Sep 23, 2010

Basic sweet bread (without a bread machine!)

This bread is sweeter than regular white bread and shaped like an Italian loaf. It is the basis for many of my other recipes, including garlic bread, pizza bread and bread pudding.

Prep time: 4 hours
Servings: 6 loaves

  • 2 packages of active dry yeast
  • 3 cups of warm water
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 10-11 cups (yes, you read that right!) all purpose flour
First, in a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the water. I usually use about a teaspoon of the sugar here as well. I start mixing in a bowl by placing about 5 cups of flour in a large mixing bowl. Slowly add in the yeast/water mixture. Make sure to mix this very well. When you have a very sticky ball of dough, turn it out onto a floured counter. I continue adding in cups of flour as I knead the dough until it forms a soft ball that no longer sticks to my fingers. This will take at least another 5 cups of flour, but make take 6 cups.

Once I have a dough that can be formed into a smooth ball, I knead it for another 10 minutes. Spray a bowl with non-stick cooking spray. Place dough in bowl and turn to coat the dough. You can either cover the bowl with a towel to let it rise, or do what I do. Place a casserole dish on the bottom rack of your oven. Put the bowl with the dough on the middle rack (make sure you leave enough room for the dough to rise without sticking to the top of your oven) and pour boiling water into the casserole dish. This helps proof the dough. It will need to rise for at least 2 hours.

Punch down the dough, turn in bowl and let rise for another 45 minutes.

Turn dough onto counter. Cut into 6 equal portions. Shape into loaves and let rise, covered with a towel, for 10 minutes. After this, flatten the dough, pressing out any air bubbles and place on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Let rise for yet another 60 minutes.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the loaves for about 20-25 minutes. Tops will be brown and the bottom will make a "thunk" sound when you flick it with your finger.

The majority of the prep time for this recipe is for the rising, although with the oven proofing method, you may be able to shave some time off. This bread is yummy with just about any Italian dish or to make pizza bread. The best way to eat it though is fresh out of the oven with a dab of butter!


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