Growing up, we never had store-bought bread. My mom always made bread and was a bit famous for it. [Yes, hometown friends, this is the recipe.] Of course, I didn’t really appreciate the time and effort it took her to make bread every.single.Saturday. But church friends, family friends and neighbors gushed over the bread and sometimes conveniently stopped by on Saturdays around 3, right as it was coming out of the oven.I’m not as amazing as my mom and don’t make bread every weekend. And when I do make bread, it’s usually my whole wheat flax bread because it’s so darn easy (not that this recipe is really hard). But sometimes, I gotta have mom’s white bread….
When I’m feeling homesick, I make this. It’s never tastes as good as my mom’s, but it reminds me of her and makes me feel close to her. As it bakes, the aroma takes me back to the hustle and bustle in my house on Saturdays, with brothers stopping by, nieces & nephews running around, my dad “puttering” around the yard/garden/sheds and my mom going from gardening to bread baking to lawn mowing to making sure everyone gets fed lunch. She’s incredible. And so is this bread. It’s the ultimate comfort food for me.
Alright, now that I’m all teary and dearly missing my mom, let’s get to it, shall we? Like most homemade bread, it takes time, but like all homemade bread, it’s totally worth it.
First, you need good quality bread flour. Do not substitute all-purpose flour. The gluten content is not the same and the result will not be nearly as good. I use the Gold Medal brand when I’m not in Utah. For Utah County & Salt Lake County folks, my mom gets the Lehi Roller Mills “Turkey” bread flour. Get that if you can. I also really like King Arthur bread flour.
I use a Bosch Mixer, but any mixer with a dough hook should work. If you don’t have a mixer, you can do this by hand, but it will make your arm tired. Very tired.
In the mixer, combine 1.5 T yeast, 1/4 c sugar, 2.5 c of the bread flour, and 3 c very warm water. Mix it for 2 minutes. It will be very runny.
It’s still runny after those additions.
Now you’re going to add the bulk of the flour. Add 1 cup at a time. It’s not necessary to dump it right on top of the mixing blade. You’ll just have to knock it off anyway or risk being covered in a flour mist.
Keep adding flour, one cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the sides and is stiff. You need to add the flour gradually so you don’t add too much and also so the flour will incorporate more easily. If you add too much at once, you risk your dough just spinning on the flour instead of mixing in.
You’ll add anywhere from 4 to 5 cups of flour (in addition to what you already added in the first two rounds of mixing). You need enough flour to get the dough to pull away from the sides and look like a dough; it should not be sticky. Mix for 5 minutes once you’ve added the flour.
Spray a counter top with Pam and dump the dough onto it. (My mom recently shared the Pam trick instead of sprinkling countertops with flour when kneading bread. This way you don’t have to add more flour, which can alter the texture of your bread. Brilliant!)Knead the dough for a couple of minutes until it forms a smooth ball. No matter how many times I make this, I can never get a truly smooth ball. Mom, I need another lesson.
Here’s a little trick to know if you’ve let your dough rise enough (since, let’s be honest, it’s hard to tell when something is “doubled in size”). Poke it with your finger. If it bounces back immediately, it needs to rise longer. If it stays indented, it’s ready.
Next, punch the dough down. Do it. Just stick your fist in there. With passion. De-Poof.
Dump dough onto a lightly sprayed surface (sprayed with Pam, that is) and divide into two.
At this point, you are going to form it into loaves. Like my mom, I do this in two ways. I roll the dough out to about…eh…1/4” thickness or so. (Note, get a good rolling pin. I have this one which has lasted about 3 years, but now it’s falling apart, so I plan to upgrade to this one.)
Then I just roll it up tightly, sealing the edge by pinching it with my fingers.
Or, after you roll it out, cut it into thirds (don’t cut all the way through the top) and just braid it. (A dough scraper is nice to have around, for handling the dough when you braid if it gets stuck to your counter.) Braiding is my favorite option, mostly because it’s quintessential Becky bread to me in this shape. I’ve never seen anyone else shape their bread like that. Once it’s braided, kind of roll between your hands and the counter top to make it come all together.
Whichever method you choose, you want to make sure you get the air bubbles out. The way I do this is karate chopping it. Seriously. Once it’s shaped, hold your hands straight, palms facing each other, and just quickly smack it up and down the length, using the outer edge of your hands. Just 5-10 times to get out any bubbles that may have formed during the shaping. (I should do a video for this…it’s hard to explain.)
If your loaf is too long for you pan, just cut off the end to make it fit and you can use the extra dough to fry a la Utah scones or toss it in a mini loaf pan (and cook for about 10 minutes less).
Place the shaped loaves into greased pans (mine are 9×5) and cover with the same damp towel you used before. You may need to re-dampen it. Place in a warm place (sunshine works nicely!) to rise. Let raise until it comes just about the tops of the pans.Once the dough is risen above the tops of the pans, remove towel and bake at 350 degrees or a bit lower. I set my temperature to 345. If you don’t have a digital temperature setting, nudge your knob just below 350 degrees. Bake for 33 minutes or until the tops are light golden brown.
You have to eat this warm. With butter. And maybe some honey.
Mom’s Famous White Bread
[AKA Becky Bread]
makes 2 loaves
1) Add the following ingredients to Bosch or large mixer and mix for 2 minutes.
2) Then add:
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 1 .5 tablespoons salt
Mix for 4 more minutes.
3) Then start to add more bread flour, 1 cup at a time, usually 4-5 cups more.
4) Mix for 5 more minutes. The dough should clean the bowl and feel a little stiff.
5) Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead for a couple of minutes by hand until a ball forms.
6) Place into a large greased bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled, 45-90 minutes.
7) Form into 2 loaves and place in greased pans. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until they are barely above the top of the pan, around 30 minutes.
8 ) Bake at ~350 degrees for about 33 minutes.
- I sometimes substitute whole wheat flour for part of the flour
- I use Lehi Roller Mills Turkey brand flour. It is made for bread.
- I use the top of my canner to let the bread rise. It needs a very large bowl or pan.
- I use 1 ½ pound pans. They are larger than the regular pans.
- I like to braid the dough when I put it in the pans because they look nice and the air bubbles are gone.
- I like the bread best before it’s been frozen and before it’s been stored in a plastic bag. So, for my first loaf, which I usually go through in 24-48 hours, I just leave it out on my bread board and turn the cut side down to keep the end from getting hard. As long as you don’t mind a loaf of bread standing vertically in your kitchen, this works great for keeping the crust nice and crisp.
- If you want to store the second loaf, let it cool completely before wrapping in saran wrap and then covering it in foil. Or if you have large enough freezer bags, those work too.
- I have no idea how to convert this to a bread machine. I’ve never touched a bread machine. They scare me.
- Buy a Bosch if you make bread often. It will last you forever and nothing compares in making bread. It’s not pretty like a Kitchen Aid, but if I could only pick one, I’d pick this. And I did. I’ve had mine (an older model of the one I linked) for over 11 years with no issues.
What food reminds you of your mom?