classic white bread recipe & bread-baking tips

Marian Parsonsa slice of life, Food & Fitness44 Comments

There was a time, before kids, before I started a business, when my main focus for two sweet years was being a homemaker. I left my corporate job and supported Jeff as he served full time as a youth pastor. Leaving my job with a demanding schedule and limited time off meant that I could go on all of the youth trips and participate in all of the activities. It also meant that I had a lot of free time during the day, which I used to throw myself into decorating, keeping house, and becoming a better cook and baker. I had Food Network shows like Good Eats and Sara’s Secrets running in the background most days and I would jot down notes about searing meat, making the perfect roux, and developing deep flavor in a sauce.

I started making everything from scratch – pasta, dressings, sauces, and bread. We ate really well! Bread became a mission as I tried different recipes, tools, and gadgets. I babied a sourdough starter and experimented with different washes and loaf shapes and creating a steam oven. It was such a sweet time of unhurried learning and nurtured creativity. I’m so thankful that I had those two years out of the rat race. I haven’t baked as much bread in recent years, mostly because I will eat a lot of it, but I’ve enjoyed making homemade bread while we’re hunkered at home (fresh bread and butter are so comforting) and the experience I gained during that time has served me well.

So today, I’m sharing a classic white bread recipe that I’ve made many times.  It’s a crowd-pleaser and pretty simple to make.  The keys to bread-baking are precision and experience.  You have to be precise with measurements and temperatures or something will likely go wrong.  And experience will teach you when the dough is at just the right consistency, when it’s been kneaded enough, and if it has risen properly.

So, let’s dive into baking bread!  This is the recipe I used…

It’s from the Kitchen Aid cookbook that came with my mixer.  It has several great bread recipes that I’ve made over the years.  On a separate page, I have notes that I made about the weight of the flour, the precise measurement of the yeast, and things I learned about the loaf pans I used.  For this recipe, 2 packets of yeast = 4.5 tsp of yeast out of a jar.

I heat up the milk, butter, and sugar an hour or two before I’m ready to make the bread, so it has plenty of time to cool.

I’ll pour it into a measuring glass, cover it with plastic wrap, so the kitties don’t think it’s a snack, and let it sit on the counter to cool.

One of the best tools to have when making bread, other than a mixer with a dough hook, is an instant-read kitchen thermometer.  You don’t have to guess when the milk has cooled enough or guess if the water temperature is right.  You know it is!

The reason why temperature is so important is that adding water or milk that is too hot to yeast can kill it.  Salt can kill yeast, too, so it’s important to add things in the proper order.  I’m generally a wing-it kind of person when it comes to cooking, but I learned years ago that I have to slow down and actually read and follow the directions when it comes to baking.  Salt should always be added after the flour.

With the yeast bloomed and everything added in the right order, you’re ready to knead.  You can certainly knead by hand, but it is so much easier in a stand mixer equipped with a dough hook.  You have a nice, elastic ball of dough in just a couple of minutes.  The dough is ready when it retains a nice ball shape and the sides of the bowl are clean.  If the dough is sticking to the bowl or is a sticky mess on your fingers when you try to remove it, it needs more flour.  It’s too wet.  If there is flour or bits of dry dough around the bottom of the bowl, the dough is too dry and needs a little more water.

When the dough is done, I’ll pour a little olive oil directly on the dough and turn it around in the bowl to coat.  I don’t see the need to dirty another bowl.

I’ll cover the bowl and put it in my oven on “bread proof” for 1 hour.  This is the first time I’ve ever had that setting on an oven, so I used to preheat the oven to 350 while I made the bread and then I would turn the oven off and let the dough rise on the back of the cooktop.  It would be nice and warm there and the bread would rise better.

If the dough doesn’t double in size, then something wasn’t right.  A few things to ask would be – Was the water too hot?  Was the yeast expired?  Was the dough not covered?  Was the place where the dough was rising not warm enough?

Don’t get panicked at this point.  We’re not making a soufflé and I’ve rarely had the dough not rise.  You need to be as precise as you can, but baking bread isn’t entirely unforgiving.

Dump the dough onto a clean, floured surface, gently roll out with a rolling pin (you don’t want to completely deflate it), and then cut it in half…

Roll each half into a loaf.  Tuck in the ends, shape it, and put it in a loaf pan seam-side-down.  I like to line my baking tins with parchment paper, so I can pull them out right after baking and they’ll cool better.  If the bread cools in the pan, the sides can steam and get soggy.

My loaves ended up being a little uneven, but that’s okay…

Cover and let rise for another hour.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the bread from the tins immediately and leave them to cool on a wire rack.  If you don’t have a wire rack, you can use the grate from a toaster oven, a broiler grate, etc.  The key is to let air get to all sides.

And this bread is so yummy.  It’s perfect for sandwiches and toast.

