around was a tad more successful.

You are going to start with either 3 packages of dry active yeast or 1 yeast cake. I had much more success with the yeast cake than the packages of yeast but I think that probably has more to do with the baker than the yeast itself. 😉 Put the yeast in a bowl and pour 1 generous cup of warm water over the yeast. I put a small pinch of sugar in there to help the yeast out. Yeast {puffy hearts} sugar.

After about 5 minutes, this is what you want to see: froth and such. It means your yeast is doing yeastly things.

In a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 stick of butter. Add 1 can of evaporated milk, then fill the empty can with hot water and add to saucepan.

Then add 3/4 cup sugar and 1 heaping teaspoon salt. Heat until the mixture is just about to simmer and then remove from heat.

In a large bowl add 5 cups of flour and make a hole in the middle. Add the now-frothy yeast mixture.

Then add the now-a-little-cooler butter mixture. Start stirring and the mixture is going to be almost like a cake batter.  Add another 5 -7 cups until the mixture isn’t too sticky and knead-able.

Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead until that gluten is developed.  (tip I learned from searching the interwebs: take a walnut-sized piece of the dough and pull it apart, if it stretches and get thin, but doesn’t break, that’s perfect)

Let it rise, punch it down and let it rise again.

Grease 4 loaf pans and divide the dough between the pans. One of my pans was pretty large so I only made 3.

The dough needs to rise yet again.

Bake at 350* for 40 minutes. I did brush the bread with melted butter before putting it in the oven and I don’t think I’d do that again. I would wait and just brush the bread with some melted butter right after it gets out of the oven. I honestly did not get many “after” shots because shortly after taking these loaves out of the oven, my family members showed up to collect them. So I basically gave them away immediately. Ha! The reviews have been good. What I like the most about this recipe is it is a solid white bread recipe which is good in itself but it also gives us a good blank slate. I’m thinking of trying a dill variation next. Try it and let me know what variations you experiment with!

Soft White Bread
  • 1 generous cup warm water
  • 3 packages (1/4 oz.) dry active yeast (or one 2oz. yeast cake)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 (12oz.) can evaporated milk
  • 12 oz. hot water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 heaping teaspoon salt
  • 10-12 cups (3-3.5 lbs.) all-purpose flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350*
  2. Put yeast in a small bowl with warm water and a small pinch of sugar. Set aside.
  3. In a medium-sized saucepan melt butter, then add evaporated milk, can of hot water, sugar and salt. Heat on medium heat until the ingredients are just about to simmer. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl add 5 cups of flour. Make a dent in the middle of the flour and add yeast mixture. Then add butter mixture. Mix thoroughly, dough will be the consistency of cake batter.  Add another 5-7 cups of flour until batter is less sticky and knead-able. Turn out onto floured surface and knead dough but do not let it get too stiff. Let rise twice. At the end of second rising, divide into 4 parts and place into 4 greased loaf pans.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes. Brush with melted butter when still warm.

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