Basic Bread Recipe

September 30, 2008 80 Comments

How to Make Bread

How to Make Bread at Home

Baking homemade bread can be challenging to even the most experienced home cooks. It’s not like making a stew or grilling up a steak. There is a lot of technique involved and lots of ways to mess up. Below is a recipe for making a basic 4-ingredient bread with step-by-step instructions that should take most of the mystery out of bread making.

If you want to learn even more about the art of great bread making, check out my web site for my article on How To Make Bread. It goes in depth on ingredients, equipment, bread making techniques including mixing and kneading dough. It’s a great primer for anyone interested learning how to make bread at home.

Basic Bread Recipe

Prep Time: 2 hours, 50 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours

Yield: 1 loaf

Basic Bread Recipe

Ingredients

3/4 oz. active dried yeast

Heavy pinch of sweetener consisting of sugar, spoonful of honey or dark corn syrup (just to kick-start the yeast)

2 cups warm water (about 115 degrees, F, is good)

2 pounds (approximately) bread flour

1 tablespoon salt

A little extra flour for dusting

How To Prepare At Home

Mix the sweetener with the warm water until dissolved. Add the yeast, and stir again, until dissolved.

Combine the salt with most of the flour - leave out about 6 ounces or so. In the bowl of a large capacity heavy duty stand mixer (or in a bowl or even on the table for you purists), mix the water into 1 pound of the salted flour until well combined. Mix well to start incorporating air. This step will assist in the final rise you will get. Add the rest of the salted flour, and mix again until the flour is incorporated.

At this point, turn out the dough if you're doing it by hand. Knead in as much of the remaining flour as is necessary to achieve a smooth, non-sticky, not to wet or dry dough. Knead by hand or with the dough hook until the dough is very smooth and elastic and passes the windowpane test.

Fermentation Stage

Shape your dough into a smooth ball and let it rest, covered, in a warm place in a greased bowl until it has doubled in bulk. (Turn the dough in the bowl so all sides are greased, and let it rise smooth side up). When you poke your finger into the side of the dough and the dough doesn't spring back at all, you'll know you're there.

How long it will take depends on the temperature of the room, the temperature of the dough, the barometric pressure outside - lots of factors. A reasonable rule of thumb is give or take about 1 1/2 hours. You can do this step on the countertop or in any draft-free place. On top of the fridge is good, since heat rises, it's probably a little warmer up there.

I've also done this step in a cold oven with the oven light on. Remember, though, the longer you can draw this out, the better the bread will be. If you have the time, a longer time at a cooler temperature is fantastic, say 3 hours at 68 degrees F.

Benching Stage

Now, roll the dough out of the bowl onto a surface very lightly dusted with flour and press out all the gasses. Now, decide whether you are making one jumbo loaf, two loaves (either in pans or just rounds) or rolls. Divide the dough accordingly, or leave it in one piece. Form each piece (again, it's up to you how many) into a round, cover with a clean, lint free towel or even some plastic wrap, and let rest for a few minutes.

Shaping Stage

Next, shape each piece however you want. If you are making a round loaf, round your dough on the table. You've probably seen bakers do this on TV and this is how to do it: take your ball of dough and place it on the table in front of you. Cup your hands around the dough on either side of the dough ball, with the pinky side of your hands touching the table. Without lifting your hands, begin to firmly push the ball in circles on the table.

You can do this slowly or quickly. The end result will be the same, although you will get faster with practice. The friction between the bottom of the dough and the table should cause your dough ball to smooth and tighten. This will allow for a more even rise and a prettier loaf. If you're not getting any traction on the table, smear a bit of water on the table - just enough to make it a little damp, but not wet.

If you're making a pan loaf, press out your dough and stretch it into a rough rectangle whose long sides are as long as your pan. Roll the dough up fairly tightly jelly-roll style, tuck the end under and place they cylinder of dough, seam side down, into your pan. Shape your rolls however you want.

Proofing Stage

Put your rolls or loaves on or in whatever you'll use to bake them - baking stone, cookie sheet, loaf pan. Cover them with a clean, lint free towel or a piece of plastic wrap and let them double again. Since the yeast have been happily multiplying in your dough all this time, it will take about half the time it took during the fermentation period.

Preheat your oven during the proofing time to 375 degrees, F.

Ready to Bake

When you're ready to bake, if you want to, you can slash the tops of your loaves with a very sharp knife. This is generally done for appearances, although it can boost the final rise in the oven (oven spring - the impressive rise you get during the first few minutes in the oven, before the crust sets), and help to keep the crust from stretching and tearing in the oven.

Your bread is done when it is a lovely golden brown color, when it sounds hollow when you tap it on the bottom, and when the internal temperature has reached 200-210 degrees, F. This could take as little as 10-15 minutes for small rolls and upwards of half an hour for large loaves. When you can smell the bread and it is starting to look done, start checking.

