I have had a lifelong search for white bread (just a slight exaggeration) -- the perfect, homemade, soft-as-bakery-bread, white bread. Occasionally I find a recipe that I think is the best, and then I try a few more recipes and find another. None have been perfect, but this one today is really almost there.
This recipe was sort of an accident, an experiment you might say. I took a recipe that I had used many times and I subbed bread flour for all-purpose. Oh. my. goodness. What I ended up with was the softest, yummiest white bread I had ever made. The substitution of the bread flour for all-purpose took a loaf that was originally dense and chewy (very tasty and perfect for its purpose) and made it squishably soft.
The first day I baked it I used bread flour because I ran out of all-purpose. It performed exactly the same as the all-purpose dough when I kneaded it and formed the loaves, and when it came out of the oven, it looked and felt identical to the all-purpose loaf. I set it on the rack to cool with no expectations at all, but when I grabbed it later to slice it for dinner -- oh my -- it squished! What I sliced into was so soft it was just like a cloud of white bread.
Maybe you think I am going a little over the top here for a loaf of bread, but homemade bread is so magical anyway that creating a soft delicious bread by accident was just incredible to me.
I now make this bread every week -- using a loaf pan for the traditional shape and for fitting slices into the toaster -- and so far I have not even thought to look for another recipe. We are happy right now, me and my bread.
If you like wheat bread, I'm afraid I can't help you today -- this loaf is all about being soft and white.
Soft White Bread
makes three round loaves or two traditional bread pan loaves
1 1/2 T. yeast
3 c. warm water
7 c. bread flour (plus more for kneading)
2 t. salt
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
Mix the yeast in the warm water and let sit for 10 minutes. After the yeast sits, add several cups of flour and the salt. Stir in the oil. Add flour until you can no longer stir with a spoon.
Place the dough on a flat surface with some flour sprinkled on it. Knead the dough until it becomes firm and elastic (or use Kitchen Aid mixer with dough hook). Grease the bowl and place the dough in it. Turn the dough so it is greased all over.
Cover the bowl and set in a warm place until the dough has doubled in volume.
Remove the dough and knead it again over a floured tabletop, to remove air pockets and until the dough feels smooth. Return the dough to a covered bowl and let it rest for 15 minutes. Cut the dough as desired to form bars, loafs or balls and place on greased pans. Cut slits in top of bread as desired.
Let bread rise on pans 30 more minutes. Place in a very hot oven (450 degrees F) for 30 to 50 minutes (30 minutes is plenty for three balls, but 40 will be necessary for large loaves, longer if you make one large loaf), or until the tops of the bars become toasted and they sound hollow when knocked on the bottom. Remove the bread from the pans and let cool.