A couple weeks ago I suggested that one of the ways we can practice good social distancing and reduce the number of trips we make to the grocery store is to make some basic staples, like bread, at home. Since then, I have received several requests for a good-quality, easy to make white bread recipe and so this week I’m pleased to share my favorite recipe for Buttertop White Bread.

What I love about this white bread is that it doesn’t require a special bread flour like many bread recipes. This recipe requires six simple ingredients that are still easy to find these days and which many of us may already have on hand, like all-purpose flour, instant yeast, white sugar, water, salt and butter. These are the only ingredients you will need to make the most amazing white bread, right in your very own kitchen.

This Buttertop White Bread has a beautiful, soft crumb structure with a texture that is more stable than the average packaged white bread, making it a perfect choice for sandwiches or toast. The flavor is the very essence of homemade goodness: slightly sweet with a subtle richness that comes from the soft butter that is worked into the dough.

Buttertop White Bread has a close and soft crumb structure that is more stable than the average white bread. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
Buttertop White Bread has a close and soft crumb structure that is more stable than the average white bread. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

This is a very easy bread to make from scratch, especially if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, but if you don’t, you can mix the ingredients with a wooden spoon and knead the dough by hand. The dough is typically fully kneaded and ready to go after about eight minutes with a mixer or 12 to 15 minutes by hand.

While this recipe is suited for a single 9-inch loaf, it can be easily doubled. However, I have found that the larger batch can be challenging for a standard mixer, as the dough may work its way around the top of the hook while kneading. If this happens, stop the mixer after five or six minutes and continue kneading by hand for three to four minutes until the dough is soft and pliable. If you’re new to bread making, I recommend starting with a single loaf until you become accustomed to the recipe and feel of the dough.

Once the dough is formed, it is placed in a bowl and left to rise until doubled in size, which only takes about an hour. Next, the dough is turned out and shaped into a 9-by-12-inch rectangle and rolled into a log to form the loaf.

After the first rise, the dough is shaped into a rectangle and rolled into a tight log to form the loaf. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
After the first rise, the dough is shaped into a rectangle and rolled into a tight log to form the loaf. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Then, the log is placed, seam-side down, into a greased loaf pan. At this stage, the loaf will sit just below the edge of the pan. The dough is then left to rise a second time until doubled in size, which can take between 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the climate.

When it’s ready, the loaf will have risen about 2 to 3 inches above the edge of the pan.

After forming the loaves, they are placed into the pan to rise again before baking. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
After forming the loaves, they are placed into the pan to rise again before baking. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Before baking, the top of the loaf is brushed with melted butter, and this step is repeated immediately after removing the baked bread from the oven. This step gives the bread incredible flavor as well as its name, buttertop.

This Buttertop White Bread is easy to make, rich in flavor and guaranteed to fill your home with the fragrance of warmth and comfort that only comes from freshly baked bread.

After the second rise, the loaves will have doubled in size to tower above the top of the pan. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
After the second rise, the loaves will have doubled in size to tower above the top of the pan. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

Sarah’s Buttertop White Bread

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Makes: 9-inch loaf (recipe can be easily doubled for 2 loaves)

Ingredients:

2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (1/4-ounce packet)

6 tablespoons + 1 1/3 cups warm water (about 100 to 110 degrees), divided

2 tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, room temperature

4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted (for brushing tops)

Directions:

Use canola oil or soft butter to lightly grease a medium bowl (large if doubling the recipe); set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the yeast with 6 tablespoons of warm water; stir to dissolve and let sit for 5 minutes until yeast bubbles and expands. Add the remaining warm water, sugar, salt, butter and 2 1/2 cups of flour and use a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to stir until combined.

Attach the dough hook to your mixer and mix on low speed (No. 2 setting for KitchenAid mixers). Once the dough begins to come together, gradually add 2 more cups of flour until the dough is soft and somewhat tacky to the touch, but not sticky — add more flour if needed, 1 tablespoon at a time. You may need to use all of the flour.

Continue mixing on low speed until the dough forms a soft, cohesive ball and clears the sides of the bowl. This will take about 8 to 11 minutes. If doubling the recipe, the dough may work its way to the top of the dough hook; if this happens, stop the mixer and scrape the dough down. You may want to remove the dough after 6 or 7 minutes and knead by hand on a lightly floured surface until the dough is soft and elastic.

Place the dough in the greased bowl and gently move it around, then turn it over so that it is completely coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. The dough should be at, or nearly at, the top of the plastic when ready.

Lightly grease a 9-inch loaf pan and set aside. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently press it down all over to remove any air pockets. If doubling the batch, use a dough scraper or large, sharp knife to divide the dough into 2 halves after pressing down and continue with following steps. Use your hands to gently pat the dough into a 9-by-12-inch rectangle.

Next, starting at the short end, roll the dough into a tight cylinder, then use your fingertips to pinch along the seams and the ends to seal them. Tuck the ends of the roll under the bread and place the loaf, seam-side down, into the greased loaf pan. Cover the loaf with a clean tea towel and let rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Position oven rack to 1 of the bottom 2 settings and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Once risen, brush the top of the loaf with half of the melted butter. Bake until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes. If you have an instant-read thermometer, it should read at least 195 degrees when inserted into the center.

Remove the loaf from the oven and immediately brush with the remaining melted butter, coating the top completely. Place the hot pan on a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes, then remove the loaf and cool completely before slicing (about an hour). The crumb structure will continue to set as the bread cools.

To store: The bread should be stored in an airtight plastic bag or wrapped in plastic to keep at room temperature for up to 4 days. To freeze, slice bread and store in plastic freezer bag for several months.

The top of the loaf is brushed with melted butter before and after baking, giving Buttertop White Bread its name and rich buttery flavor. Sarah Nasello / The Forum
The top of the loaf is brushed with melted butter before and after baking, giving Buttertop White Bread its name and rich buttery flavor. Sarah Nasello / The Forum

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“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.