My Aunt Ruth makes the best bread ever. Amongst all my aunts, uncles, and cousins, no one else can touch her. Several years ago she gave me her recipe and I've been making bread off and on ever since. It still doesn't quite match her level of deliciousness, but it's pretty good. It's your basic soft white bread, good with just butter or some home made jam - especially when it is still a bit warm from the oven. And since this recipe was freely given to me, I thought I'd pass on the love.
I use my KitchenAide mixer with the dough hook, but Aunt Ruth sure never did. So feel free to mix and knead the traditional way.
Aunt Ruth's Bread Recipe
Into a large mixing bowl, add 2 cups warm water (about 110°F).
Start the mixer on low speed and add the following:
1 3/4 tablespoon shortening (butter, lard, or crisco [ick])
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon yeast that's been dissolved into 1/2 cup warm (110°F) water
6 cups flour, adding just one cup at a time.
Add only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking excessively to the bowl. I'll usually add 5 cups and as it's kneading only use as much of the last cup as needed. The dough should be soft and shiny and elastic. It's probably better to add too little flour than too much. Too little just means it will be a bit harder to handle. Too much and you'll ruin the texture of your bread.
When finished kneading, place in greased bowl and turn over to oil the other side. Cover and let rise in a warm place until double. Punch down and let rise until double. Using oiled hands, divide into two, shape into loaves and place in greased pans. Let rise again until double.
Bake at 375°F for 10 minutes, then 325°F for 15 minutes.
Remove from pans and allow to cool on racks.
If you're feeling feisty, you can exchange honey for the sugar. Also consider adding some crunchy wonderfulness to the mix. You'll want to add this stuff right before the flour. I've used as many as four or five of these at once. It turns a simple white loaf into something rich and hearty. But take note: these are my own additions, if you don't like them, don't blame Aunt Ruth. It's not her fault.
Here are some ideas:
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/3 cup red and/or golden flax seed
1/4 cup white and/or black sesame seed
1/4 cup poppy seed
1/3 cup wheat berries (soak overnight first)