Combine the yeast, sugar, and ½ cup warm water in the mixer's bowl until the sugar and yeast are dissolved. Let the mixture sit until it proofs. (Proofing is a way to check that the yeast is alive. When it proofs it will foam up. If it doesn't foam up, start over.)
Warm the ¾ cup plus 2 tbsp milk to between 100° and 110°.
Stir in ¼ cup of the flour, followed by the salt, and a little bit of the milk. Alternate between adding the rest of the flour and milk with the mixer on medium speed. Continue to beat until the dough becomes elastic. Even when it develops elasticity, expect it to still be somewhat loose and sticky.
Cover and let rise for 1½ hours. (I leave the dough in the same mixer bowl to rise since there is more mixing later.) The dough should double in bulk at the end of the hour and a half.
Dissolve ¼ tsp baking soda in 1 tbsp warm water.
Return the bowl to the mixer. Stir down using the flat beater, then add the baking soda and water mixture.
Beat the dough on medium speed for about a minute.
Grease loaf pans (1 large or 2 small).
Fill the loaf pans with the dough, keeping in mind that the dough will rise again before and during baking. Half to 2/3 of the way full is a good benchmark.
Cover the loaf pans with a kitchen towel and let the dough rise again for about an hour.
Preheat oven to 375°.
Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the top is golden and the bread starts to pull away from the sides of the pan a bit.
Cool for at least 5 minutes, then remove the bread from the pans. If needed, use a knife to get the dough loosened from the sides of the pans.
Cut into slices and toast before serving. (Recommended: Butter each slice and toast under the broiler of a toaster oven or regular oven for a few minutes, but watch carefully because these can burn quickly.)
After the bread has completely cooled, wrap tightly in plastic wrap to store.
Keep a close eye on the bread if you're using smaller loaf pans, as it will finish cooking faster.