Once the bread is out of the oven, let it cool on a rack - if you have panned the bread, take it out of the pan to avoid having a soggy loaf. Cool to room temperature, then store in a paper bag at room temperature. Since this bread contains no preservatives, keeping it around for more than a day can be an issue. If you know you won't plow through all of it in a day, slice the loaves once they are cool, and store them in freezer bags in the freezer. That way, you can pop out a piece or two to make a sandwich. It defrosts in no time.

Be sure to check out my web site for How To Make Bread.

Last modified on Sun 8 December 2013 8:16 pm

Comments (80)

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  1. Deb says:

    I haven’t baked bread in many years and this is just the push I need to get going again! My husband wants whole wheat/grains – so I will have to investigate how to do that, but this is a good start – thanks!!

  2. Ginger says:

    Thank you for posting this! I love to make bread, and my husband just expressed interest in learning to make it as well, You read that right, MY HUSBAND! Your instructions are so simple and I know, being a women I complicate things. I’ll be the first to admit it. Thanks again!!
    Awapuhi

  3. Think MPS says:

    What a sense of timing! I just made my first bread last night (baguettes! corn bread and failed irish soda bread notwishstanding) and though it turned out well I was wishing I could find something to read a little more about how to do this.

    Can’t wait to try again!

  4. Jack says:

    I (a husband) have made bread for many years, after my wife developed “tennis elbow” from kneading the dough. She made both whole wheat and white bread for our family that included four children.
    Now, with the empty nest, I still make bread manually, but often will use a bread machine to prepare the dough but bake it in an oven in a regular loaf pan to eliminate the hole(s) that the machine makes.

    I can supply a recipe for whole wheat bread if anyone wishes it. It is just as simple as the RG’s basic loaf, but with a few added ingredients.
    e-mail me at: j poulter at islandnet dot com. (remove the spaces to send)

    Old Jack.

  5. Lowell says:

    This is exactly how we made Italian bread in the bakery I worked at over 25 years ago. The recipe makes a wonderful bread that’s a little dense in the center and wonderfully crusty on the outside.

    For much of my breadmaking, I use a bread machine. I run the dough through the second rising and then remove it to rest once more before molding it by hand. Then I pan it and let it rise once more, or I mold it and let it rise on a pizza peal with cornmeal on it. Bake it in the oven and you get a wonderful loaf with much less hassle than mixing by hand. I also have the benefit of setting the timer to mix it for first thing in the morning baking.

  6. Mark P says:

    Till I got your news letter I didn’t think anyone could be intimidated by making bread. I’ve been doing it since I was 10. I am so glad someone is out here giving people a nudge towards making “the staff of life” at home. THe varieties are endless and even “failed’ experiments can be delicious!

  7. Lim says:

    when compare the bread to those from supermarket, I notice that homemake bread have lot of crumb when slicing. Can you please explain why. T.Q.

  8. RG says:

    Deb asked about whole grain breads and for the most part, it’s simple substitution. The only tricky part will be the amount of water needed to get a good consistency.

    As far as I’m concerned, the sky’s the limit when it comes to flours/whole grain additions.

    Two caveats: if you’re going to add something like wheat berries, wheat bran, oatmeal or other hard, dry ingredients, mix everything up as a sponge first (all the ingredients, but only 1/3 to 1/2 of the flour) and let it ferment away for a couple of hours. That will give those ingredients time to soften up and hydrate, minimizing the chance that those pointy bran pieces will cut through the lovely gluten strands.

    Caveat 2: when substituting for other flours besides wheat-based flours (oat, rye, corn, etc), only substitute for up to 50% of the total weight of the flour. Otherwise, your loaf will be pretty dense since the highest concentrations of gluten are found in wheat flours.

    Be sure to check out Bread Ingredients and How They Effect The Final Outcome at
    http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/bread_making_ingredients.htm

  9. giz says:

    Such a great post and at a good time – we had a bread disaster today and couldn’t figure out what went wrong. I do think I know now.

  10. Kagetora says:

    Does any know the recipe for making bread in a rice cooker i cant find it any were and i misplaced my recipe for it. if any one knows how to make it or where to find the recipe please post.
    Thanks in advance. Kagetora

  11. Nancy says:

    My problem making bread is the final step, it doesn’t seem to rise in the pans and are somewhat flat.
    A lot of improvement since my first loaf many years ago though. At least now it’s edible.

    To Deb: One of our personal favourites is spent grain bread. My husband makes beer from scratch and I use the grains and each bread is different because of the “spent grains.”
    Type in Spent Grain Bread on the web and you’ll find recipes.
    Some are heavier than others and I only toast this bread.

    I have made it for friends and get a lot of compliments on it, even though it’s funny shaped (flat) and didn’t rise enough.

  12. Robert says:

    Darn!! I was looking forward to making bread but it would be useless to me unless I knew about putting in preservatives since my wife and I would probably be the only ones eating it and we really don’t eat that much bread in one day. Can you help me concerning the preservatives?

