6 1/2 to 7 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
1/4 cup sugar or honey ( My Door County honey is the best)
2 3/4 cups very warm water
1/4 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
Butter for top of loaves, a must
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (or in a large bowl, if making the dough by hand), combine THREE cups of the flour, salt, yeast and sugar. During stressful times in our lives, its good to knead your own bread.
Add the water and oil and mix until combined. The mixture will be thinner than bread dough.
Cover the bowl and let the batter rest for 10 minutes; it will be slightly bubbly at the end.
With the mixer running (or stirring by hand), gradually add another 3 to 4 cups of flour, until the dough comes together in a cohesive ball that clears the bottom and sides of the bowl and doesn’t leave a lot of doughy residue on your fingers when touched while still being just slightly tacky. This is a critical time, so don’t add to much flour.
Knead for about 4 minutes until the dough is smooth and supple.
Lightly oil a large bowl. Transfer the dough to the prepared bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a light kitchen flour sack towel, and let rise until doubled, about an hour or so, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.
Lightly punch down the dough and divide it into two equal pieces.
Oil two 8 1/2-inch by 4 1/2-inch bread pans.
Press each piece of dough into a thick rectangle about 8-inches long; roll it up, pressing on the seams, and pinching the final seam together. This trick was my Mom’s favorite part.
Place the dough loaves into the prepared pans.
Cover with flour sack towels and let rise until doubled and the dough has risen about 1-inch above the top rim of the pan, about an hour or so, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.
While the dough rises, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Bake the bread for 30-32 minutes until golden and baked through.
Remove from the oven and turn the bread out onto a wire rack. Immediately brush the tops of the loaves with melted butter (or use a stick of butter, peeling the paper back and rubbing it on the top of the hot bread). This step is very rewarding as you await the first slice.
Let the bread cool completely.
The bread can be stored at room temperature, covered in a bread bag, for a couple days, or frozen for up to a month or so.
Peter Reinhart is a Master bread baker that I have taken a master class with and the author of the Bread Bakers Apprentice. He encourages us to freeze any bread we are not going to use within 2 days. You can slice the cooled bread and freeze 2 slices per bag to thaw quickly when taken out of your freezer.