How to start making your own bread
Baking bread at home is simple, comforting and budget-friendly. It requires little more than flour and water to do, makes your home smell fantastic and tastes incredibly fresh out of the oven. You’ll question how you ever settled for store-bought bread.
There are numerous benefits to baking bread at home. Some enjoy the self-sufficiency and cost-effectiveness of baking. Others find baking meditative. And some people bake as a creative outlet.
Baking bread is easy and shouldn’t be intimidating, but when a freshly baked loaf of bread is a flop, while it isn’t a substantial financial loss, it’s a disappointment nonetheless. To avoid the frustration of your bread experimentation going south, familiarize yourself with the essential tools and techniques of bread baking to master this heirloom skill right away.
What should I know before I make bread from scratch?
Making bread is a simple process of which anyone is capable, and freshly baked bread is a simple pleasure, both for its incredible smell and taste and for knowing that your loaf of bread will be free from any preservatives or additives.
The fundamental steps of making bread
The standard process of making bread is creating a mixture of flour, yeast and water, allowing the yeast to work its magic. Knead the mixture, allowing it to rise, then shaping it, allowing it to rise a bit longer and finally baking it in the oven until it hardens.
There are two steps to baking bread that may take you a little while to master.
The first is knowing how long to knead your dough. The under-kneaded dough won’t develop enough gluten to have a proper structure and rise correctly to create a light and airy texture, which means your bread will be undesirably dense. To prevent this, ensure that you’re kneading the dough for as long as the recipe recommends.
The second thing that can be difficult to get right at first is shaping your loaves. This will come with practice. If your bread loaves don’t look perfect the first time, don’t worry. Misshapen loaves are still absolutely delicious.
How can I tell if I’m using enough flour?
It’s crucial to look out for overly wet or overly floury dough. The amount of flour in any bread recipe is a guideline that is helpful to keep in mind. You should always incorporate the flour into your dough slowly and use your best judgment about whether the dough needs more flour or water.
The right consistency for the dough is smooth, only slightly tacky and not sticky. To check whether your dough is the right consistency, pull a tiny piece of dough off and roll it into a ball in your hands. If it’s too sticky, add more flour. If the dough is too dry to shape, add a pinch of water.
Can you use all-purpose flour to make bread?
All-purpose flour is well-suited for baking bread, and it’s also one of the most economical ways to bake bread if you don’t do it often. You likely already have all-purpose flour on hand for baking many things like cookies, pizza dough and brownies, so using your all-purpose flour to make bread doesn’t require an extra trip to the store or any extra cabinet space.
You can also use bread flour to make homemade bread, although it isn’t necessary. Bread flour contains a higher concentration of gluten, which is often better for baking bread. If you use bread flour, follow a recipe that specifically calls for it, as bread flour will require more water and less kneading.
Easy bread recipe
Follow the recipe below to bake an easy white French bread loaf.
- 2 ½ teaspoons (or one packet) yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 splash red wine vinegar
- Approximately 2½ cups flour
- Olive oil
- Chunky Sea salt for finish
- 3 tablespoons butter
1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar in warm water. Let sit for 5 minutes.
2. Add 1 cup of flour and mix vigorously.
3. After the dough gets elastic (a few minutes), add 1 teaspoon salt, 1 splash red wine vinegar and 1½ or 2 cups flour, in 4 installments, incorporating completely between installments. When bread gets stiff, knead with your hands.
4. Knead on a floured surface for 8-10 minutes.
5. Place in a second, lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled, approximately 1½ hours.
6. Punch down and turn on a lightly oiled surface.
7. Divide into halves and form two loaves. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal.
8. Place on a large baking sheet to rise. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap.
9. Let rise until doubled, approximately 45 minutes.
10. When nearly risen, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
11. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter over the risen loaves. Sprinkle each loaf with chunky sea salt.
12. When the oven reaches 450 degrees, toss a tablespoon of water into the oven to create steam. Quickly put the bread in the oven.
13. Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until slightly brown and thumpy.
14. As soon as you remove your bread from the oven, place each loaf onto a wire cooling rack to avoid a soggy crust.
What do I need to make bread at home?
Baking stones are a good investment for people who want to make their bread regularly. Baking stones generate and evenly spread out a high amount of heat, making your bread bake perfectly every time. Baking stones are great for pizza as well.
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Measuring flour, salt, sugar and baking soda by volume (using measuring cups) is good enough, but if you want to take your bread baking skills to the next level, start using a digital scale to weigh your ingredients. This will ensure consistency and allow you to get an exact measurement every time.
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If you don’t feel like baking bread by hand but still want fresh, delicious and wholesome bread freshly baked at home, a bread machine is an efficient investment. This bread machine gets you a fluffy loaf every time, does all the kneading for you, and takes as little as 1½ hours from start to finish.
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Evelyn Waugh writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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