Basic White Learning Loaf

My Mom baked breads from all over the world – and come to think of it has baked all over the world (read about her trip to Russia in 2008). Some of her recipes are fairly simple while others are quite sophisticated. No matter where she traveled or who she taught, she found that the best way to get folks to overcome their initial fear about baking was to start with a basic white learning loaf.

My Mom’s first commercial instruction video on VHS (for Millennial readers, learn more about this ancient technology) was “Perfect Bread: How to Conquer Bread Baking.” In that video, she teaches how to make a basic white loaf and other things you’ll need to know as you start your baking adventures. In a 1991 Chicago Tribune article, “Oven-fresh and Perfect,” columnist William Rice wrote that the video “adds a vital dimension to the learning process to watch the teacher, Betsy Oppenneer, demonstrate and explain the process of mixing, kneading and shaping a basic loaf.”

I’m in the process of digitizing my Mom’s instructional videos – and will post results here on Blue Bowl Breads. I haven’t watched those videos in probably 15 years (I’m interested in seeing how they stand the test of time). It will be nice to couple the Basic White Learning Loaf recipe below with Mom’s original instruction…

Update: Got the videos digitized! Here they are…

This 2008 picture from the CAB Cooks blog shows a loaf made from my Mom’s recipe.

Here’s what the slice of bread looked like after I let them cool for about an hour. Notice all the air holes, airy, soft, tender, and very tasty. The crust was light and for once, I actually ate the butt of a sandwich loaf. Yummy.CAB Cooks

Basic White Learning Loaf

This is the perfect loaf for mastering your bread baking skills because you see the formation of blisters when kneading.

Prep Time 2 hours
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings 2 loaves
Author Betsy Oppenneer


  • 2 scant tablespoons (or 2 ¼-ounce packages) active dry yeast
  • ½ cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • 2 cups warm milk or water (about 110 degrees)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or shortening
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 to 7 cups unbleached flour


  1. In a large bowl, stir yeast into ½ cup water to soften. Add milk or water, oil or shortening, sugar, salt, and 3 cups flour. Beat vigorously for two minutes.
  2. Gradually stir in flour, ¼ cup at a time, until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface. Knead, adding flour a little at a time, until you have a smooth, elastic dough.
  4. Put the dough into an oiled bowl. Turn to coat the entire ball of dough with oil. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until doubled, about one hour.

  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and divide in half. To shape a standard loaf, roll each half with a rolling pin into a 10 by 14-inch rectangle. This removes the excess gases and gives a more uniform texture to the finished loaves. Roll up the dough into a 10-inch cylinder, and pinch the loose edge to the loaf. Fold the ends of the loaf like a package by bringing each side into the center of the end then bringing the bottom layer of dough to the top and pinching it. Repeat with the other end of the dough and place, pinched-side down, into well-greased loaf pans. Cover with a tightly woven towel and let rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes.

  6. About 10 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the loaves reaches 190 degrees.
  8. Immediately remove bread from pans and cool on a rack.

Recipe Notes

Dough can be divided into thirds and braided; divided into 18 pieces, shaped into balls, placed on baking sheets, then flattened slightly for buns; or divided into 36 pieces and shaped into dinner rolls. Braids will bake at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes; buns and rolls bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

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