Country White Sandwich Bread Overview
- Skill Level: Intermediate
- Techniques Used: Proofing Yeast, Straight Dough Method
This classic white bread recipe is one of my favorite recipes to make. I know making yeast bread can be intimidating for some, but it really doesn’t have to be. This recipe calls for very few ingredients and I’m going to walk you through it step-by-step so that you are successful!
What is White Bread Made From?
White bread is made with white flour, which is wheat flour that has had the bran and germ removed. In addition to the white flour, white bread is made with water, salt, and yeast.
Sometimes, enriching ingredients are also added to the bread dough like milk, sugar, butter, and eggs. This recipe does use milk, sugar, and butter. These ingredients add more flavor and create a softer texture to the bread.
Is White Bread Bleached?
Homemade white bread should always be made with unbleached white flour. Unbleached white flour has had the bran and the germ removed which leaves only the endosperm that is fairly white in color. Bleaching the flour weakens the protein structure, which makes it difficult to build a good gluten structure with.
However, some brands of store bought white bread do use bleached white flour to make their white bread. They also add stabilizers to make up for the weaker protein structure. If you would like white bread that does not use bleached flour, it is best to make it at home.
How to Make Sandwich Bread
This sandwich bread is very easy to make because it uses the straight dough method, meaning that all of the ingredients are mixed together at once and then kneaded.
Step 1: Proof the Yeast
Combine the warm milk, water, dried yeast, and a pinch of the sugar. Stir together and let it sit for about 10 minutes until it looks a little frothy and bubbles are forming on top.
This step gives the yeast a little jump start and also ensures that the yeast is alive. If you see no activity at all in the mixture, then likely your yeast is too old and you need to start over. This step is technically optional for both active dry and rapid rise yeast, but it will get things moving a little faster.
Step 2: Add the Rest of the Ingredients
Add the rest of the sugar, the salt, the butter, and the smallest amount of flour listed and stir the ingredients together until all of the flour is absorbed. It will look very sticky and shaggy at this point.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and begin kneading it. You can work in as much of the additional flour as needed during this process. The dough should always remain sticky, but it shouldn’t stick to the counter or to your hands. It will become more smooth and elastic as you knead it.
Alternatively, you can knead the dough in your stand mixer. But I prefer to do it by hand because you get a better feel for the dough.
Step 3: Bulk Ferment (1st Rise)
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat it. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let rise until double in size.
This process allows the yeast to begin feeding and creating gasses and alcohol. This will flavor our bread dough and also start building up the gasses to leaven it.
Step 4: Shape the Dough
Gently press the gas out of the dough and turn it onto a clean work surface. You shouldn’t need any flour at this point. If it is too sticky, you can use a little bit.
If you made the full batch of dough, which makes two loaves, divide the dough evenly in half. To best understand how to shape the dough, the attached video will be helpful. You want to build tension on the dough and shape it in a roll so that it rises and bakes evenly.
Start with the dough in roughly a rectangular shape. Pull out on the top two corners of the dough and bring them into the center, pressing to seal. Fold the top of the dough over to meat the seam you created. Repeat this process two more times. Then roll the dough over and seal it into a tight roll.
Step 5: Proof the Dough (2nd Rise)
Place the risen dough in greased loaf pans and cover them again to rise. You want them to rise until the dough is crowning the pans.
To test if your loaves are ready to be baked, you can use the dent test. Press your finger into the dough about 1/2″ in and if the dough springs back immediately, then it needs to proof a little bit longer. If it fills in slowly then it is ready to be baked.
Step 6: Bake the Bread
I like the brush the tops of my loaves with an egg wash (egg whisked with a bit of water) before baking them. This will give them a nice golden brown color and a bit of shine.
Once the loaves are out of the oven, you want them to cool for at least an hour (preferably longer) before slicing. Slicing the bread while its hot will cause it to stale quickly.
- Milk is the main moisture for the bread. Milk keeps sandwich bread nice and soft. I prefer to use whole milk for the most richness, but you can use 2%, 1%, or skim milk. You can also use non-dairy milk if you prefer.
- Water is the secondary moisture for the bread. If we made the bread with only milk it would be too soft and fragile. Water helps encourage the gluten development with the flour, adding some chew.
- Active dry or Rapid rise yeast can be used for this bread. Yeast is what leavens the bread and gives it flavor.
- Butter helps add some richness and tenderness to the bread. Fat shortens gluten strands, so bread made with butter will have a softer and more tender structure than bread made without fat, like a baguette.
- Sugar adds a touch of sweetness to the bread. It will not taste overly sweet.