  13. RG says:

    Hi Robert, I have no idea what preservatives you can add. I leave that up to the Wonder Bread people but I will see if one of my chef friends have an answer for you.

  14. Agnes says:

    Hi friends, I am interested to bake breads, however, I do have a problem. I am living in Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia and I find it difficult to buy Bread Flour. Please advise whether I can substitute it with other type of flours.

  15. Sheri says:

    re flour: Agnes
    I live in the Middle East and usually just end up using regular plain flour. The loaf is heavy but good. You could try going to a bakery and asking them to buy flour, which I have done at the large grocery stores here. Good luck.

  16. RG says:

    Thanks Sheri for your helpful response.

  17. Amanda Lentz says:

    I was very reluctant to make bread at first. I learned how to cook and bake almost everything else i wanted to before even attempting bread. However this recipe makes bread making as easy as can be. Thank you for the in depth instructions on the techniques and also the problems that can occur while making bread. This recipe and the explanation was vital to making my first loaf. Thank you again!!

    You are very welcome Amanda. Thanks for writing. – RG

  18. Phil DePalma says:

    I have attempted many time to make homemade Italian bread and the inside always comes out off white and dense. How do I get the inside milk white ??

    Hi Phil, two questions – What type of flour are you using and what type of Italian bread are you using as your benchmark for “milk white?” – RG

  19. Rachel says:

    I too am curious why homemade bread is always so crumbly. It’s delicious, but it’s not the same as storebought (in a good way, except that the crumbs are frustrating). Is it the preservatives in the store-bought bread?

  20. Jenni says:

    Hi, Rachel:) Your “crumbly” problem probably does have a lot to do with the crazy ingredients used in store-bought, mass-produced bread. Some breads don’t even actually rise conventionally–even though they have some yeast in them, time is money, so the manufacturers have figured out a way to make bread rise very quickly by whipping in a bunch of air. That’s why lots of store-bread, esp. your generic white sandwich bread, is so “squishy.”

    Homemade bread stales pretty quickly, since it doesn’t contain preservatives. That can contribute to the crumbliness. When I make bread for sandwiches, I go ahead and slice it after it cools. Then, I wrap it well and put it in the freezer. When it’s sandwich time, I just take out what I need. That way, the bread stays as fresh and un-crumbly as possible.

    Breads that contain some milk, butter, and/or eggs tend to be less crumbly than lean breads that contain only flour, salt, yeast and water. If you’re wanting to make a non-crumbly sandwich bread, make one that contains some fat–that will help.

    If your bread starts out crumbly, it might be that you’re not using enough water (or conversely, you’re using too much flour). If you have a tendency to keep adding flour to prevent the dough from being sticky, just stop it. :) Know that having the dough a little too sticky is much better than having the dough too dry. If the dough isn’t wet enough, it won’t rise well and will end up heavy and crumbly. If you knead by hand, rub your hands with a little oil. It’ll keep the dough from sticking to them and help you resist the urge to add too much flour.

    You might need a bench scraper to help you knead, but your bread will be better because it’ll be lighter and be able to rise to its fullest potential.

    That was a very long answer–I hope it helps:)

    As always Jenni, thanks for a great response. Be sure to check out Jenni’s Baking Site called Pastry Chef Online. – RG

  21. Mcgalliard says:

    Hey I really liked the info you had today. Thanks for having a really great site.

    You are welcome – RG

  22. John Hutchison says:

    This is really good basic information for baking bread. I printed it off and will try it tonight. Nice web site. Thanks

    Hi John, you are welcome. – RG

  23. mrs adams says:

    Thank you so much! I tried making a loaf of bread the other night. I failed miserably. This seems so simple. I’m going to try it right away!

    Great Mrs Adams. Let us know -RG

  24. Kimberley says:

    Thanks for making it simple enough that non-chefs can attempt it. I’ve got white bread down, but my husband wants sourdough. His mother kept a starter in the fridge at all times and fed it potato flakes. Can I just use a mix or something, keeping a starter alive sounds like a lot of work.?
    Thanks again for the simple real-life instructions.

    You are welcome Kimberley and I wild as Pastry Chef Jenni to answer your question about the mix. – RG

  25. Peter says:

    My daughter is allergic to all preservatives so this bread is perfect for her. My problem is that it seems so heavy. How can I make it “lighter”. I assume that what I really need to do is to get the bread to rise more and from the comments above it would appear that it needs more water. Am I correct or should I be increasing the yeast content?

  26. Jenni says:

    To make a loaf lighter in texture, I’d definitely use more water. I always err on the side of a dough that is a little bit too slack (wet) rather than one that is too dry.

    The wetter your dough, the more room the gases from the yeast have to expand and get caught in the gluten. And that means a lighter-textured bread.

    Great question, Peter, and I hope my answer helps.