Once cooled, I put the loaves in large ziplock bags.  One goes directly to the fridge and the other goes in the freezer until we’re ready to use it.

I hope this helps if you’re learning to make bread for the first time!

If you’re not able to find yeast locally, I was able to buy a 2lb bag on eBay.  I can’t believe I bought yeast on eBay, but that happened.  My favorite is the Red Star Dry Active Yeast, but just use whatever you can find.

Happy bread baking!

PS – Just a reminder that our color chart class on Friday at 2:00 CST LIVE on my Facebook page.  I’ll be using oils, but you can use any paints you have on hand.  I’ll give lots of options for variations!

classic white bread recipe & bread-baking tips

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44 Comments on “classic white bread recipe & bread-baking tips”

    1. Ha! Aren’t most of us “just homemakers” right now and finding out how essential we are to family sanity?

      1. Thank you, Marion, for your blog. As a senior who had lived the working wife, stay at home Mom, empty nester and all the days in between, I so enjoy reading your musings, instructions and honest sharings!
        It’s so nice to “visit” with you during this time of quarantine. I love sitting down with a warm cup of coffee or tea and hearing you your thoughts and dreams.
        Thank you for just being you.

    2. Come on, give me the benefit of the doubt here. I write all about homemaking, so the “just” wasn’t to minimize it. It was to make it clear that it was my main focus, my occupation. I know it’s a ton of work! I still do it now with kids and a business.

      What I meant in the “just” is that it was before I had kids, I wasn’t working, and I hadn’t started my business. It was my sole focus. It doesn’t mean it was simple or unimportant. It was a valuable time that was an absolute gift to me. I feel so blessed that I was able to have that time. I just know that most people can’t focus solely on that because they want/need to work or they are caring for kids/parents, etc.

      Anyway, I hope you can take it in the spirit it was meant. If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know I love all things home and homemakers of all sorts are my kind of people.

  1. I’ve been making bread for over 30 years (some years less). I’ve found that the essential step is proofing the yeast. Next, is not adding too much flour all at once. If you don’t goof those two up, you basically can make bread. You can make a everything from a simple yeast/flour/water/salt bread to a braided challah if you get those steps right. Bread making is actually much simpler than making a cake, which requires more precision.

    1. I agree! I find bread is fairly forgiving, and since I’m not aiming for Paul Hollywood perfection, it’s very stress relieving to bake it.

      Marion, I remember my days at home making things from scratch. I too have been looking back to those days for inspiration as we try to take advantage of a little extra time while solving for some of the grocery shortages!

  2. Hi Marion,

    Thanks so, so, so much for many years of tutoring and comfort.

    A few years ago my brother died an untimely death and I was mourning. I asked my husband if there was anything he could think of to make me feel better. A few minutes later Brian sat me down to the opened site of Miss Mustard Seed. My husband says we are two of his favorite women.

    Thanks again for all of the virtual hand holding through projects for my quaint mountain cottage. Oh and love and well wishes for all who are cooped up and reading this.

    :)Pamela – indoorplantsolutions.com

    1. What a lovely comment. Thank you so much. I am so sorry to hear about the death of your brother. Death is always hard, but even more when it’s unexpected or comes “too soon.” I’m glad my blog could be a small comfort and that you have a husband who knows what will cheer you up. 🙂

  3. I’ve been up to my elbows in dough this week too. Having trouble finding gluten free flour though – so unfortunately I don’t get to sample my finished product.
    I have to admit I also bristled when I read the words ‘just a homemaker’. Also, I’ve never found that as ‘just a homemaker’ I’ve ever had much free time. Just sayin’.

    1. When I typed them, I initially removed the word “just”, because I didn’t want to it come across that way. I did A LOT. What I meant in the “just” is that I didn’t have kids, I didn’t have a job outside of the home, and I didn’t have my own business. Being a homemaker was my occupation. The “just” was used as clarification, not to minimize.

  4. I love, love homemade bread. Which is why I buy it from my local Amish family! I have never enjoyed baking, but appreciate those who do! PS – I knew what you meant by ‘just’ 😊

  5. Homemade bread…is there anything more delicious? I live in a semi-rural area and find I have to make my own fun most of the time unless I want to drive an hour to get where the fun is. Three of my friends and I started a little baking club last year and we have been really enjoying it. We have discovered “Bread in 5” minutes a day and are all making bread when we have the time. This is no-knead bread and it is fabulous. You can find recipes on line…Bread in 5.
    You may never want to eat store bread again.

  6. I’ve only made bread in a bread maker appliance (long ago gone). I really want to make my own now and the tips you shared here are invaluable. I feel more confident about making bread successfully now. Thank you, Marion!

  7. Marian, I love your blog! So many interesting ideas and guidance to be a success at all you inspire us to do! Keep the ideas, recipes, projects, painting lessons and great book recommendations coming. I look forward to your emails every day!

