Homemade White Bread

If you have been friends with me for a while then most likely, you’ve had some of my bread. This is the classic that I’ve traditionally made for the last 20 years or so. Enjoy.

White Bread
Makes two large loaves
2 packages of active dry yeast (1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon)
3/4 cup warm water (105 – 115 F)
2 2/3 cups warm water (105 – 115 F)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon sea salt
3 tablespoons shortening (UK – Stork, Trex, Flora White US – Butter Flavoured Crisco)
8-9 cups unbleached bread flour
6 – tablespoons salted butter – melted
Sesame or poppy seeds (optional)

Sponge Process (2-6 hours)
Dissolve yeast in 3/4 cup warm water for 5 minutes.  Stir in remaining water and ensure that all the yeast is dissolved.  Add in 4 cups of flour and mix well.  Place mixture in very large nonmetallic bowl (it will grow dramatically). Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for at least 2 hours but no more than 6 hours (longer times give better flavor and texture).

Mix and Knead
Add sugar, sea salt, shortening and mix well.  Add remaining flour, one cup at a time until dough is easy to handle.  Place dough on the a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, add flour as necessary to keep from sticking.  Place dough in a greased, nonmetallic bowl; cover and let rise until double in size (about 45-60 minutes).

Punch down dough (push all the air out of it and make it flat).  Divide dough in half.  Divide each half into 3 equal parts.  Braid the 3 parts together.  Lightly dust a baking stone with corn meal. Place the two loaves on baking stone, brush with melted butter (sprinkle optional seeds on top), cover with towel and let rise for 30-45 minutes.

Pre-heat oven to 425 F (215C or 200C Fan), position racks so that the bottom of the stone is just below the middle of the oven.  On a rack below that, place a baking dish full of water to add moisture to the air in the oven.

Bake for 28 minutes.

Remove from oven, brush with butter again, and serve immediately. I suggest tearing the bread rather than slicing it.

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