Freshly baked bread is one of life's greatest simple pleasures, and making it is much easier than you might think. You can make your own crisp French bread, soft sandwich loaves, and deliciously sweet quick breads as a great way to save money and fill your home with the wonderful aroma of fresh baked goods. Anyone can make bread with a few simple ingredients and a little technical knowledge.
Method 1 of 4: Make Basic French Bread
Step 1. Gather the ingredients
For this basic French bread, all you need is:
- 6 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups of water
- 3 teaspoons or 1 packet of active dry yeast
Step 2. Activate the yeast
In a cup or small bowl, mix the yeast with about 1/4 cup of warm 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (37 to 45 degrees Celsius) water. The water temperature should be warm to the touch, but not hot. If the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast; if it is too cold, it will not activate enough to make the bread rise properly. It should be warm enough that you can keep your finger in the water without making it uncomfortable.
- After a minute or two, the mixture should start to take on a thicker, foamier texture, and it should smell very much like beer. If it's frothy and thick, the yeast worked properly and it's done.
- If you are using instant yeast or self-activated yeast, you don't have to activate the yeast before adding it to the flour. Skip this step and move on to the next one.
Step 3. Thoroughly mix the flour and salt in a large bowl
The bowl needs to be large enough to hold all the flour and water at the same time and so that you can mix them comfortably, preferably with a strong wooden spoon. When you've mixed the dry ingredients, you can also add the yeast, whether you're using the quick yeast or the activated bubbly wet mix. Add it to the flour.
Alternatively, you can mix the dough in an electric mixer, as long as it has a dough hook attached. However, mixing the dough is only a small part of making a loaf of French bread, so it's usually easier to just mix it by hand. You don't need to use a mixer, especially since you'll have to get your hands dirty anyway
Step 4. Add the water, mixing thoroughly
Slowly add the water to the bowl with one hand while stirring the flour with the wooden spoon in the other hand. Your goal is to form the starting batter and get all of the ingredients together into a workable batter, so it's important to keep the spoon moving. It can be helpful to have someone add the water while you stir, or vice versa.
- The amount of water you need to make the dough can vary quite a bit (although less in humid climates), but you will get there with a little practice. Add it slowly and stir, watching the batter come together. As soon as the bread begins to take shape in the bowl, you should stop adding water.
- Put your hands in the bowl (but first cover them with a little flour) and join the dough. Push all the isolated pieces of wet dough against the ball and begin to form the basic dough in the bowl before unmolding it.
Step 5. Scoop out the dough and place it on a well floured surface to knead
Let the dough rest for at least five minutes. At this stage, the gluten strands are beginning to form, giving the bread its wonderfully stringy texture. The strands are formed regardless of whether you knead or not, so it will be easier to knead if you let the gluten do its work for a few minutes, making it easier for you to make the bread take shape.
In the meantime, you can clean the bowl thoroughly before using it so that the batter rises
Step 6. Knead the dough
Kneading the dough initially is the most important step in your preparation. You should knead it firmly and constantly for at least 5 to 10 minutes or until the dough feels smooth. The surface of the dough should be smooth and appear mostly even, not sticky or lumpy. If it looks like the rugged surface of the moon, keep kneading, adding flour as needed.
- It takes a little practice to get the move right, but it sounds a lot like Mr. Miyagi's advice in the Karate Kid: put wax, remove wax. You want to push the dough hard, rolling it away from you and bending it over. Don't be afraid to push hard, as if you're trying to get through the dough and touch the table, pushing it forward and rolling it over.
- Make sure your hands are well floured and that the dough is not sticking to the surface by keeping a light dusting of flour both on your hands and on the surface. If the dough seems wet, sprinkle more flour over the surface of the dough and continue to stir.
Step 7. Let the dough rise for about 3 hours
Put the dough back in the bowl after cleaning it thoroughly (or at least rinsing it off) and cover it with plastic wrap or a towel. Keep the dough in a warm but not hot place. The ideal temperature is around 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit (21 to 23 degrees Celsius) for the dough to rise.
If it's cold in your house or you're baking in the dead of winter, a good place to let the dough rise is on the stove while it's off, letting the warm pilot control the growth
Step 8. Punch the dough out of the bowl and reshape it
You don't have to knead the dough for as long as you did before the first growth. Turn several times on a floured surface and return to the bowl for the second growth. Here, your goal is to simply return the dough to the basic shape you started with. It won't take long, and the dough should be much easier to work with, smooth, and smooth.
Step 9. Let the dough rise again for about 90 minutes
Opinions vary on the need for a second growth - some bakers skip it and go straight to loafing and proofing the dough before baking, while others prefer three growths for better consistency. Good crusty French bread is distinguished by its light interior crumb, which you will only get from many small bubbles that the yeast creates as it grows. If you want to make "real" French bread and you have time, let the dough rise two or three times. If you want that hot, delicious bread smell to fill your kitchen immediately, you can skip it. Anyway, it will turn out very well.
