Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Recipe: Farmhouse White Bread for FarmVille 2

This classic, homestyle bread is a staple in my farmhouse kitchen.

Have you ever played FarmVille? Apparently I'm one of the few people who hasn't. Tens of millions of people play FarmVille every month, and over 400 million (!) people have played a FarmVille game. I have a feeling that if I didn't have an actual farm of my own, I'd probably be hooked.

The world of FarmVille is all about creating fresh, country recipes, and it's time to bring the virtual kitchens of FarmVille to life. When Zynga asked if I would like to have one of my recipes featured in their upcoming FarmVille-To-Table Digital Cookbook (and possibly in a FarmVille game itself!) I said sure.

What recipe did I choose? My super popular Farmhouse White of course. There's nothing more rewarding in the kitchen than baking your own bread, and after 20 years, I'm still awed by the process.

The original Farmhouse White recipe post has already been pinned more than 23,000 times on Pinterest (thank you!), and over the years I've heard from countless former nervous novices who are now confident bread bakers thanks to Farmhouse White.

I've been making this recipe for 14 years and have watched plenty of people who claim they never eat white bread gobble slices up.

Farmhouse White recipe below. . .

Would you like to put your recipe, name, and blog right in front of a giant captive audience that loves cooking?

In celebration of Zynga's newest mobile game, FarmVille 2: Country Escape, and BlogHer Food 2014, Zynga is calling all cooks to the kitchen for a chance to have their recipe featured in their very first digital cookbook.

Zynga is looking for fun, creative summer recipes that celebrate the summer bounty of freshly harvested, home cooked, farm-to-table foods. Selected by Zynga's culinary team, the top 50 recipes will be prepared, photographed, and featured in the FarmVille-To-Table Digital Cookbook. You'll find all the details here.

In the meantime, how about some freshly baked bread?

Farmhouse White ready for the oven

Farmgirl Susan's Farmhouse White Sandwich Bread
Makes 3 loaves, about 1½ pounds (24 ounces) each

If you've been longing to learn how to bake your own sandwich bread, my classic Farmhouse White is the perfect place to start.

This is the kind of old-fashioned, wholesome bread that a few people were lucky enough to grow up eating, and everyone else wishes they had. Made with milk instead of water, it's a simple, traditional loaf that's nice and soft, but not too soft. It's wonderful toasted—especially when slathered with homemade summer jam—smells heavenly while toasting, and makes an awesome BLT. Farmhouse White also makes wonderful dinner rolls and burger buns.

The best part is that once you're comfortable with the basic recipe, you can go on to experiment by adding other ingredients to the dough, including whole grains. This can be a lot of fun, as even a slight change will often give you a completely different loaf. You'll find a list of suggestions at the end of the recipe.

(19-1) BLT on freshly baked bread with bacon from our local butcher hog, garden tomatoes from a friend, and homemade pesto mayonnaise - FarmgirlFare.com
Homemade bread, homegrown tomatoes, bacon from a locally raised hog: this might be the ultimate BLT.

This really is a very easy recipe, so don't let the long instructions scare you away. I've included a lot of extra information for beginning bakers.

This recipe makes three loaves of bread because in my opinion, if you have freezer space or friends, there's no reason to bake only one loaf of bread at a time. Bread freezes beautifully—and you won't believe how much your friends will love you if you present them with a freshly baked loaf.

There are numerous factors that will affect your bread dough, including the weather, the humidity, and the flour you're using. No matter what kind of bread I'm making, I always keep the amount of liquid a constant and vary the flour accordingly.

Sometimes I'll need less flour than what is called for, sometimes more. Never add all of the flour at once; it's easier to knead in a little more flour than a little more water.

I played around with different flours in this recipe and finally settled on a combination of all-purpose and bread flour, but you can use 100% all-purpose flour or 100% bread flour if desired. The best thing to do is experiment and see what you like.

A few years ago I started baking all of my pan loaves on the heated baking stone that I use for free form breads and pizzas, and the results have been fantastic. The bottoms of the sandwich loaves are nice and evenly brown, and I think that initial burst of heat directly on the pans makes the bread end up even taller.

How do I get my sandwich breads so nice and tall? I cram a lot of dough into the pan. I like to use commercial grade 8½" x 4½" metal loaf pans.

As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients. They really do make a difference.

4 cups organic all-purpose flour
1½ Tablespoons* instant yeast
2 Tablespoons granulated sugar or brown sugar or honey
2 Tablespoons safflower oil (or your favorite neutral oil, or melted butter)
4 cups warm organic milk (or water), about 85° F
About 6 cups organic bread flour (or just use more organic all-purpose flour)
1½ Tablespoons salt

* To bake even better bread, you can reduce the amount of yeast to 1 Tablespoon (or even less). This will make your dough rise more slowly, so you'll just need to increase the rising times. You can reduce the yeast in pretty much any bread recipe; a lot of bakers go by the formula, "half the yeast and double the rising time."

Mixing and Fermentation (first rise)
In a very large bowl, use a wooden or heavy plastic spoon to stir together the all-purpose flour, yeast, and sugar. Make a small well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the oil and the milk.

Mix well, then continue to stir vigorously, slowly adding 1 cup of the bread flour at a time and stirring it in, until you've added 3 to 4 cups of bread flour and have a sticky, shaggy dough; this should take a few minutes.

Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel (not something fuzzy like terrycloth) and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Add the salt and 1 more cup of bread flour and stir it in as best you can. Add another cup of bread flour if the dough is still too sticky to knead.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead it with floured hands until the dough is soft and smooth, about 8 to 10 minutes.

As you're kneading, sprinkle a little more flour at a time as needed to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the work surface. You want it to be as soft as possible without being sticky; you may not need the entire six cups of bread flour, or you may need a little extra.

Place the kneaded dough in a large straight sided, food grade plastic container with a snap-on lid. There's no need to grease or flour the container. Use a felt tip pen or piece of masking tape to mark the spot on the container that the dough will reach when it has doubled in volume.

Set the dough somewhere that is preferably between 70°F and 75°F until it has doubled in size, about 60 to 75 minutes. It's fine if the temperature is cooler; it'll just take your dough a little longer to rise and will end up even tastier. On hot days I use cold milk to make my bread dough, and on cold days I heat the milk to about 100°F.

Shaping and Proofing (second rise)
Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured work surface, flattening gently with your hands to break up any large air bubbles. Divide the dough into three equal pieces.

If you're using a baking stone, put it in the oven now and heat the oven to 375°. Never put a cold baking stone into a hot oven.

Shape the dough into loaves. There are many ways to shape loaves, including simply plunking the dough into the pans; I give instructions for my favorite method here.

Place the loaves seam side down in greased loaf pans and dust them liberally with flour. Cover the loaves with a damp tea towel and let them rise until the dough springs back just a little when you gently poke it with a floured finger, about 40 to 60 minutes.

Bake at 375° for 35 minutes, or until the loaves are golden brown and the bottoms sound hollow if tapped (you need to carefully remove a loaf from the pan to check this). Remove the loaves immediately from the pans and let them cool on a wire rack.

The bread will continue to bake inside while it's cooling, so try to wait at least 40 minutes before cutting into a loaf.

Store at room temperature or freeze in zipper freezer bags. Make sure the loaves are completely cooled before sealing in bags.

Other ideas:
You can also use Farmhouse White dough to make dinner rolls or burger buns; just reduce the baking time to about 20 to 25 minutes. For individual rolls, place balls of dough a few inches apart on a heavy duty baking sheet lined with unbleached parchment paper, or snuggle them up together for pull-apart rolls. I make rolls that are 2 to 3 ounces and burger buns that are 4 to 5 ounces.

I've even shaped this dough into free form loaves of sweet French bread (meaning it's not sourdough) and baked them directly on a hot baking stone.

While delicious just as it is, Farmhouse White is an ideal building block bread. Here are just some of the ways you can customize your loaves:
—Replace some of the all-purpose flour with white whole wheat flour.
—Use ½ oat bran and ½ cup of wheat bran in place of one cup of the flour.
—Substitute one cup of cracked wheat, cornmeal, polenta, or old-fashioned oats for one cup of the all-purpose flour.
—Try a cup or two of stone ground rye flour.
—Add a few Tablespoons of wheat germ.
—Make it with a cup or two of oat flour, which you can easily make by whizzing old-fashioned rolled oats in a food processor for about 30 to 60 seconds, depending on the texture you desire. Oat flour is also great in pancakes, muffins, and scones.
—Stir in some honey for a sweeter loaf.
—Turn it into cinnamon raisin bread by mixing cinnamon sugar and raisins into the dough, or flatten out the dough and sprinkle them over it when you're shaping your loaves.
—Toss in a few handfuls of chopped fresh herbs.
—Knead in several cloves of smashed roasted garlic, a few glugs of good olive oil (in place of the other oil), and plenty of freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano.

The possibilities are limited only by your imagination and tastebuds!

© FarmgirlFare.com, the freshly baked foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, and photos from her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres—and everything tastes better with bread.


  1. I played FarmVille some when I started on FaceBook, but the more I learned about Zynga as a company, the less I like. Hopefully they've improved from the days when they knowingly allowed their advertisers to infect their customers with malware. Maybe they've stopped stealing other company's game ideas, and treating their employees and customers like numbers. But I somehow doubt it.

    Sorry to be a downer. I honestly hope things have improved and that you benefit from this partnership. But you can trust that I personally will not play another Zynga game. Ever.

    I still love your blog and your recipes. I have scared to bake my own bread before I started reading you. You gave me the confidence to try and am always amazed by the results!

  2. I haven't played Farmville either. I don't have time.

  3. I used to play Farmville but then it became more time consuming than our real farm at the time! Quickly gave it up - it's addicting! The bread in the photo looks delicious!


  4. Congratulations on your recipe being featured in FarmVille-To-Table Digital Cookbook Susan! I'll experiment on adding whole grains.

  5. Hi Susan,
    First of all, how are you,the sheep,the dogs, the kitties,the hunky farmguy??? We miss you.
    One of these days, I'll make this scrumptious looking loaf...until then, give Bert and Henry a smooch.


January 2013 update: I know word verification is a big pain, but it's the only way I can stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I get every day. I don't want to require commenters to be registered Blogger or Open ID users because I know many of you aren't. Thanks so much for your understanding!

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