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Author Notes: This was originally my great grandmother's recipe. My great aunt made it and my mom made it (for our family of 5 kids). Now, I make it and I have taught several more people to make it, because it's reliable. It makes 3 loaves, so for my husband and I, I freeze 2.
This is the detailed recipe I give to the people who've never baked a yeast bread. —mtncook
Makes 3 loaves
- 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast, 2 envelopes
- 3 1/4 cups milk, any kind
- 1/2 cup butter, or margarine
- 1/3 cup sugar, or less
- 2 teaspoons salt, or less
- 1 cup oat bran, optional
- 9 1/2 cups bread flour, approximately
- Place milk in large pan and place over medium heat. When you see small bubbles on the surface and a few wisps of steam, remove from heat and stir in butter and sugar. Stir until butter melts. If it's still hot, let it sit on the counter until it cools to barely warm. Or you can put the pan in some cold water and stir until it cools. Milk/butter should be no more that 110° (barely warm on your wrist).
- While milk/butter is cooling, place yeast in small dish with 1/4 cup warm water (100° to 110°). Add a few crystals of the sugar and let sit until foamy.
- Using a very sturdy wooden spoon, mix in salt and 1 or 2 cups flour (and the oat bran, if you're using it) then add yeast mixture. Continue adding flour, stirring in the same direction, 1/2 to 1 cup at a time, until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. (Option: While the dough is still like a batter, beat 100 strokes to incorporate some air.) Turn out on floured surface, cover with pan and let rest 10 minutes. (This rest is optional, but it helps the moisture permeate the dough.)
- Knead 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to hands or surface. Push the dough across the counter pressing with heals of hands, turn 90°, fold in half and push again. Add flour, 1 tbsp at a time, to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. (When you pull your hands away from the dough, there are long strings between the dough ball and your hands.) When the right amount of flour has been incorporated, it will be slightly tacky, but, when you put 2 fingers on it for a 10 count, they come away without dough. The important thing here is to knead for 10 minutes.
- Place in oiled dish or pan and oil the top of the dough. Cover pan with plastic and place in warm place (85° is ideal; an oven with the light on is about right) to rise until doubled.
- Punch down and divide into loaves. Place in oiled pans and let rise until the dough is slightly above the edges of the pans (30 to 45 minutes). About 20 minutes prior to baking, preheat oven to 350°.
- Bake bread 35 minutes or until it makes a deep thumping noise when tapped on the bottom of the loaf. If you have an instant read thermometer, it should read 185°. Remove loaves from pan and cool on wire rack.
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