Basic Sweet Bread

Cook’s notes: Adapted from a free class I took from the King Arthur Flour Company on bread-making. Their education program is outstanding, and all their recipes work well. Search for free home baking classes in your area on their site.

About this recipe, King Arthur staff says, “This soft and pliable dough is suitable for all sorts of shapes, from braids to cinnamon rolls to monkey bread. Soft dough is the secret to soft, tender bread.” Yields two loaves.

3/4 cup (6 oz) warm water
2 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp. Red Star active dry yeast
1/2 cup (2 oz) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3/4 cup (6 oz) plain low-fat yogurt
1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 oz) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (3.5 oz) sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla or other flavoring, or 2 tsp citrus zest
4.5 to 5.5 cups (19 to 23.25 oz) King Arthur All-Purpose Flour
1 egg + 1 Tbsp. water (for egg wash)

In a small bowl, combine the warm water and 2 tsp sugar. Stir to dissolve. Stir in the yeast and 1/2 cup flour. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until bubbly and active, about 10 to 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, butter, eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla, and yeast mixture. Add the flour 1 cup at a time, mixing until the dough comes away cleanly from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and, adding only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the work surface, knead the dough about 5 minutes, until soft and pliable but not sticky. Let the dough rest while you clean and grease the bowl. Finish kneading the dough until it’s smooth, supple, and springy.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, turn to coat all surfaces, cover with plastic wrap and a clean towel, and let sit in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled.

Gently deflate the dough and divide it in half. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest on a lightly floured surface for 15 minutes. Form the dough into desired shapes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise about 45 minutes.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Brush loaves with egg wash and bake until golden brown, about 30 to 40 minutes, to an internal temperature of 190 degrees. Remove the bread from the oven, and let it cool on a rack.