Sometimes an old friendly recipe turns out to be the best after all. Beard on Bread was once my bible back in the 1970’s when I first started baking bread. Still in print, it’s now considered a classic. Guess that makes me a classic too, or maybe just old.
In any case, on a whim, I revisited some of the recipes yesterday. And I found a treasure. This is a simple bread made with flour, water, salt, and yeast. It has a chewy crumb, a crisp crust, and makes the world’s best toast. The recipe makes one large loaf or two smaller ones.
Beard called it “Basic White Bread.” I’ll list the ingredients here with the caution that bread baking is often more art than science. Humidity and temperature play a big role in the amounts of flour and water necessary for the dough, and the time for rising.
I package (scant TBS) active dry yeast (I used instant yeast)
1 1/2 – 2 cups warm water
2 tsp. sugar
3 3/4 – 4 cups all-purpose flour
1 TBS salt (sea salt or Kosher salt) If using table salt, use less than a tablespoon.
Softened butter for bowl and pan.
Original directions called for hand kneading. I used a Kitchenaid mixer with a dough hook.
Stir the yeast and sugar in 1 1/2 cups warm water.
Add 3 3/4 cups flour and the salt to the bowl.
Combine all ingredients on low. Increase the speed somewhat and knead for about 7 minutes.
You may need to add some flour to make the dough form a ball.
Grease a large bowl with butter. Place the ball of dough in the bowl, turning it to coat all sides.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a shower cap. Let rise until doubled.
Punch down the dough and form into a loaf. Place into a buttered 9×5 inch loaf pan.
Cover loosely and let rise again until it crowns somewhat over the edges of the pan.
Spray or brush the top with warm water. Make about three slashes with a sharp knife.
Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven for approximately 35 minutes until temperature registers 200-205,
or sounds hollow when tapped on bottom.
Cool on a rack before cutting.