Makes: 2 loaves
5 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 ¼-ounce packages active dry yeast – each packet is equal to 2 ¼ teaspoons
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 cups very warm milk (120 to 130 degrees F)
½ cup very warm water (120 to 130 degrees F)
Use cooking spray to grease two 8×4-inch loaf pans, liberally coating the bottom and all sides. Sprinkle pans with a tablespoon of cornmeal each, and shake/tap to evenly coat the pan, discarding any loose cornmeal.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, add 2 cups of flour, yeast, sugar, salt and baking soda, placing the yeast on one side of the bowl, and the salt on the opposite (salt will retard the yeast). Use a dough hook to mix the dry ingredients until combined.
Add the warm milk and water, and mix on low speed for 30 seconds. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, then mix on medium speed for 3 minutes.
Add the remaining flour and mix on low speed for 60 to 90 seconds until the dough appears sticky and stretchy – it will not form into a typical dough ball. The dough is ready when it easily falls off the hook when raised.
Use a large spoon or spatula to transfer the batter evenly into each pan. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of corn meal over the surface of each loaf, and use your hands to gently press the dough into the pan, spreading the corn meal as you work. Cover pans with a dry towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Once the dough has risen, bake for 35 minutes, until golden brown. To test for doneness, knock on the top of each loaf – it should be firm to the touch and sound slightly hollow.
Remove bread from pans immediately and cool on wire racks. Slice and toast to serve.
To store: Store at room temperature for several days in plastic zipper bag, or freeze for several months.
- For a whole wheat version, use 2 cups whole wheat flour with 3 cups all-purpose flour. Add the wheat flour in the second addition of flour, along with 1 cup all-purpose flour.
- To warm the dough as it rises, heat your oven until it reaches 170 degrees F, then turn it off. Place the covered loaves in the oven and let rise for 45 minutes until doubled in size.
- For easy use, slice bread before freezing.
- Use heels, crusts, and leftover bread to make croutons or bread pudding.