This basic white sandwich bread is a great bread to make for beginners. It does take some time, but most of it is hands-off, and the ingredients are simple.
This bread is soft while still being sturdy enough for a substantial sandwich, and it is way better than the standard grocery store bread, which is often full of sugar and various unpronounceable preservatives.
If you have never made bread before, then I understand the process may sound daunting. But I promise it’s worth it, and in my experience, unless you burn it to a crisp, it’s really hard to screw up bread so badly that it doesn’t still taste good, even if you have to slather it with butter.
Storage and Reheating
This bread is best the day it’s made, but will keep for a couple of days in an air tight container at room temperature. Home made bread tends to go stale quickly, so if you aren’t likely to eat it all that fast, I suggest freezing. I wait until the bread has cooled completely, then slice and freeze in Ziploc bags. To reheat, you can put in a toaster or microwave between paper towels. It usually only needs about 30 seconds for one or two slices, though this may vary based on your microwave and how thick your slices are.
How to Make Basic White Bread
Here is a detailed guide to each step of this recipe, which I have specifically aimed at anyone who is new to making bread.
Mix Water, Sugar, and Yeast
First you will need to activate your yeast in warm water. The sugar is technically optional, but it ensures you’ll see a reaction which is reassuring for new bakers and a good way of testing your yeast isn’t too old.
The water should feel warm, but not hot. The temperature you are aiming for is between 105 and 115°F (about 38 to 46°C). Test the temperature by dropping the water on the inside of your wrist. It should feel pleasantly warm.
Once you have your warm water, add a teaspoon of sugar and stir to dissolve. Then sprinkle the yeast on top.
Leave the mixture for 10-15 minutes, and you should see some of the yeast starting to foam on top of the water. If nothing is happening, then your water is probably too hot or cold, or your yeast may no longer be any good.
Mix Flour, Salt, Yeast Mixture, and Olive Oil
In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt first. I prefer to mix them before adding the yeast because salt kills yeast, so you don’t really want your yeast coming in direct contact with a bunch of salt.
You may wonder why we’re using salt if it kills the yeast. Salt gives bread flavor, and when it’s dispersed throughout the dough in a sensible amount it’s not going to kill off all the yeast. You just don’t want to add all your yeast and salt on top of each other.
When you have your flour and salt mixed, pour the yeast mixture over the top and then add the olive oil. Mix until it starts to form a dough. At this point, you’re ready to start kneading.
There are many different ways to knead bread dough. As long as you’re manipulating it in some fashion you’re fulfilling the purpose of developing gluten, which gives bread its texture and helps it rise. I like to press the dough ball down and away with both hands then fold it over on itself, rotate and repeat. Sometimes I use one hand if it’s a smaller amount of dough. Do whatever feels best, since you’ll be kneading for a while—probably around 10 minutes.
You’ll notice the dough becoming smooth and kind of stretchy after a while. An easy way to test whether you have kneaded enough is to take a small piece of dough and stretch it between your fingers. If it becomes translucent without breaking then it’s ready. This is called ‘the windowpane test’.
As you’re kneading, you may find the dough is too sticky. If this happens just incorporate more flour, a little at a time, until the dough is easier to manage (a little stickiness is fine). You may find the amount of flour needed is different each time you make the same bread recipe. This is due to the environment on that particular day. For example, if it’s humid, you may need more flour.
Now the dough needs to rise for about an hour, maybe more. The total time depends on the conditions in your kitchen. If it’s a warm day, an hour will probably be enough. If it’s cooler, you may need up to two.
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover it with a lid or kitchen towel. After an hour, check how much it’s grown. You want it to double in size. If it’s not quite there yet, give it more time as needed.
Now you need to prepare your loaf tin by greasing it, and shape your dough into a loaf. There are a few different ways you can do this, so I’ll tell you what I think is the easiest for beginners.
First, press down the dough gently. This is to make sure you won’t have any large air bubbles.
Press the dough out into a rough square that’s about as long as your loaf tin. Then roll it up lengthwise, and you will have a loaf that fits well in your tin. Lay it in the loaf tin, seam side down, and cover for the second rise.
Now you need to leave your dough to rise again. The second rise is usually shorter, and will again depend on the conditions in your kitchen. On warm days, sometimes it only takes forty minutes before this bread is ready to bake. You’ll know it’s ready when it’s risen to around the top of the loaf tin, nearly doubled in size. You can also gently poke the dough and see if it springs back; if it does, it’s ready to bake.
Towards the end of the second rise, preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (220 Celsius). Usually I time the second rise for about 15 minutes less than I think it needs, then check it and start the oven preheating if I think it’s nearly ready.
This bread takes about 30 minutes to bake, but may take longer depending on your oven. When it’s done it will be golden brown, and if you remove the bread from the tin and tap the bottom, it will sound hollow. If it’s not done, it’s easy enough to put the loaf back in the tin to bake a little more, or you can just put it on a baking sheet at this point. You can also use a meat thermometer if you’re concerned; the temperature should be around 190 degrees Fahrenheit (88 Celsius).
Once your bread has finished baking, turn out onto a cooling rack.
Bread reaches its optimum texture after it has cooled, though I understand it can be hard to wait that long. I usually just wait until it’s not hot but still quite warm before eating a slice, then I wait until the loaf has completely cooled before cutting the rest.
Basic White Sandwich Bread
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 320 ml lukewarm water about 1 1/3 cups + 1 tablespoon
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 510 g bread flour, plus extra as needed about 4 1/4 cups
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
- In a medium bowl, dissolve sugar into warm water, then sprinkle yeast on top and let sit for about 10-15 minutes, until frothy.
- In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Make a well in the center and pour in the yeast liquid and olive oil. Mix until a dough begins to form, then knead on a lightly floured surface for about 10 minutes to make a smooth, soft dough. If the dough feels too sticky, add more flour a little at a time.
- Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat all over. Cover and leave in a warm place for at least an hour, or until doubled in size.
- Lightly grease a 9 x 5 inch loaf tin with a little olive oil.
- Tip the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and gently push down, just to get out any large air bubbles. Form the dough into a square shape about the same length as your tin, then roll up so you end up with a loaf that fits nicely in your tin. Place the shaped dough, seam side down, in the loaf tin. Cover and leave in a warm place for about an hour, or until dough has nearly doubled in size.
- Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
- Put the bread in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Turn bread out onto a wire rack promptly and let cool before cutting.
Did you make this recipe? If so, follow @theflavorvortex on Instagram and post a picture using #theflavorvortex as I would love to see it!