Favorite White Bread

I love this everything about this bread;  the taste, the texture, the ease with which I can make it.  I usually rely on my trusty Kitchen Aid to do most of the work, but have done it by hand without much effort.  This recipe makes two loaves, one of which I made into cinnamon raisin bread for the first time the other day.  As you can tell from the picture, it was a hit in my house -- those nubs are all that were left by the time I thought to get a picture!

6-7 c. white flour (I have substituted a couple of cups of whole wheat flour for the white in the past)
3 Tbl. sugar
1 Tbl. salt
2 Tbl. shortening
2 pkgs. yeast (4 1/2 tsp.)
2 1/4 c. very warm water (120-130 degrees)
Margarine or butter, melted

In large bowl, stir 3 1/2 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt, shortening and yeast until well mixed. Add warm water. Beat with electric mixer on low speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Stir in enough remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, to make dough easy to handle.  Place dough on lightly floured surface. Knead about 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and springy. Grease large bowl with shortening. Place dough in bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place 40 to 60 minutes or until dough has doubled in size. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.

Grease bottoms and sides of two 8x4-inch or 9x5-inch loaf pans with shortening or spray with cooking spray.  Gently push fist into dough to deflate. Divide dough in half. Flatten each half with hands or rolling pin into 18x9-inch rectangle on lightly floured surface. Roll dough up tightly, beginning at 9-inch side. Press with thumbs to seal after each turn. Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal. Pinch each end of roll to seal. Fold ends under loaf.  Place seam side down in pan. Brush loaves lightly with butter (or spray lightly with cooking spray). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place 35 to 50 minutes or until dough has doubled in size.

Move oven rack to low position so that tops of pans will be in center of oven. Heat oven to 425°F.  Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until loaves are deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from pans to wire rack. Brush loaves with butter (most times I don't bother with this); cool (most times I don't bother with this :).

For cinnamon-raisin bread:  Stir in 1 c. raisins with the second addition of flour.  Mix 1/4 c. sugar and 2 tsp. ground cinnamon.  After rolling dough into rectangles, sprinkle each with half of the sugar mixture and 1 Tbl. water.  Shape as instructed above.

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