I bake bread because it makes the house smell like home, because soup needs a friend, and because sometimes I just need to pound on something. Being able to make incredible bread is a talent some people work very hard on. This is incredible bread, but it is a simple recipe that requires no experience. I have been baking this bread for at least 10 years and it is one of my all-time most requested recipes. It is just that wonderful! Prepare to have many requests for these moist, chewy loaves.
There are several tricks that make this recipe superior and easy: Lots of butter, flavorful sweeteners, fresh yeast and a digital cooking thermometer.
Butter: This is what makes the bread rich and changes the texture. Using just a few tablespoons will make a lighter loaf with a more fluffy texture. Using the entire stick gives it a decadent, chewy texture that makes me fall in love with bread again every time. I know it seems a bit extreme, but try it just once – I dare you!
Sugar: For sweeteners I almost always use brown sugar for bread. It gives a lovely undertone that remains subtle after the bread is baked. Sometimes I drizzle in some honey just for that sweet, homey taste that warms me deep inside.
Yeast: Always remember that yeast is a living organism. It needs warmth to grow and sugar to feed on as it grows. The growing yeast gives off gas that makes your bread rise. This is why it is so important that yeast be fresh and healthy. Whenever you buy yeast, store it in the refrigerator to keep it fresh longer. Keep track of how old it is and toss it after a year or when it has expired. I buy instant yeast about 2 cups at a time in bulk at Winco and put it in a Ziploc bag. This way I spend way less than I would on the individual packets. That makes it easier to toss out the old yeast when it’s, well, old!
This is the dough right after I have made a slice to divide it. Look at those beautiful stretch marks on the dough – it’s nice and elastic. This is a solid sign you have healthy yeast action. When I see dough like this I already know it’s going to be good bread.
To support healthy yeast growth, I like a consistently warm place to let the dough rise. If I’m cooking up a storm and the stove is pumping out heat I let the bread sit next to the stove. If it’s cool in the kitchen I turn my oven on to 350 F for two minutes. THEN I TURN IT OFF and put the bread in to rise for about 30 minutes. It should look “happy.” For bread, happy is round and plump – if you stuck your finger in the side it would not bounce back – but if you did that you would have a finger hole in your bread…This is what mine looks like when it has risen.
My final (and most important!) secret to great bread is a thermometer. 180F = perfectly tender, chewy, melting in your mouth moist bread… Bake 15 minutes and then check the temperature with a thermometer. Keep checking every so often until it hits 180 F. Heads up you do have some wiggle room. The temperature will rise faster later on in the baking process, so be prepared. Even at 210 the bread is still nice. I always aim for 180 and usually pull it more like 190 – 195 if I overshoot. No more thumping the loaf. No more guess work. Just amazing bread. To read about Taylor thermometers click here.
If you have never successfully baked bread, give these tricks a try and wait for the compliments to pour in! I hope this recipe becomes as treasured in your home as it is in mine.
- 10oz water
- 1 large egg
- 2-8 Tablespoons salted butter
- Honey, if desired - a few Tablespoons
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 4 cups flour
- ⅓ cup brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon instant yeast
- Crunchy salt for top crust if desired
- Put the ingredients into your bread machine starting with water and finishing with yeast. Set the machine for the dough setting and let it run.
- When the dough is ready, oil two cast iron skillets. (Alternately, bake in stoneware or glass.)
- Divide the dough in half and form two balls. As you form the balls pull the edges under the ball and place the seam side down on the pan. Place one in each skillet.
- Leave the bread to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. I suggest turning on your oven for two minutes and then turning it OFF before placing your dough inside to let it rise.
- After the dough has risen, remove bread from oven and preheat the oven to 350 F. Bake your loaves for 15-25 minutes until a digital thermometer reads 180 F in the center of the loaf.
- Remove bread from oven and let it rest for 5 minutes in the pans. Then place loaves on a rack to cool.
I have an Oster Bread Machine which I love. It takes 1hr 30 minutes to prepare the dough. Then I plan on about 30 minutes to let it rise, and 30 minutes to preheat the oven and cook the bread. The extra 30 minutes gives me some wiggle room and allows the bread to cool a bit before I cut into it.