  27. joseph says:

    hmmmmmmm i really need it as a profession, but don’t have idea on how to start, but lucky enough i come across this site and being explain on how to go about baking. Am happy and will like you guys to keep posting me on how to make so many things at home for breakfast for my parent, brothers and loved once.

  28. Rene says:

    I have a fairly simple bread recipe that I have had great success with two times in a row. Today however, I mixed it up exactly the same as before, and it was so runny! Only slightly thicker than pancake batter! I thought I had to have mis-measured somewhere, so I trashed the batch and redid it. It happened again! The only thing that was different was the type of flour I used. I used a ‘Seal of Michagan’s flour previously and a ‘New Rinkel’ flour today. Could the change in flour create THAT much of a difference? Please help if you can! Thanks

    Hi Rene, good question and I do not have an answer but will ask my friend Chef Jenni who is a professional baker and pastry chef to give you a response. – RG

  29. Jenni says:

    I’m not familiar w/these brands of flour, but the flour can absolutely make that much difference. If the recipe calls for a higher-protein flour and you use a lower protein flour, you could indeed end up w/soup.

    Another thing that could make a difference is the humidity–both in the air and in the flour. If the flour and the air are already damp-ish, the flour won’t accept as much liquid, and you’ll end up w/soup.

    The trick is in knowing which is the issue. If it’s a matter of humidity, you can actually go ahead and pour your “dough” into a pan, let it rise and then bake as usual. You’ll end up w/a bread with a much more open, lacy crumb, but it will be fine otherwise. Just know that you won’t want to use it for sandwiches, unless you want all your peanut butter and jelly to leak out through the holes!

    If you’ve used a cake flour or lower-protein all purpose flour in place of a higher protein (gluten) bread flour or even higher protein all purpose flour, you’ll most likely want to start again. Lower protein flours don’t develop as much gluten, so there won’t be as much of a gluten “net” to “catch” all the air bubbles being produced by the yeast and you’ll end up with a dense, flat loaf.

    Thanks Jenni, great insight. Anyone interested in learning more about baking tips and pastry making techniques visit Jenni’s blog, Pastry Methods and Techniques. – RG

  30. derek says:

    I haven’t been making bread long, but even following recipes to the letter, my bread always turns out dense and heavy. please help.

    Hi Derek, thanks for writing. It’s difficult to analyze what’s going on with your bread without seeing the recipe you are following. If you send it to me via email, I’ll ask one of my baking chef friends for some suggestions. – RG

  31. Norma says:

    While we have been in Florida, my husband and i can’t find a good crusty Italian bread, i have resigned myself to making my own,but it comes out heavy and course,this has helped me to discover what i have been doing wrong.

    Hey Norma, that’s great and thanks for letting me know. – RG

  32. FS says:

    I tried making this bread with flour and it turned out pretty well. But when I try the same with whole wheat, my bread was dense and kinda sticky. Can anyone please tell me why and how can I make whole wheat bread better?

    Thanks!

  33. Jenni says:

    Very good question, FS. If using 100% whole wheat flour, know that it does not contain as much gluten as bread flour. That’s because, ounce for ounce, some of the mass in the WW flour is taken up with wheat germ and bran that are not present in bread flour. To allow for this, I always bake w/50% bread flour and 50% WW to get a nice balance between rise and nutrition. You can, of course, use all WW flour, as long as you don’t mind a denser bread and a stickier dough. You didn’t do anything wrong; it’s just the nature of the flour.

  34. alison says:

    Guys, Please check your web settings. I just clicked ‘print recipe’, which has the printer friendly logo, and it printed all the comments (many pages) as well. Please separate the two. Such a waste of paper!

    Hi Alison, thanks for pointing that out. Not sure how to separate them out but I am working on a total revamp of the site and blog and will try to incorporate that into the settings. – RG

  35. Bill says:

    Thanks so much for this informative article about making bread. I’ve read lots of bread articles and recipes but this has been the most helpful of them all. Especial helpful was finding out that hard winter wheat is higher in protein and that having enough water is important in helping bread to rise. Thanks, Bill

    You are very welcome Bill. Thanks for sharing. – RG

  36. Bill says:

    Your recipe calls for 2 pounds of flour, can you give me an approximation of how many cups that is? Thanks, Bill

    Hi Bil, good question. I ask Pastry Chef Jenni to respond. – RG

  37. Jenni says:

    I really dislike volumetric measures for flour because it is such a fine particulate and it compacts so much. As a result, a cup of flour can weigh anywhere from 3.5-5.5 ounces!

    Given that, I’d say you’re looking at roughly 8 cups (for general baking purposes, I weigh my flour at 4-4.5 oz per cup).

    Thanks Jenni – RG

  38. Dave says:

    Is it possible to freeze the dough before cooking? I am trying to make bread first time ever, wish me (roofer) good luck!

