Yield: 1 medium loaf
¼ cup warm water, 110 to 115 degrees
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast, or 2¼ teaspoons (1 packet) instant yeast
1 cup warm whole milk, 110 to 115 degrees
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 cups bread flour or all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
1. Place the water, sugar, and yeast in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is activated and foamy or bubbling. In a medium bowl, whisk together the warm milk and melted butter.
2. Place the flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix for 1 minute on medium speed to blend. Add the yeast mixture and milk mixture and mix on medium speed just until the dough comes together 2 to 3 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp, lint-free cotton towel, and let the dough rest for 20 minutes to allow it to fully hydrate before further kneading. Turn the speed to medium-low and continue to knead until the dough is firm, elastic and smooth, 3 to 6 minutes. (To mix by hand, mix the flour and salt in a large bowl, add the yeast mixture and milk mixture, and mix until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead until firm, elastic and smooth, about 8 to 10 minutes).
3. Lightly oil a large bowl, scrape the dough into the bowl and lightly coat the surface of the dough with a little oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp, lint-free cotton towel and let the dough rise until doubled, 45 to 60 minutes (longer if the room is cold). If you are using a glass or see-through plastic bowl, be sure to mark the starting level of the dough with a pencil or piece of tape so
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Press down on the dough firmly to expel some of the air bubbles, but don’t knead the dough again or it will be too springy and difficult to shape (if this happens, simply cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp, lint-free cotton towel and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes to give the gluten some time to relax).
5. Shape the dough into a loaf by pressing it into a flattened rectangle whose sides are a couple of inches shorter than the long sides of a loaf pan. Arrange the dough so a long side is parallel to the edge of your work surface. Fold the long side opposite you up into the center of the rectangle; fold the long side near you into the center, pressing the edges together with the heel of your hand. Turn the dough 90 degrees and roll the short side opposite you toward the center, rolling it as tightly as you can. When you reach the bottom edge closest to you, pinch the final seam closed. The dough should be the same length as your loaf pan.
6. Lightly coat the loaf pan with melted butter or an oil spray (not olive). Place the dough, seam-side down, in the pan. Lightly oil the top of the dough to keep it moist. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap or a damp, lint-free cotton towel, and allow the dough to rise again until its top is ½ to 1 inch above the rim of the pan, 45 to 60 minutes.
7. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and position an oven rack in the center. Brush the top of the loaf with a thin film of the beaten egg. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the bread, is golden brown and the internal temperature registers 200 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.
Per serving (based on 16): 115 calories; 3g fat; 1g saturated fat; 17mg cholesterol; 4g protein; 19g carbohydrate; 1g sugar; 1g fiber; 230mg sodium; 23mg calcium.
Recipe from “The Art & Soul of Baking,” by Cindy Mushet