A friend of mine wanted to start baking bread and asked for the simplest, most foolproof recipe that I could come up with for her first attempt. I was able to give her the first recipe I ever followed when I started baking bread at least thirty years ago. It was from the back of a bag of King Arthur Flour, and it remains the best simple white bread ever.
2 C water
1 can (5 1/3 oz.) evaporated milk
1/3 C vegetable oil
1/4 C sugar
1 TBS salt
2 pkgs. active dry yeast
7-8 C King Arthur flour
1. Heat the water, evaporated milk and oil until lukewarm.
2. Pour the mixture into a mixing bowl. Add the sugar, salt, yeast and 2C of flour. Beat with an electric mixer for about 2 minutes.
3. Add enough flour (about a cup at a time) to make a workable dough. It should pull away from the sides of the bowl.
4. Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. About 6 or 7 minutes. Add only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to the board. If you happen to have a heavy duty mixer with a dough hook, you could certainly use that, but this is a really nice dough to knead by hand.
5. Form a ball and put the dough in a greased bowl. Turn the ball to grease all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place ( a closed microwave is good) until double in size. This should take about an hour.
6. Punch down the risen dough. Form into 6 equal balls. Grease three 5 by 7 pans and put two balls of dough, side by side, in each one.
7. Cover lightly and let rise again until double in size. Another 45 minutes or so.
8. Preheat your oven to 375 during the second rise. After the dough has doubled, bake for 35 minutes. Loaf should sound hollow when you remove it from the pan and tap the bottom.
9. Remove from the pans to cool on a rack for as long as you can stand it before you cut and butter a slice!
A key thing to remember is that the amount of flour that a bread recipe calls for is arbitrary. The amount that you end up using on any given day is determined by the amount of humidity in the air, so go by feel and not by amounts listed on the recipe.