    Hey Dave, this being a baking question, I asked my friend chef Jenni to respond. Here’s what she explained to me –

    Dave, you can absolutely freeze bread dough before baking, but you will want to remember two things:
    1) Start with a bit more yeast than the recipe calls for (maybe 25% more), since most likely some of the yeast won’t survive freezing.
    2) Make sure you give the dough time to come to room temperature and then rise before baking.

    Another thing you can try is to bake your bread/rolls/what-have-you until completely risen and set, but not browned at all. You can then remove it/them from the oven, cool completely, wrap well and freeze. If you’ve done this with rolls, you can just pop them back in a 375 degrees F oven straight from the freezer and bake until browned. With a large loaf, thaw first and then finish baking.

  39. Mr green says:

    I am 22 years old and have seen my grandmother make fresh bread years ago and never thought I would be up to her standard since I have barely any cooking experience . I have made pizza bases before that failed but me and my girlfriend have just tried this recipe and it seems to have gone really well. thank you very much for your guide. my girlfriend is really impressed now and I will definitely try this again at some point and can’t wait to show my gran I think she will be shocked.

    Sounds good, Mr Green – RG

  40. Bleu says:

    Great site! Great tips too! I have been trying to make bread and they all turn up heavy. I used my Kenwood to knead for 10 minutes and even hand knead another 10 minutes, but I can never achieve the window pane result.

    How long does hand kneading takes to achieve window pane results?

    Hi Bleu, I asked Pastry Chef Jenni for an answer and here is what she said,
    “The short answer is that they are probably using too much flour/not enough water (classic beginner mistake–I made it plenty of times myself). Once they have the proper balance of water to flour, it could take 7-10 minutes to achieve a good windowpane.”

    Also, be sure to read my post on Bread Making here

  41. Pat Healey says:

    In the news today, people being warned off eating bread because of the high salt content used. Luckily I do not buy bread anymore because of bloating and certainly will not buy it anymore because of the high salt. Your recipe also suggest 1 TBLS salt – that is surely a lot isnt it? I would try to make my own bread but I would not put any salt in it.

    P

  42. Dave says:

    Thanks – I just baked bread tonight for the first time and it turned out great! The outside was quite hard, but I think maybe I cooked it a bit hot? Great directions and great recipe!

    Hi Dave, glad it worked out for you. – RG

  43. Francis says:

    Just looking for how to make bread on the net i found your site. So far I’ve downloaded it and I believe it will help me at the end.
    Thank you.

    Francis.
    Nigeria

  44. Tony says:

    I have never made bread before and would like to try it.Can I mix the ingredients in a pasta maker?

  45. Nina says:

    Hi there, great post. I too find baking bread daunting but am starting a new project and this seems perfect. In regards to using higher protein flour, can I combine protein powder like those in health food stores to regular flour to get the same effect, or is the protein in bread flour a different type/inherently incorporated in the flour structure?

  46. Jenni says:

    Good question, Nina! The protein in protein powder is usually soy or milk-based and is very different from the protein in wheat flour, so, while I guess you could add some just to increase the general protein in your recipe, it won’t help with the structure of your bread. The good news is that most all purpose flour should be adequate for baking. King Arthur makes a very good all purpose flour.

    Try not to be too daunted by bread making. People have been doing it for literally thousands of years. Put yeast together with flour and water, and you’ll get a dough that will rise. The rest is just details. Try and have fun with it:)

  47. Malva says:

    When I attempt to bake a basic loaf of white bread, the crust comes out to thick and too hard, please tell me what I am doing wrong. Thanks Malva.

  48. laurie says:

    how long does the yeast sit in the warm water and sugar before it is ready to add to the recipe.

  49. Gregg says:

    Flashback: Last year, while deciding where to live and making my first visit home in years, my sister was generous enough to give me her Industrial Grade T-90 Xclass Dough Mixer with multiple affixations for various unknown purposes in the event of an Alien Invasion. I said thank you, and headed home.

    My wife has since used the wondrous device to make dough for sundry Chinese dumplings and dishes. I knew how to set it up, lock the hubs, insert the gizmo, counter-sink the doddads and plug it in. She provided the baking knowledge. Since then, we’ve eaten well.

    I have on occassion been inspired by the desire to eat fresh bread. I made some in Korea — a solid brick of anti-matter resulted. None the less, I blessed my product with butter and gnawed away until I could stand no more. I would not make bread again until several months ago, when I bought a box of Krusteez Eazy Breezy Simpleton’s Mix, and it tasted exactly as predicted. But I still longed for REAL bread…the kind King Arthur might rip apart, the kind Fairy Tales mentioned, the kind that would soon be coming to our neighborhood down the street in the form of Prenza Bakery, or some such. I yearned for the bite of wild yeast melting in my gullet.

    So, tonight I ventured into the realm of Bakery again. I had purchased two 2 lb bags of pastry flour on a whim two weeks ago. Today, I went shopping and I picked up some yeast, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Basic bread I thought. Only this time, IT WOULD BE HUGE!

