Special equipment: a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan
Put the milk, sugar, yeast and 1 cup of the flour in a large resealable plastic bag. Squeeze the air out of the bag and seal. Squish with your hands until well mixed. Let it rest for 10 minutes at room temperature; the mixture will begin to bubble.
Add the melted butter, salt and remaining 3 1/2 cups flour to the bag, seal and squish again until well blended. Remove the dough from the bag and put it on a floured surface. Knead until smooth, about 5 minutes.
Butter a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan and add the dough. Cover with a kitchen towel and put in a warm spot until the dough has just risen about 1 1/2 inches over the top of the pan, 2 to 2 1/2 hours.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F. Brush the top of the dough lightly with warm water and bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Using oven mitts, remove the loaf from the pan and place in the center of the oven rack. Continue baking until the loaf sounds hollow when rapped lightly with your knuckles on the bottom and top, or an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center registers about 190 degrees F, about 30 minutes more. Transfer the loaf to a cooling rack and cool completely before slicing.
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