Easy homemade white bread recipe that yields a gorgeous golden-brown crust with soft tender slices. It’s a simple yeast-leavened dough that combines all-purpose flour, butter, and milk. In just a few hours you’ll have a fresh-baked loaf, perfect for sandwiches and more!
Incredibly soft and delicious
If there’s just one bread recipe to master, it’s got to be a classic soft white bread. The simplicity of it may seem intimidating, but I challenge you to roll up your sleeves and give it a try. The ingredients aren’t fancy or complicated, but to nail the perfect dome top and soft texture, you need to understand a few important bread-making techniques.
Knowing how to work with the yeast, how long to knead the dough, and the proper shaping technique are all covered here. So if you’re curious and have a little time to play in the kitchen, I’m excited to share this knowledge with you. I know once you perfect the recipe, you’re going to think twice about the preservative-filled store-bought stuff.
Active dry yeast is my preferred choice when making homemade bread. It has a sturdy moderate rise rate as the organisms ferment the sugars and starches in the dough. This process is where some bread flavors are developed. You can use other types of yeast like instant dry to cut the rise time in half, but I find there’s a slight sacrifice in flavor for speed.
Flour power and how to pick one
All-purpose flour is the backbone of the dough. This type of flour has a medium level of protein, about 10 to 13%. This creates just enough gluten formation for a sturdy, yet soft texture. If you enjoy a more chewy texture, use bread flour. It contains 12 to 15% protein and slightly elevates the strength and resistance of the bread’s structure.
Key ingredients for soft and fluffy bread
- Butter limits some of the gluten formation in the dough, however, adding a small amount coats the protein and makes for a much softer bite.
- Sugar is a tenderizer during the mixing stage. It loves water, so it competes with the proteins to absorb moisture to slow the development of gluten. The result is a more tender crumb.
- Yeast uses the sugar and starch as fuel during fermentation to create air bubbles which make the dough rise, while also helping to develop the fluffy texture.
The basics of making white bread from scratch
To make things easy, use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Proof the yeast (make sure the yeast are alive) with warm water and sugar. If it’s good, then mix with salt, butter, warm milk, and flour. Knead at the lowest speed for a few minutes. You should be able to stretch a small piece of dough without it tearing while being able to see through it.
On a lightly floured surface shape dough into a ball then cover it with plastic wrap. Let it rise in a warm area until doubled in size. I recommend making an oven proofing box for this step. Afterward, punch the dough down, shape it in a rectangle then roll it back up. Allow it to rise a second time in a loaf pan. Bake until the surface is golden brown.
Give the dough a poke
To tell if the dough has properly doubled in size after the first round of fermentation, poke the dough with your finger and make a half-inch indent. If the dough stays dimpled, it’s ready for the next step.
Roll it out, then roll it up
To prep the dough for its final rise, it needs to be punched down and reshaped. The yeast creates various-sized bubbles in the dough, and so punching releases some of the big air pockets. Once you get your aggression out, roll out the dough, then roll it into a cigar shape. This process redistributes the gas and ingredients to ensure an even crumb texture with no gaps inside the bread.
Choosing the right pan
A metal loaf pan gives the characteristic shape we want. I prefer using a 9×5-inch aluminized steel pan for even heat distribution. If using glass, be aware that it retains heat much longer, so check for doneness about 5 to 10 minutes earlier. A smaller 8.5×4.5-inch pan can also be used, but the bread will be taller and may finish baking sooner as well. I recommend lightly greasing your pan so the bread removes easier after baking.
The cooling down process
After baking, the bread may stay in the pan for about 5 minutes, but don’t go longer than that. Steam will start to emit from the hot loaf and the condensation in the pan will make the crust soggy. Transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool down completely. It’s going to be hard to resist, but let the proteins set and the moisture redistribute so that you’ll have perfectly tender slices.
Knowing when the bread is done baking
There are three ways to check for doneness. Visual, the crust will be golden-brown in color. Acoustic, carefully remove the bread from the pan and knock on the bottom, listen for a hollow sound. Measure, use an instant-read thermometer inserted into the bread and look for a reading between 190 to 200ºF (87 to 93ºC). If your bread isn’t done yet, place it back in the oven for a few more minutes.
Homemade White Bread
- ¼ cup warm water
- 2 tablespoons (26 g) granulated sugar, divided
- 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 ½ teaspoon (10 g) kosher salt
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3 cups (426 g) all-purpose flour
- Add warm water about 100-110ºF (37-43ºC) and 1 tablespoon sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer, stir to combine. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let stand for 10 minutes until foamy.
- Add 1 tablespoon sugar, salt, softened butter, warm milk about 100-110ºF (37-43ºC), and 1 cup of flour. Use the dough hook attachment and mix for 1 minute on the lowest speed setting, scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula after 30 seconds.
- Add 1 cup of flour, then mix on medium speed until the dough just starts to come together, about 30 seconds. Add the remaining flour and mix on medium speed until the dough begins to pull away from the bowl, 30 seconds.
- Knead the dough on low speed until the dough becomes smooth and elastic, about 5 to 7 minutes.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead until a smooth ball forms, about 1 minute.
- Lightly grease a mixing bowl with oil. Add the dough ball inside and turn to coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel.
- Let the dough rise in a warm draft-free area until doubled in size, about 1 to 2 hours.
- Lightly grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan with oil or cooking spray.
- Punch the dough down while in the bowl, and then transfer it to a lightly floured surface.
- Roll the dough into a rectangle, about 15x9-inches. Roll the dough into a tight 9-inch long cylinder. Press the side and bottom seams together to seal. Place it in the greased loaf pan with the seam-side down.
- Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm area until it reaches about 1-inch above the pan, about 1 hour.
- Set the oven rack to the lower position. Preheat to 350ºF (177°C).
- Bake the bread until the top is golden brown and the internal temperature reaches between 190 to 200ºF (87 to 93ºC) in the center, about 30 to 35 minutes.
- Let the bread sit in the hot pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- Slice the bread when it’s about room temperature or cool enough to handle.
- Recipe Yield: 1 large loaf
- Use the microwave to warm the milk and water (about 45-seconds).
- Instant Yeast Substitution: Add the same amount of instant yeast for active dry yeast. Warm water and milk to 120-130ºF (48-54ºC). The rise times may be reduced by nearly half since instant yeast is more active.
- Store bread at room temperature in a resealable plastic bag for up to 3 days.
- Slices can be frozen for up to 30 days.
- To reheat, toast for the best texture.