- Salt flavors the sandwich bread so it does not taste bland and it also helps control the yeast activity so that it isn’t too active.
- Flour is the main structure for the bread. The proteins found in wheat flour form gluten once they are mixed in a dough. This is what traps the gasses in the dough and also what gives the bread the chewiness. Bread flour is going to give the bread the best structure and chew. However, unbleached all purpose flour can also be used.
For a Full Batch (makes 2 loaves)
- 2 cups (475 ml) milk, about 110 F (43 C)- can use whole, 2%, 1%, skim or nondairy
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) water, about 110 F (43 C)
- 2 1/4 tsp (1 package) active dry or rapid rise dry yeast
- about 1 tsp of sugar (to proof yeast)
- 6 TBSP (84 gr) unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
- 1/4 cup (55 gr) sugar
- 2 tsp fine sea salt
- 6 1/2 - 7 1/2 cups (780 - 900 gr) bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
For a Half Batch (makes 1 loaf)
- 1 cup (240 ml) milk, about 110 F (43 C)- can use whole, 2%, 1%, skim or nondairy
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) water, about 110 F (43 C)
- 1 1/8 tsp (1/2 package) active dry or rapid rise dry yeast
- about 1/2 tsp of sugar (to proof yeast)
- 3 TBSP (42 gr) unsalted butter, softened and cut into pieces
- 2 TBSP (28 gr) sugar
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 3 1/4 - 4 1/4 cups (390 - 510 gr) bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
Note: if you are new to bread baking, I highly recommend you watching the video below to see how to make it!
- PROOF YEAST: Combine the warm water, warm milk, yeast, and 1 tsp of sugar if you are making a full batch or 1/2 tsp of sugar if you are making a 1/2 batch, to a large mixing bowl. Whisk until the yeast dissolves. Let this mixture sit for about 10 minutes. If it is slightly frothy and you can see bubbles forming on top, then your yeast is active. If you don't see any activity, your yeast is likely too old.
- MIX DOUGH: Add the butter, sugar, salt, and the smallest amount of flour listed (6 1/2 cups if making a full batch, 3 1/4 cups if making a 1/2 batch) to the bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon, bowl scraper, or clean hands until all the flour is hydrated and the ingredients are well incorporated. At this point the dough will likely be very sticky and shaggy. Do not add any more flour yet.
- KNEAD: If kneading the dough by hand, dust a work surface with flour and turn the dough out onto the work surface. Dust flour over the top of the dough and begin kneading it. Add a bit more flour as needed up to 1 more cup. The dough should feel soft and sticky, but it shouldn't be gluing itself to the counter or your hands. Watch the video tutorial if you are unfamiliar with kneading by hand. Alternatively, you can add the dough to the bowl of your stand mixer fit with the dough hook and knead it on medium-high speed. Add more flour bit by bit to the stand mixer until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. If kneading by hand, knead for about 8-10 minutes. If kneading in the stand mixer, knead for 6-8 minutes. When the dough is smooth and elastic and springs back when a finger is pressed into it, you are done kneading.
- FERMENT (1ST RISE): Grease a clean bowl with a bit of oil or non-stick spray and transfer your dough to the bowl, turning to coat. Cover the dough with a damp towel or a piece of plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until double in size and filled with air. This will take about 1 hour if using quick rise yeast and 2 hours if using active dry yeast.
- SHAPE: Grease one or two standard loaf pans (8.5 X 4.5 X 2.5) pans on the sides and bottoms. Turn the dough out onto the lightly floured surface and lightly push the air out of the dough with the palm of your hand. Cut the dough into two equal pieces if making a full batch. Gently pat each piece of dough into a rectangle (about the shape of the loaf pan). Tightly form each piece of dough into a loaf. (Watch the video tutorial for details about how to properly do this.)
- PROOF: Place the formed loaves into the pans and gently press down on them with the palm of your hand to ensure they evenly fill the pan. Cover the shaped dough and let them proof at room temperature until the loaves are beginning to crown the pan. This will take about 1 hour for rapid rise yeast and 2 hours for active dry yeast.
- BAKE: Preheat oven to 350°F (180 C). If you want a shiny brown crust, mix 1 egg with 1 tbsp of water and brush it on the tops of your loaves. Bake loaves on the center rack for 35-45 minutes until golden brown. The center of the loaves should read 190-200 F (87-93 C) when fully baked.
- Let cool on baking racks for at least 30 minutes before slicing with a serrated knife.
- STORE cooled bread in a plastic bag at room temperature for 4 days. Alternatively, you can slice the loaves and place them in the freezer in a freezer bag. Toast to refresh. Refrigerating bread will cause it to stale more quickly.