I've been looking for a good white bread recipe. You know...the kind that makes your house smell wonderful while it bakes. The kind that makes a great sandwich. The kind that makes fantastic hot buttered toast. I've tried a few recipes and this is my favorite. I adapted this slightly from Tyler Florence of Food Network fame.
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter
1 package (1 tablespoon) rapid-rising dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar or honey
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 egg whites, divided and slightly beaten
1. In a small saucepan, heat the milk with butter over low heat just until the butter melts. Remove from heat and add to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook. Let cool 5-7 minutes (I have been hasty and added the yeast too soon and the heat killed it). Proof the yeast by adding it to the warm milk and butter. Add the sugar and stir gently to dissolve. Let stand 3 minutes until foam appears. Turn mixer on low and gradually add the flour. When the dough starts to come together, increase the speed to medium and add the salt and 1 egg white. Mix until the dough is no longer sticky, about 10 minutes.
2. Turn the dough onto the (very lightly floured) work surface and knead for a minute or so by hand. Form the dough into a round and place in an oiled bowl, turn to coat the entire ball with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
3. Once the dough is doubled, turn it out onto the counter. Handle the dough gently, overworking the gluten at this point will produce a dense loaf that is difficult to shape.
To form a loaf, pat the dough into a rectangle, fold the long sides to the middle then fold under the ends. Pinch the seams closed and place in a greased 9 by 5-inch loaf pan, seam side down. Make sure the dough touches all sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise a second time for 20 minutes or until the top of the dough is nearly level with the top of the loaf pan.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, place a large pan on the bottom rack of the oven. Bring 3 cups water to a boil on the stove. Pour the hot water into the preheated pan to create a steam bath for the bread. This will make a crisp crust.
4. Slash dough down the middle of the loaf with a sharp knife to allow the steam to escape during baking. Brush the top with remaining beaten egg white. Bake the bread for 30 to 40 minutes until crust is golden. The bottom of the loaf should sound hollow when tapped. Immediately remove the bread from the pan and cool completely on a rack.
* Variation: To make Cinnamon Swirl Bread: after the first rise, press the dough out to a rectangle, sprinkle surface with cinnamon to cover. Roll up like a jellyroll, pinch the seams closed and continue as directed in the recipe.