  8. My husband used to watch cooking shows and would tell me about the “delicious” dishes he had seen prepared. I would laugh and say “ how do you know it was delicious- maybe it was awful and they pretended it was great?” However, when I look at the slices of your bread, my mouth waters! I stand corrected.

  9. The “just” didn’t bother me a bit! Look who it came from – Marian, who guides us through everything to do with our homes and families. And when have we ever known Marian to concentrate on “just” one thing!

  10. Beautiful bread. Beautiful story.
    Try King Arthur Flour for baking supplies, they are excellent. The cake enhancer is wonderful. No connection, I just like them.
    Bless you for all the things you and Jeff do. I am sure no one knows how much that really is.
    Your last name is so fitting.

  11. Actually, Marion, I breezed right by the “just”. I suspect you meant that homemaking was your only & primary vocation. I feel badly that you had to apologize for it twice here. It shouldn’t have been necessary.

    Stay safe & bake on.

  12. When my kids were small I made all of our bread to the point of grinding my own wheat flour. Hard to believe, but I got the hilarious request for Wonder Bread like all their friends. We laugh about it now, of course.

  13. Thank you for this! I just love your blog and instagram page. They’re so beautiful and inviting with great content.

  14. Hi Marian. I think people need to stop being so sensitive. I knew what you meant when you said ‘just a homemaker’, and anyone who has followed you for any length of time should know as well. Too bad you felt that you had to defend yourself.
    I love your blog, and I admire your faith and positive energy which seem to underscore everything you do.
    Thank you for teaching and inspiring me.

  15. Is there anything you can’t do? I feel so intimidated when I read “yeast”, but I may try your recipe! I love homemade bread!

  16. Isn’t it funny that the gluten free movement seems to have stepped aside and so many of us are finding comfort in baking bread right now? Sourcing flour in my local stores has been a hassle but searched online today and I found 50 lbs from a mill in Utah so I am feeling ready to ride this thing out! I have a sourdough starter named Ralph and he and I make lots of bread for family and neighbors.

  17. I know you always post where you’ve purchased stuff in your pictures before, but where did you get your oil bottle? I love it. I love baking bread too. I breezed right by your just a homemaker comment as well. Life is easier when you don’t get your feathers ruffled easily. I love you Marion, for many, many years. You are truly an inspiration to me.

  18. Hi, Marion.
    I always look forward to reading your blog. It is my down time after a busy day of work. Your blogs are very informative, inspirational, and just positive. I love art, so I am always watching what you do. I would like to say, with the uncertain times we are all going through, let’s try to be encouraging and not not pick to make something out of nothing. I read thr blog again and still did not get that you were making light of a homemaker. Thank you for the way you responded in a nice way. I have learned over time you cannot please everyone. Keep doing what you are doing. You do a great job. May God keep you and your family safe.

  19. I can still smell the bread I baked earlier today. Is there a better scent? 🙂 One of my disappointments during this time of social distancing is that I can’t go to my hairdresser’s house tomorrow. I definitely need a trim … and … she and I both love baking and had been planning a baking day after she cut my hair. We like to teach each other bread making skills. Two years ago she and I made Greek tsoureki bread together. Thanks for sharing your baking experiences with us. May we all find yeast in the days ahead!

  20. That bread looks so delicious I could almost taste the melting butter on it! I knew exactly what you meant by “just.” When you read something, you have to take into consideration who wrote it and what you know about them since you can’t hear their tone or inflection. That’s why I can safely say I knew what you meant!!! 😊

  21. I have re-read this email you wrote several times & I still can’t find the word, “just”. I’m not bothered by it though-even if it were there-because I have subscribed to your blog for several years now & I definitely know that you appreciate & respect homemaking. I look forward to what you’ll be writing about every time I see your emails. Thanks for the tips on bread making.

    1. I edited the post. If my words weren’t conveying my intent, then I needed to change them in order to communicate more effectively. 🙂

  22. You don’t have to post this comment, I just wanted to let you know my thoughts on the subject. I see that you went back and took out the word just. I understand why you did. Because sometimes, as gracious people, we have to do simple things to not be a stumbling block for others or to make others feel better. Sometimes it may chaff a bit, like apologizing, even if what we did wasn’t meant to hurt, sometimes they just need to hear it. But I really wish you didn’t have to change it, since anyone who has read your blog for any length of time should know better! Thank goodness for the grace our Father has imparted on us so that we can turn it around and give to others! On another note, I wish people who are blessed to be just homemakers knew just how much some of us long to be “just” homemakers. Not because we think it’s the easy way out, but because we recognize how important it is. Would it be easier than what I’m doing now? Heck yeah! I work full time, 40+ hrs a week and still do the majority of all the work at home. So absolutely it would be easier. BUT, that does not mean that being a homemaker is not important, or isn’t a full time job, or is simple. It simply means that I could do so much more for my family if I didn’t have to split the time with the paid job. I’ve been home for the last three weeks because of the pandemic, and oh my, I cannot tell you the balm it has been to my soul. Because of financial decisions we made early on in our marriage, we worked ourselves into a required 2 income household. If I could only go back and make some changes! Ol’ Dave Ramsey is getting us back on track though, and I am searching diligently to figure out how I can get back to what I know to be most important. Family & home. Thank you for letting me ramble on. I just really wanted to reiterate what everyone else was saying, don’t worry about the few. Just keep being your sweet self!

