If you are on a diet, or paleo, or vegan, or raw, or otherwise trying not to enjoy food, just stop reading. On the other hand, if you want to make the best, unapologetically fluffy white bread ever, read on. This is a very slight adaptation from a recipe from All Recipes. The only tweaks I made were to add vital wheat gluten, an egg wash, and increase the rise time. I've made this bread many times and it is impossible to convey in words how delicious it is. It makes two loaves and both are usually gone within a day. For the love of all that tastes good, please do not attempt to replace any of the white flour with wheat flour. Just don't. Use bread flour -- soft, white, beautiful bread flour. By the time you finish, your counters and floors will be covered in a fine white dust, your arms will be slightly sore from kneading and you will have a sink full of dirty dishes. Don't waste all of that effort on bland, chewy bread.
2 cups warm water
2/3 cup white sugar
1-1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1-1/2 teaspoons salt (I use Kosher salt)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I use olive oil)
6 cups bread flour (approximately)
8 teaspoons of vital wheat gluten (optional -- it makes a fluffier loaf but it's delicious without it, too)
1 egg, beaten
The first thing you do is proof the yeast, which is just making sure the yeast is active and will make your bread rise. Dead yeast is useless. Thankfully, it is also very rare. I have used yeast that was years old, and it was still active. Not that I would recommend that.
Dissolve the sugar in the water and then stir in the yeast. Set it aside while you get the dry ingredients together. You should start to see some action in the yeast bowl pretty quickly. Yeast feeds off sugar, and this is quite a bit of sugar. It will start to foam and bubble, as in the above picture. Add the salt and oil to the yeast mixture. Then start adding the flour one cup at a time. I like the scoop method of measuring flour, where you just scoop up a cup and level it off. Don't pack it down. After it comes together in a shaggy dough, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.
Knead for 10-12 minutes or until the dough is smooth.
Place into a large, well-oiled bowl and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Allow to rise for 2 hours. Punch it down, cover and let rise another 1-2 hours. Separate into two oiled loaf pans and cover for a final rise of about an hour. Beat the egg and brush it over the tops of the loaves with a pastry brush. Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes, until the top is dark and the loaf sounds hollow when thumped.
Now, conventional wisdom holds that it's best to let the bread cool before slicing. However, if you are the type of person who can let a loaf of bread, warm from the oven, sit and cool for 45 minutes before you eat it, then I doubt we have much in common, and I don't think we can be friends. However, if you are the type of person who tears off a hunk of bread while it's still steaming, smears it with butter and then says, "Oh, look at the doggie!!" to distract the baby, who is begging for a slice, while you shove it in your mouth, then consider this your invitation to dinner!