Even if you don't make yeast bread often, this recipe is so easy! The dough is easier to work with than any I've tried and the bread bakes up fluffy and soft. I've included directions for using a stand mixer (such as a Kitchen Aid or Bosch) and for hand mixing. My Mom made this bread often when we were younger and it's still a favorite! I made several batches for Christmas gifts this year for neighbors. Recipe from our relative, Winnifred Jardine.
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 packages (1 Tablespoon each) active dry yeast
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons soft shortening or oil
6 cups flour, stirred & measured
In a large mixing bowl, combine warm water and sugar (I used my stand mixer). Sprinkle yeast over top; allow to soften. Add salt, shortening (or oil) and 3 cups flour; beat well. Add remaining flour, stirring well with a heavy spoon (or the dough hook attachment on a stand mixer). Allow dough to rest for 10 minutes; stir down with spoon (or mix on low speed for a couple seconds with a stand mixer). Repeat this process until dough has been stirred down 5 times.
Spray a large baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray and sprinkle baking sheet lightly with cornmeal. Set aside.
Turn dough out onto floured board; knead 2-3 times to coat dough with flour so it can be handled. Divide dough into 2 parts. Roll each part of the dough into a 9 x 12 inch rectangle. Roll dough up, starting from the long side and pinch the end of the loaf to seal. Arrange seam side down on the prepared baking sheet, allowing room for both loaves. Repeat with the second part of the dough. Cover loaves lightly and allow to rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. With a very sharp knife, cut several gashes at an angle in the top of each loaf. Carefully brush both loaves with an egg wash (1 egg, beaten slightly with 1 Tablespoon water). If desired, sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds. Bake for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on racks.
NOTE: For a crustier loaf, a pan of hot water may be set on bottom of the pan while bread is baking.