    1. Sooo, I thought you reviewed the posts before they posted🥴 you are definitely braver than I. I never comment publicly on something potentially controversial because things can be taken so badly even if it wasn’t meant that way. Hence the reason we are all talking about the “just” word. And now I realize I just bared my soul to the world, but that’s okay! Maybe there’s someone else out there having the same longing that I am. (I’ll be sure to email next time!)

      1. Yes, posts go live straight away! 🙂 Thanks so much for sharing your encouraging words. I don’t always make changes based on comments, but I do try to remain humble and teachable. If something I say isn’t being received as I intended it, then I need to communicate better.

        And, to be totally honest, I was having a tough day yesterday and I just didn’t want to continually justify and clarify. It was just easier to make the change.

        And I agree, I loved being JUST a homemaker. It was really a glorious time.

  23. You rock! You always have and especially now.
    Over the years, you have taught me and so many others, to step out and be brave and try new things in our homes. I rarely comment on anything, but folks — It’s a bread recipe from our dear friend Marian. She makes us better people. Make happy bread, love on your people and let’s be thankful. Marian: as we go through this pandemic, at dinner each night our family lists three things we are thankful for. We write it down and we pray. You are on this list. I am terminally ill and you have brought me great joy on many days. My family knows who Miss Mustard Seed is. Much love to you Marian 💕

  24. I love your postings. Your love of old objects, the creativity you bring. There is no doubt you have contributed to me being more focused on my home and the joy that brings. I can’t thank you enough.

  25. so I didn’t even notice the word – even if I did I would have known you weren’t minimizing the role in any way; you who teach us all so much about home, family and life – I don’t have any children and have always marveled at those who do and keep the world turning at home; I imagine that is harder than any job I’ve ever had, especially during these times – you’ve inspired me to bake bread 🙂

  26. I remember being young and being “just” a homemaker and expecting a baby. I baked and sewed feeding us and prepping for a baby. I especially loved James Beard’s Cuban bread and a dilly cottage cheese bread which was all the rage at the time. Loved every minute of that time.
    My grandmother of course did all of her baking on Saturday. My mother said that they would visit aunt so n so and have store bought bread loving it. my grandmother would have such hurt feelings. but I guess kids are kids! I always wanted wonder bread and had to eat the Pepperridge Farm bread. Never touch wonder bread today. lol

  27. Nothing better than homemade bread. My grocer has been out of yeast for a few weeks so eBay is the place. Thanks for sharing.

  28. I see you went back and took the just out your post. I am sorry people made you feel you had to change it. The way you would have used the word just, would have been describing your life at the time. I am certain it was in no way insinuating that being a homemaker is a “just “ anything. You were saying you had no other job at the time. People are all on edge right now and we need to be kind and not jump on every little thing that hits us in a sensitive place. It’s time to be kinder than ever. I apologize for all the people who jumped on your words. People, if you can’t be kind please just scroll on by.

  29. Doesn’t it seem like some people would almost rather take things wrong rather than give the speaker the benefit of the doubt? I don’t want to be that way ever…I knew exactly what you meant.

    Beyond that, I have to laugh: it was my goal throughout my career to retire early and become ‘just a homemaker’! I achieved that goal three years ago and recognize it as the privilege it is. I happily clean the house, do the laundry, pay the bills, mow the lawn, take out the trash and all of the other unglamorous jobs that are included in my chosen life. Yes, it’s hard work and time consuming as well, but I’m my own boss and I’m serving my husband and myself with every task completed which is gratifying in ways a paying job is not. We are each contributing to the household: he contributes his paycheck and I contribute my labor. We both appreciate the other’s contribution. So actually being just a homemaker is the best job I ever had!

    This conversation is really about respect. I certainly didn’t feel disrespected by the word ‘just’ but maybe that’s because I have self respect. I respect anyone who works hard at their job, no matter how lowly that job may seem to some. I guess that protects me from hypersensitivity to imaginary criticism.

  30. At the other end of the spectrum I have recently reitred after nearly 40 years of working. I am so enjoying cooking, baking bread, gardening, sewing, knitting, quilting, and learning to paint. I am throwing myself into homemaking and loving it. I’ll certainly give your bread recipe a try especially since you provided such great insider tips.
    Stay well.

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