    I opened the bag, poured the full amount into the Stainless Steel maw of the mixing bowl. I added the full tablespoon of salt. I tested the hyperdrive just to be sure the force field would withstand the massive pressures soon to come. All was well…a gentle hum assured me so.

    Now for the yeast. Again, a tablespoon full, sprinkled into a warm bowl of two cups water with a mix of clover honey to entice the little beasts to breed. I covered it and waited. (This is still the most exciting part of baking I can think of…things actually grow in front of your eyes…like sea monkeys.) Ten minutes later I checked the frothy brothy brew and the scent of ambrosia — nay, pure mead! — filled my passages. I was tempted to drink a cup of it then and there…oh, the aroma!!! Imagine sunshine dripping melted rainbows in your nose! This bread would be flakier than I!

    So, now for the real test…how well will my version of the Hadron Kolliderscope work? I turned on the machine, set the rotation to minimum as the bowl was rather full already…2 lbs is pretty much the max capacity for this baby. I began to pour the 2 cups of ambrosia into the mix. I swear I could hear little yelps of joy as the yeasty beasties leaped to their fate. Soon, however, the yeast mixture was gone. I kept my hands near the edge, but at an OSHA respectable distance from any moving parts, and used my palms to force the rising mixture back into the bowl. Not fast enough though. Within a few minutes there was mixture, semi crusty stuff the consistancy of saw dust, rising all around. I held my own against this incursion for the better part of 10 minutes, expecting at any time a blob of gloop to be visible, but no such thing occurred.

    I shut down the reactor, raised the bridge, dusted the excess off the mantle, and noticed that NOTHING had clung to the mixing hook? Where could it be? I grabbed a fork, gently submerged the tool into the void, and still nothing! My dough had taken a wormhole exit, hitched a ride on a rogue Higgs-Boson particle, did a Houdini! It wasn’t there!

    So, I pulled it all apart, swept a clean area on the counter and dumped the sawdust remains into a pile. It was, I must say, very well mixed into a uniform consistancy…just no dough. Maybe all it needed was more water. So, I made a little volcano, filled the mouth with another cup of warm water again, and started the old fashioned mixing method I learned in ceramics class back in Your County Community College. I got a wad of something stuck together about the size of a softball. Clearly I underestimated the tenacious resistance this new state of matter had to becoming a solid. More Water!!

    Four and 1/2 cups later….I finally had a single bolus of something that looked wheaty, but also still like sawdust, sitting in the mixing bowl. It is about the size of a football, Official NFL issue. The plug now sits hidden by a large napkin, on the back counter of the kitchen…waiting for me who waits for it to grow into something consumable. I think I will have to remove a few racks in the oven when it comes time to bake.

    Oh, and I’d better buy a few more quart sized butter tubs….

    Hope to still be here when morning comes. If not, follow the dusty trail of my nemesis….

  50. Neeraja says:

    Dear RG,
    Thank you very much for the interesting and useful information about the bread making. For the first time in my life , I shall try makin it with confidence. I shall definitely let you know about the outcome.
    Thanks once again.
    Neeraja

  51. Jenni says:

    @Malva–It sounds like you might be baking the bread too long or at too high a temperature. To get a thinner, softer crust, try brushing the top of the loaf with either milk or melted butter before baking. Hope that helps.

    @Laurie–the whole point of putting the yeast and a little sugar into the water is to make sure–to prove–that the yeast is alive and kicking. That’s why it’s called proofing! :) So, once you see activity–a creamy, foaminess on top of the water, you can go ahead and add your yeast/water/sugar mixture.

  52. old rat says:

    How does altitude affect rising? I live at 6500 feet..I have to add more flour to cakes, as well as having a cup of water in oven for breads..my bread adventures have ended up with heavy thick crusts. Perhaps I’ve added too much flour? Also, do I have to keep yeast at warm temp continuously? My yeasts have not bloomed well. Any suggestions? Thanks for a wonderful well written site.

  53. Alex says:

    Hi, great site. My wife and I have been baking bread for about a year now and love it. We use a dutch oven to bake the bread (heat it up to 450f for a halfhour before adding the dough). Does anyone have thoughts on benefits/differences when baking in a dutch oven vs on a sheet? We find it comes out great but so we haven’t strayed.

  54. Colleen says:

    HELP! I am a pretty good cook, I would say more than average. I usually make recepies of my own, send them to several people, not afraid to try something new. BUT=I cannot make bread turn out! I read this entire blog and all the comments and hints before I started. This morning I tried it. I have’t baked it yet. Here’s what happened. I followed everything to a “T” and used my highspeed mixmaster with the dough attachment. The bread dough just crumbled, it never stuck together. It did when I did the first pound, I got up to one cup shy of 2 pounds and it just would not stick. I took it out of the mix master and kneeded it for a good hour, still never turned elastic nor did it form together entirely. I put it in a bowl to rise. I did rise double in size, but resembled a “brain”. I punched it back down and tried to get a smooth roll but it never turned smooth. Still trying to make it rise again. I am sure when I cook it it will be heavy as a brick. All you people out there, tell me what in the heck I am doing wrong. I am going to master this!!!!

