1 package active dry yeast
2 cups warm whole milk (approximately 100° to 115°)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tablespoon salt
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg white, lightly beaten (optional)
Add the yeast to 1/2 cup of the warm milk, along with the sugar, and stir well until the yeast is completely dissolved. Allow the yeast to proof. (The mixture will swell and small bubbles will appear on the surface.)
Place the remaining milk, the melted butter, and the salt in a bowl, or in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Stir in the flour, 1 cup at a time, with a wooden spoon (if mixing by hand.) After the third cup, add the yeast mixture. Continue stirring in flour until the mixture is rather firm, which should take about 4 to 5 cups.
Remove the dough to a floured board or countertop and knead for a few more minutes, even if you have used an electric mixer, until it is supple, satiny, and no longer sticky. You may have to add more flour. Butter a large bowl and place the dough in it, turning to coat all sides with the fat. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Deflate the dough by punching it firmly two or three times, return to the floured board, and knead 4 to 5 minutes more. Divide into two equal parts and shape into loaves. Butter two 9 x 5 x 3-inch loaf pans and place a loaf into each. Cover and let rise again until doubled in size. This may take anywhere from 40 minutes to 1 1/4 hours, depending on the warmth of the space and the way you have worked the dough. Don’t rush the process, and watch the dough carefully.
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Slash the tops of the loaves width-wise two or three times with a sharp knife and brush lightly with the beaten egg white. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped with the knuckles. Remove the loaves from the pans and put them in the oven a few minutes longer to become crisped.