RECIPE: Wonder no longer. Here’s how to bake the white bread of your youth

Old-fashioned squishy white bread doesn't need to be loaded up with additives to be delicious.
Courtesy of Marie Restaino.

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Old-fashioned squishy white bread doesn't need to be loaded up with additives to be delicious. Courtesy of Marie Restaino.

One question I am asked most frequently is how a home baker can achieve the same dramatically crusty sourdough loaves that come from a professional bake shop.

I get it. A beautiful boule is a great way to impress friends and family, and making sourdough can be meditative, personally fulfilling and nourishing.

The humble pan loaf, a decidedly less trendy staple of home baking from a bygone era, does not enjoy the same reputation. I find this sad and a little unfair. Like many kids of the ‘90s, I was raised on loaves of squishy grocery store white bread. While I don’t advocate loading up any baked good with preservatives, I am still a touch nostalgic for the bread of my youth and dug up a recipe that hits the same squishy notes without the additives.

For less than $20, you can purchase a very good Pullman-style loaf pan. I recommend you pick one up and join me in rediscovering the simple joy of baking your own pan breads.

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Milk Bread
  • 5 cups (627 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups (376 grams) whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons (13 grams) salt
  • 1 packet (7 grams) instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup (63 grams) unsalted butter
  • 4 tablespoons (50 grams) honey
  • Baking spray or neutral oil, for preparing loaf pan
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix flour and milk on low speed 2 minutes. Once combined, let rest 20 minutes.
  • Add salt and yeast to mixture, then mix on medium-high speed 7 minutes, until dough is smooth and springy. Add butter and honey to dough and mix on low speed 3 minutes until the dough is uniform.
  • Cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and let proof 1 hour at room temperature.
  • Prepare a 13-by-4-inch loaf pan by oiling it with pan spray or brushing on a neutral oil.
  • Turn dough out onto a very lightly floured work surface and coax dough into a loose rectangular loaf shape. Pat down gently to de-gas dough. Fold one of the long sides of the dough to the middle and gently press down to seal. Fold the opposite side to the middle so that the two sides meet at the middle and gently press down to seal. Fold dough in half so top and bottom meet and form a cylinder. Use palms to roll dough to the length of the pan, then tuck dough into loaf pan, making sure it fills the entire pan. Cover and let proof 1 hour at room temperature.
  • Heat the oven to 375 degrees.
  • Bake 20 to 30 minutes, until top is a deep golden brown. Turn the bread out onto a wire rack and let cool before slicing. Makes 1 13-inch loaf (about 24 1/2 inch slices).

Nutritional information

Per serving: Per slice: 132 calories (percent of calories from fat, 18), 3 grams protein, 24 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 3 grams total fat (2 grams saturated), 7 milligrams cholesterol, 200 milligrams sodium.

Chris Wilkins has been a professional baker for 12 years. He is a two-time James Beard Award nominee and the founder and co-owner of Root Baking Co. and Pizza Jeans. Submit your baking questions to bakebetterajc@gmail.com.