Step 10. Shape the dough into the shape of your choice
Remove the dough from the bowl and cut it into as many different loaves, bâtards or baguettes you want to bake. Then start rolling them out with a rolling pin.
- To form miches, cut the dough in half and reshape it into two rounded lumps like the ones you have been forming. Place them on a tray dusted with a small amount of cornmeal and cover.
- To form baguettes, cut the dough into 4 equal portions and roll them out on a floured surface until long and thin. It will take several passes with the rolling pin to make them long enough, so keep moving from the center of the loaf outward, spreading them out as evenly as possible.
- To form bâtards, cut the dough into 4 or 6 portions and roll them out into smaller, shorter baguettes. There is no perfect way to spread them, and they will taste good either way.
Step 11. Let the dough rise for at least 45 minutes
After placing the spread loaves on the trays you plan to use for baking, cover them for at least 45 minutes and allow them to puff up a bit again before putting them in the oven.
It is common to cut the top of the loaf in the shape of an X or your own proprietary pattern before placing it in the oven. Make small cuts about a half inch (1.2 cm) deep, spaced about 1 inch (2.5 cm) from each other to allow the dough to swell evenly as it bakes
Step 12. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius) for about 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown
The bread is ready to go when it has a nice browned crust and the bottom is firm, making a hollow sound when you tap it with your knuckles or fingers.
Step 13. Help create the bread crust with steam
The secret to the perfect crust? Steam Use a spray bottle to periodically spray the bread, or spray the interior of the oven with a small amount of water a few times during baking to create a steam-filled mist inside the oven that will produce a crisp exterior, perfect for French bread.
Alternatively, it is common to place a tray of water in the oven on a rack underneath the bread to allow steam to gradually build up throughout the baking process. Experiment a bit with your oven to see what works best for you
Method 2 of 4: Make Basic Sandwich Bread
Step 1. Gather the ingredients
Sandwich bread works with basically the same preparation process as French bread, but with a few more ingredients to give it a sweet and smooth texture. Additives or alternative ingredients will be suggested throughout the process, but for the basic sandwich bread to start with, you will need:
- 6 cups all-purpose flour (regular or whole wheat)
- 1 cup of water
- 1 cup of milk
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons sugar or honey
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- Oil (optional)
- 1 egg, beaten (optional)
Step 2. Activate the yeast
Using 1 cup of warm 100 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (37 to 45 degrees Celsius) water, sprinkle the yeast over a bowl and cover with water to let it activate.
Step 3. Roast the milk in a saucepan
Heat the milk quickly on the stove over high heat until just before it boils, then remove it from the heat and add the butter and sugar, mixing thoroughly. You don't want to actually burn the milk, and be careful not to boil it, as milk tends to start to froth very quickly. Keep an eye on it and remove it from the heat as soon as it begins to steam. Let it cool slightly before adding it to the yeast.
Alternatively, you can heat the milk in the microwave and add the butter and sugar when hot
Step 4. Add this mixture and 1 cup of the flour to a bowl
Beat the mixture with the electric mixer for 2 minutes on medium speed. As the dough begins to form, continue gradually adding the rest of the flour, one cup at a time. When you have added all the flour, beat at a higher speed for 2 more minutes.
The amount of flour you use will depend on the humidity of the environment, so keep an eye on the dough and use your judgment. In the same way, working with whole wheat flour is very different; you will likely need to use less of this flour to form the dough. When you're just starting out, it might be a good idea to use half whole wheat flour and half regular flour to get used to the difference
Step 5. Take the dough out of the bowl and begin to knead
Press any leftover flour crumbs against the ball of dough, then place the lump on the floured surface to knead. Continue kneading until the dough has a smooth, smooth texture on the surface that returns to its original shape when pressed.
Alternatively, you can knead the dough in the electric mixer, as long as you have a dough hook. It can be much easier with your hands. Knead the dough in the mixer for about 10 minutes to form the gluten strands that will give the bread a wonderfully stringy texture
Step 6. Coat the ball of dough with oil and place it in an oiled bowl
This prevents the surface from drying out and cracking as it grows; the dry dough will turn into unsightly lumps in the finished bread. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel or plastic wrap and place the bowl in a warm (but not hot) location.
Leave the dough for about 90 minutes while it grows. It should roughly double in size, or at least puff up significantly if you used a lot of whole wheat flour
Step 7. Punch him
Hit the ball of dough with your fists and squeeze it until it is about the size you started with. You don't have to knead it again, as the dough should be smooth and elastic. Divide the dough into two equal parts with a chef's knife or pastry knife to form the loaves.
Step 8. Roll out the two loaves
On the kneading surface, spread the dough with your hands, first flattening it to form a kind of tall rectangle, then folding the top and bottom towards the center and squeezing the seam closed. This will make up the bottom of the loaf.
