There are a few things in the baking world that seem almost magical to others. Bread making is one of those. To those who haven’t made homemade bread, it seems mysterious and vast. Unknown terms and the unknown magic of yeast. But it doesn’t need to be.
People have been making bread since…well, the beginning of recorded history. It only seems so mysterious because those easy loaves have started showing up on grocery shelves and we stopped making it for ourselves all the time.
This is a fairly long post and includes some links to related information. If I don’t answer a question you have, let me know! I will do my best to find an answer.
• The first and most important tip I can give is this: don’t give up. If you’re making yeast bread, the first few loaves might be horrible. But once you get the hang of it, it WILL BE WORTH IT. Trust me, homemade bread is heavenly.
Quick, hilarious story: my first loaves barely rose and were so heavy I wondered how it was possible. Could the final bread loaf possibly weigh more than the ingredients?! I was tempted to weigh each to see if the final loaf was magically gaining weight. The only ones who found the bread edible were the ducks in the duck pond. Okay…I lied. There was one loaf even they wouldn’t eat.
• The second tip is know your ingredients. Bread- with its needing to rise- requires the correct ingredients. Please check out the following.
—–“How to Measure Ingredients Accurately“- if you have a question on how to measure flour, especially, this article is good.
—–“Flours: Part 1- Wheat Flours“- using the right flour is vital! Know your flours.
—–“Understanding Leavening Agents“- if you have questions about yeast, this will answer your questions.
—–Butter, shortening, salt, and water (the other main ingredients in bread) are pretty self-explanatory.
• Finally, anyone can make bread. Don’t treat making bread as some mysterious, complex process that only the experts can complete. If on recipe isn’t working, try another. If both recipes fail (aka- heavy bread, for example), start looking to see if you’re doing something during the process.
Recipes for various breads:
If you’re looking for FABULOUS bread recipes, here are the links to my posts. Note that they are image heavy- I include step-by-step pictures and instructions.
• “Perfect Traditional Homemade White Bread”
• “Perfect Homemade Wheat Bread”
• “How to Bake the Perfect Loaf of French Bread”
….and, while slightly un-related, another bread that has gotten fabulous reviews: “Old-fashioned, Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread“.
***This post contains affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase using this link. Full disclosure statement.***
Very last tip before the step-by-step instructions…GET A STAND MIXER. It cuts the time to make bread down by over half. Trust me, if there is ONE purchase I would recommend for any kitchen, it would be a KitchenAid.
• I currently have KitchenAid Classic K45SSWH 250-Watt 4-1/2-Quart Tilt-Head Stand Mixer, White. It’s big enough and powerful enough to get the job done, though it is a little tight on space.
• Mid-range is the 5 qt. option: KitchenAid KSM150PSER Artisan Tilt-Head Stand Mixer with Pouring Shield, 5-Quart, Empire Red
• What I’m buying later this year! KitchenAid KP26M1XER 6 Qt. Professional 600 Series – Empire Red
Bread Making 101:
1. Always mise en place! Once you start, you can’t stop. So finding out you don’t have salt after the yeast is already proofing is a deal-breaker. (Yes, I once forgot the salt…the bread was horrible).
The picture to the right is mise en place for wheat bread, hence the gluten.
2. Have the right flour and yeast.
•If you’re making white bread or French bread, use bread flour.
• If you’re making wheat flour, I’m partial to white whole wheat flour. However, you can also use regular wheat flour.
• All of my recipes call for active dry yeast. Not the ‘instant’ or ‘quick’ rise versions.
3. Proof your yeast. The first step is mixing a portion of the warm water (it needs to be 110° to 120°F) with the yeast. Sometimes sugar and/or a small portion of other ingredients will be included.
4. Mix in first portion of flour plus other ingredients (butter, shortening, salt, other sugars…depends on the recipe). You will NOT mix in all of the flour initially. Ever.
5. Knead, adding the rest of the flour in small amounts (usually 1/4 to 1/2 cup at a time). If using a stand mixer, the dough will have pulled away from the bowl and will be clinging to the dough hook. Each of the bread recipes linked has instructions on the texture and stickiness. (for example: French bread will be stickier than other breads).
6. Remove from mixer. Knead a few times. Form into a ball. Place into a greased bowl. Turn over to grease both sides. Cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap.
7. Place in a warm place to rise (time varies on type of bread).
Trick to know: cook 2 cups of water in a microwave for 3-4 minutes. Then place bowl with dough in microwave and close door. The water will have created a warm steamy environment. The closed door creates a closed environment that is fabulous for bread rising.
-or- pre-heat over for 1-2 minutes. Turn off heat. Also creates warm environment to allow dough to rise.
8. After doubled in size, punch it down. Pull the dough out of the bowl, knead a few times. Divide into two. Shape into two loaves. The shaping is slightly different fro white/wheat bread and French bread (see respective recipes for specific tips and tricks). For white/wheat, place loaves into greased bread pans. For French, place loaves onto baking pan. (You will find dozens of directions on how to shape bread…just use what works for you. There is no “magic” way.)
9. After second rise, pop into hot oven. Trick to know: if you want a thick, crusty loaf, pre-heat a small loaf pan to the side in the oven. When you pop the bread in the oven, dump 2-3 cups of ice cubes into pre-heated steam pan. While normally used for French bread, my husband likes this with the white bread too.
10. After bread is done (it should sound hollow when you tap it): for French bread, remove from baking pan and place on cooling rack. For wheat and white bread, allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes after removing from oven. Then flip out loaves and allow them to cool.
(It should be said that you MUST eat some while the bread is still warm…it is the best bread you’ll ever eat.)