  55. mr. chow says:

    thank you for this great post!

  56. mr. chow says:

    my bread id srumdidlyumptious! this is all thanks to u?

  57. Colleen says:

    never got any replies why I so miserably failed!

    Hi Colleen, I’m so sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner. I did see your email but I have been very busy since my dad passed last week. I get many emails and posts and I will try to get to yours as soon as I can. Thanks, RG

  58. Jenni says:

    Colleen, I’m thinking that you added too much flour. Sometimes my bread needs more flour and sometimes less flour, depending on humidity and a bunch of other factors. That’s why I hesitate to write real amounts for bread recipes. You will learn–as I did, although it was a long and painful road!–that the dough has enough flour/water in it when it, well, looks and acts like dough. If it’s crumbly, you can add more water until it smooths out. If it’s too wet, add flour until it starts behaving like a proper dough. And, if you are ever concerned that you *might* not have enough flour in your dough, always err on the side of a slightly wetter dough. Wetter (or just stickier) doughs rise higher since the carbon dioxide let off by the yeast has more room to expand in a wetter dough. It just takes practice; you will get it. I hope this helps:)

  59. Jenni says:

    Alex,

    Personally, I say if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! I’ve never baked in a covered container of any kind, but I know that many of the no-knead doughs are baked this way. I think that the benefit might be that the liquid that evaporates during the last oven spring and baking process gets trapped by the lid and then lightly coats the surface of the dough. This leads to a nice, crackly crust. If you like your crust, keep doing what you’re doing. If you’d like to try baking on a sheet (with a dough that will hold its shape–lots of those bake-in-a-Dutch-oven breads are made with a very wet dough that will spread if not contained in a vessel), you can achieve the same kind of effect by brushing the dough with water or by placing a pan with a few ice cubes in it on the very bottom of the oven. The cubes will melt and the water will condense on the dough, giving you a Dutch oven crust. For a softer crust, brush with milk or butter. For a shiny crust, brush the dough with egg white. For a deeper color and shine, brush with a beaten whole egg. For added flavor in the crust, you can also brush with well-salted water. Hope this helps.

  60. Carol K. says:

    I have been making bread for about 3 yrs. now. Mostly no problems at all. Every once in awhile, when the bread is baking, the top/side will start to lift off and separate from the rest. It has happened in both bread pans and in baguette pans. Can’t figure out why this happens on occasion.

  61. Sally says:

    I’ve heard about warming the flour before mixing with the other ingredients. Do you think this really helps? Also, does using an instant type of dry yeast powder that goes straight into the mix compare well to the frothing kind. Really enjoyed reading this site and all the comments.

  62. Hope says:

    this is my first attempt making bread ^.^ you made it so much more simple than i had thought it would be, i have a bread maker, but i got it from a thrift store and i think there are pieces missing. anyway, this was so simple!!!

  63. Jenni says:

    Hi, Sally. I think warming the flour might be useful in very cold weather, since the flour is the predominant ingredient, it can affect the temperature of your water. Adding a bunch of cold flour on top of water/yeast at 120F (for example) can lower the temperature enough to affect your rise time. The good part of that is that the slower the rise, usually the more flavor the bread. But, if you have only a certain amount of time to do your baking, warming the flour might not be a bad idea.

    Since I prefer a slow rise, I almost never proof my yeast anymore. I just add it–dry–to the mix. I do know that so-called instant yeast is processed to allow it to “do its thing” in a shorter amount of time and to allow you to skip the proofing step. But again, shorter rise equals less flavor, relatively speaking. So, I vote that if you have the time, use the old fashioned yeast and just add it to the mix (as long as you know that it’s “good). If you don’t have the time, even bread made w/instant yeast is going to be better than mass-produced bread, so go w/the instant.

    @Hope–I am so happy it turned out for you!! We don’t need no stinkin’ bread machine! ;) lol

  64. Jenni says:

    Oh, and @Carol K–this could happen because you didn’t adequately/evenly press out all the gases before your final rise. What’ll happen, as you’ve found out, is that, in the oven, all those gases will rise and shove your crust away from your bread, leaving you with a lovely pocket underneath the top crust. So, just be sure to a)press out all the gases evenly before the final rise and b)make sure you don’t overproof, because this can lead to extra gases trying to burst out in the oven. Hope that helps.

  65. Lee says:

    Thanks for the great info. I’ve made bread for 25 years, off and on. My bread of late has been has been good, but not great. It looks like I’m not letting it rest and maybe not kneading long enough. Looking forward to making many more good loaves!
    Fairbanks, AK

  66. Emmanuel,from Nigeria says:

    Thanks for this tip,it was quite helpful.

  67. j says:

    I made this last night (I halved the recipe though), and it was amazing!!

