One of my biggest regrets is not learning how to make bread at an earlier point in life. Not only is it easy, relatively quick (with a little planning), and delicious, but it is rewarding and fun as well. If you have children, you can get them to help measure ingredients and knead the bread. It is a great way to help them connect to what they are eating.
3-3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 package dry active yeast
1/2 cups warm water
1 cup warm milk
3 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil or melted butter
Pour the 1/2 cup of warm water into a small bowl or cup and stir in the yeast and sugar. Stir gently, and let sit for 5 minutes. If the yeast is not foamy after 5 minutes, discard and purchase fresh yeast.
Place 1 cup of the flour into a bowl and add the warm milk. Stir until well blended (it will be fairly runny and gloppy). Add the rest of the flour a cup at a time, salt, butter or oil, and stir well. The dough will be shaggy and sticky at this point. If you have a stand mixer, combine in the same steps using a dough hook. Knead the dough on a lightly floured board (or let the stand mixer work it with the dough hook) for 5-10 minutes until it is smooth. It should feel soft and a little springy to the touch at this point.
Shape the dough into a ball and put it into an oiled bowl, then flip the dough over so that the ball has a light coat of oil. This will help keep the surface elastic while rising. Cover the bowl with a clean damp towel and let it rest on the in a warm area for 1-1 1/2 hours until it is doubled in size.
Lightly butter or oil a loaf pan and set aside. The dough should be puffy and rounded. Punch the dough down, then place back on a lightly floured board. Knead the dough for 3-5 minutes. It will feel tighter than the first kneading due to the development of gluten.
Stretch the dough into as much of a rectangle that you can, then fold up in thirds. Place the dough into the loaf pan with the seam (edge of loaf) on the bottom. Brush the top of the loaf lightly with oil or melted butter, cover with the damp towel again, and leave in a warm area for an hour. The dough should almost double in size again.
Once the dough has doubled it should be at or near the top of the bread pan. Preheat the oven to 375°F and make sure the rack is in the middle of the oven. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown. Remove the loaf from the pan and set on a rack to cool.
Let the loaf cool for 2-3 hours before cutting. If you slice it too soon, the inside will be gummy instead of nice and fluffy.
Wasn’t that easy? Enjoy!