Place the loaves in greased pans and cover them again with the cloth to let the dough rise again for 30 to 45 minutes while you clean the kneading surface and preheat the oven
Step 9. Bake the bread at 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit) for 35 minutes or until it turns golden brown
Before baking the bread, cut 3-4 slits in the dough about 1/2 inch deep to mark the surface, then cover with the beaten egg or oil if you want to create a shiny, crispy crust..
The bread is done when the bottom of the loaf is firm and you can create a hollow sound by tapping it with your fingers. If you're not sure, remove it from the mold and check by tapping it with your fingers a few times. It will be hot, so be careful
Method 3 of 4: Make Quick Breads
Step 1. Make a quick beer bun
There's nothing simpler than hot, dense, yeast-tasting beer bread without having to give yourself the trouble of letting it rise. Simply mix 3 cups of flour, half a cup of sugar, and a 12-ounce can of beer in a bowl. Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan, brush on melted butter, and bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius) for 45 to 50 minutes. It's impossible to screw up and makes a great side dish for dinner.
Step 2. Try a baking soda bread.
Baking soda breads can be sweet or savory, depending on your tastes and the ingredients available. For a simple one, mix the dry ingredients: 4 cups of flour, each with a teaspoon of salt and baking soda, then add several tablespoons of sugar (1 if you want a savory bread and up to 4 if you want it sweeter). For the wet ingredients, mix 2 cups of milk or buttermilk with four tablespoons of melted butter and mix everything in a bowl. Lightly knead and bake in a greased loaf pan for about an hour at 190 degrees Celsius (375 degrees Fahrenheit).
Common additives can be lemon or orange peel and dried fruit or walnuts. Serve covered with jam or on its own
Step 3. Experiment with other recipes
Quick breads clean out cabinets and refrigerator - add whatever you have and see if it looks good. It can be a great way to use up ingredients that are taking up space. Try preparing:
- Zucchini bread
- Pumpkin bread
- Banana bread
Method 4 of 4: More Bread Varieties
Step 1. Make garlic bread
Garlic bread is a dinner favorite and can be made with different types of bread.
Step 2. Make challah
This wonderful leavened bread eaten at Jewish celebrations resembles brioche, but is slightly sweeter. It is delicious with butter and other spreads.
Step 3. Make fruity bread
These types of bread give you the opportunity to be creative and give your bread more flavor. You can make, for example, banana bread, apple bread, papaya bread, and even mango bread.
Step 4. Make cinnamon spiral bread.
Delicious cinnamon spiral bread is very popular in the winter and Christmas months. It's easy to make and it tastes great too!
Step 5. Make vegetable bread
Vegetable breads are delicious, as well as healthy! You can make, for example, pumpkin bread, cornbread, and even green zucchini bread.
Step 6. Make croissants
These breakfast specials buttery French muffins take a long time to make from scratch, but they're irresistible. Take the time to eat them all!
Step 7. Make biscuits
This is the recipe to make those warm and soft homemade American biscuits with self-rising flour. Are you ready to savor these soft, buttery-flavored treats?
Step 8. Make French bread
Ah… a crispy buttered baguette, is there a better culinary delight? French bread tastes great right out of the oven. When you start doing it at home, you won't want to stop doing it.
- Make sure you have the correct ingredients. The pastry flour is too "soft"; the bread should be a little stringy. Also avoid self-rising flour. Regular flour is fine, but bread flour (it will be labeled "bread flour", "high protein flour" or "bread machine flour") is best - it has a higher gluten content, so it will respond better when kneading it.
- What you use as a liquid will change the taste of the bread. Milk and fat make light white bread. The water and olive oil produce a tougher Italian bread. You can use whole wheat or regular flour or a mixture of both (the best, since whole wheat flour can be very heavy) or add other grains, bran, flaxseed, other seeds and herbs, etc. Once you know how to do it, you can come up with any combination you want!
- Muffins: A recipe for a loaf will generally yield a dozen muffins. Place them on a greased cookie sheet a few inches apart from each other, as they will puff up and touch when you let them grow the second time.
- You can turn the oven into a warm place to let the dough rise by turning it on low for 5 to 10 minutes. Other options are the top of a radiator at a low temperature or in strong sunlight, especially if you place a dark cloth over the dough.
- "Bread Machine Flour" is high in protein and helps yeast form more gluten, making it ideal for making bread in or without a machine. For very stale and rough Italian bread, substitute a little "hard pasta" flour and do not use a loaf pan.
- Optionally, brush the top of the loaf with milk for a soft finish, or egg for a strong shine. If you want to sprinkle some seeds or other things on top of the bread, do so before baking. Poppy seeds, oat flakes, or sesame will work well.
- Knead: With the ball of dough in front of you, place the bases of your hands on the dough and push it, as if you want to push the dough away from you. Rock your hands back and do it again. Don't let go of your right hand: take the far end and turn it a quarter turn to the left, then fold it over again, place the base of your hands on the dough again, and push. The idea is to work the entire ball of dough; the turns give you more dough to knead.