  68. Omar says:

    Tube pans usually have caps that fit on the ends. To use it:Grease the indsie like you would any bread pan. Put on one end cap. Mold your dough into a tube shape about 1/2 the size of the tube and slip it indsie. Put on the other cap. Let the dough rise until it nearly fills the tube and then bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until the bread is evenly browned.If you do not have the end caps, stand the tube on a tray, fill half full of dough and allow it to rise until the dough is nearlt to the top. Baking is the same.You can also use the tube for steamed breads such as Boston Brown Bread.I would be concerned about glass but if it does break, just throw it all away including the bread. Any kind of glass should be pretty safe at baking temperatures.The reason for the tube is to shape the bread loaf for fancier sandwiches. Bread tubes come in many shaped including diamonds, hearts, clubs and spades as well as many simple animal shapes. Have fun!

  69. Margaret says:

    I’ve finally had some bread making success. Thanks for a wonderful site.
    I have found that parchment paper works better on my final loaf proof as the cloth cover stuck and made the loaf fall before putting it into the oven.
    Maybe my dough was too sticky.
    But the parch paper works great for it.

  70. kerry says:

    nice post i love fresh bread!!!

  71. Phil Keenan says:

    Great post. I am new to bread baking and interested in sourdough. I started @ Mike Avery’s Site another great post. Now it’s off to practice. I wonder how much flour I’ll go thru before I get a starter fully functioning and have results I hope for. Thanks PK

  72. Robert Lyons says:

    I make bread in a bread machine. It seems to rise OK prior to the bake cycle but when it starts to bake it collapses and it ends up with a sunken top. Can you tell me what’s wrong?

  73. Dionne says:

    My husband was diagnosed with fructose Intollerance and cannot have sugar, how do you activate the yeast without the sugar. I know the sugar jump starts it, but is it needed for the yeast to activate? Thanks!

  74. Jenni says:

    Dionne, I don’t think that the sugar is strictly necessary. But one thing you can consider is that the yeast eats the sugar, converting it to alcohol and carbon dioxide. So, if you are just using a little sugar to get the yeast started, it won’t be there after fermentation as the yeasts will have broken it down.

    I’m not a physician, but you might want to double check with your husband’s doctor. In my lay-person’s opinion, putting a touch of sugar in bread isn’t going to result in any edible sugar at the end of the process.

    I hope this helps.

  75. Jenni says:

    Robert, I really can’t say what the issue is because I don’t know what recipe you’re using and I’ve never used a bread machine.

    Have you ever had this particular recipe work for you? It sounds like maybe your flour doesn’t have enough protein. Make sure you’re using a bread flour with high protein that won’t collapse when filled with gas from the yeast.

    I hope this is at least a little helpful, but I need more information from you to be really helpful. :)

  76. Bobby Webber says:

    Chef Jones,

    First off I’m a male and I my late stage of life & just retired, so I’m seriously trying to preparing good dishes and bake goods. So, that said, in dry measurements is one cup equal to 4 oz or how does one know e.g. all purpose flour/bread or baking, sugar, baking powder, etc.

  77. Jenni says:

    Bobby, I think it is great that you are going to be using some of your newly found free time to bake!

    Since most dry ingredients have different mass even if the volume is the same (the old “which is heavier, a pound of bricks or a pound of feathers” deal), what I have found the most reliable way to convert is to measure a cup the way you “normally” do (or a teaspoon or tablespoon of whatever you’re measuring) and then weigh them and write down the amount in either ounces or grams. My scale converts between the two which is really nice. You can weigh smaller amounts in grams for much more accuracy.

    There are also some helpful charts lurking around on the Internet that have done a lot of that hard work for you. I often refer to these. Here’s a good one from King Arthur Flour: http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipe/master-weight-chart.html

  78. Bill says:

    This is a great starting recipe!

    I’m at 5500 feet, using bread flour, and I’m getting great results with a few tweaks. I’m consistently using about 2 1/4 cups of water for 2# of flour, which isn’t the fault of the recipe, but it illustrates the need to experiment and get the feel for the dough.

    I’m also getting good results with 1/2 oz of Red Star quick rise yeast, prepared as detailed in the recipe, not mixed with the flour. The first rise time is about 1 1/2 hours, at around 80 degrees, so its not too far off.

    I’m primarily making baggettes in a 425 oven with a stone. I use egg white wash before and about halfway through the 20 minute baking time. I get 4 12″ loaves.

    Anyway, thanks so much for the great instructions and recipe! For the first time in my 40 years, I’m loving making bread, and have a loaf for the neighbors ever Saturday morning!

  79. sheila says:

    *what makes the crust come of the baked bread when you cut the slices*

  80. Nadia says:

    I think that this is really helpful but maybe you should show some images of the steps to illustrate a bit more and also try to use cups instead of oz because it is a bit difficult for some of us to measure in oz. But over all I think That this is a GREAT way to make bread at home.

    A great thanks to RG for posting this! :)

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