As in most of my recipes, I turned to http://www.allrecipes.com/ for inspiration. I'm not paid to promote them in anyway, but I love their site because you can review what other people say about recipes. One of their top 20 recipes is Amish White Bread. I've tweaked the base recipe a bit per usual.
I use a Kitchen Aid mixer to make this. I've had it for years, and it works wonderfully. If you want to use another mixer, make sure it has a dough hook. If you want to use your hands, you're shit ass crazy cause that is too much work.
Updated 5/5/12: want a whole wheat version of this? Click here.
1) Start with a warmed mixing bowl. I usually put a bit of hot water in there, and swirl it around. Let sit for a few min then dump.
2) Put 2 cups of hot water (~110 degrees) in the warmed bowl and add 1/2 cup of sugar. I use evaporated cane juice (10 lbs organic from Costco for $7!). Stir. Add 1.5 tblsp of active dry yeast. Stir. It will look like this:
A packet of yeast is 2 & 1/4 tsp, but if you plan to get serious about bread baking, buy a large container of yeast to save some money. I love Bob's Red Mill Premium refrigerated yeast.
Cover the bowl with a plate or a towel until it looks like this (this process is called proofing):
1.5 tsp of salt
1/4 cup of oil (I prefer olive oil to vegetable oil)
6 cups of all-purpose, wheat, or bread flour. I've been using an all-purpose white/wheat flour mix from Costco that is fine. Then my sis brought over some King Arthur Bread flour for our baking lesson and I was hooked!!! Note, the recipe says to add it cup by cup. Don't do that, it makes for lumpy and sticky dough.
Once everything is added to the bowl, turn your mixer on. I leave it on "1" or "stir" until the sides of the bowl are pretty clean and the dough sticks to the hook like this:
This is the 1st rise, and you should let it rise until it has doubled in-size. Timing varies, but generally it's about an hour. Your dough should look like this after the 1st rise:
Updated 12/13/10: I forgot to add that after the 1st rise, you need to knead it again. I throw it back in the KA mixer for about 45 seconds. Sorry for the interuption. Please resume your baking.
Next, grease 9x5 bread pans with cooking spray or a little butter. Divide dough in half and place in bread pans. It's going to look ugly when it goes in, but it will "rise" above that and eventually look pretty (har har):
Next, bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 min. Top of the bread should be golden brown and the loaves should feel hard when tapped.
Note, the above loaves are different sizes because I have 2 9x5 and 2 9x10 pans. I prefer my 9x5 pans.