The Best Homemade White Bread
5 cups (approximately) all purpose or bread flour
1 pkg (5 grams) traditional active dry yeast
2 tsp fine salt
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp melted butter
2 cups lukewarm whole milk
½ cup lukewarm water
Dissolve 1 tbsp of the sugar in the half cup of lukewarm water. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water and let stand for about 15 minutes until the yeast foams well, then stir it up.If you prefer to use instant yeast, just add it to the flour mixture in the instruction below.
Combine 3 cups of the flour along with 2 tbsp sugar and salt in a large bowl or in the bowl of a large electric mixer that uses a dough hook.
Add the prepared yeast, melted butter and warm milk.
Using a wooden spoon or the regular paddle of your electric mixer mix for 4-5 minutes until the mixture is smooth with no lumps.
If using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook at this point and begin to slowly incorporate the remaining 2 cups of flour. If not using an electric mixer keep mixing in the flour gradually until a soft dough forms that leaves the sides of the bowl. (Note: You may need to use a little more or a little less flour. Add only enough flour to form a dough that releases from the sides of the bowl and remains slightly tacky but able to be handled with your bare hands)
Turn the dough out onto the counter top or bread board to knead.
Knead the dough for an additional 10 minutes either in the electric mixer or using your hands on a
bread board or counter top.
Cover dough and leave to rest and rise for one hour. Punch the dough down and knead it for a few minutes by hand before letting it rest for another 10 minutes.
Grease 2 medium loaf pans. Divide the dough into 4-6 equal portions. Form each division into a ball. Place 2 or 3 balls of dough in each loaf pan. Cover with a clean tea towel and allow the dough to rise until it is about 2 inches above the rim of the pan, about 2 hours depending on room temperature. (NOTE: At this stage, the bread dough can be cold proofed overnight in the fridge if you want to serve it freshly baked early the next day or just want to save time in advance. Just cover the pans with a clean tea towel. You can spray the surface of the dough with water from a spray bottle to prevent the surface of the dough balls from becoming too dry if you like but this is not really necessary with the humidity in most fridges. Just remove the pans from the fridge in the morning and allow them to finish raising to about 2 inches above the pan rim as shown in the photo above, which could be another 1-2 hours and bake as directed below.)
Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes depending on the size of the pans that you are using. The loaves should have a golden crust and sound hollow when tapped to be fully baked.
When baked, turn loaves out onto a wire rack to cool. Brush the tops with melted butter if desired to soften the top crust.