Delicious and Easy Homemade Bread

Say goodbye to the intimidation factor. Our tips for easy homemade bread will inspire beautiful loaves and a whole new outlook on baking.

| December 2010/January 2011

  • easy homemade bread
    Easy homemade bread doesn't have to mean undecorated bread. Try applying an egg glaze to achieve golden loaves like these.
    PHOTO: JIM MACKENZIE
  • breaddough
    Contrary to traditional bread-making wisdom, you can skip kneading. Instead, try a simple stretch-and-fold technique to strengthen the gluten structure of your dough. First, elongate your dough by stretching it gently between both hands. 
    JIM MACKENZIE
  • foldingbreaddough
    Next, fold one side to the center.
    JIM MACKENZIE
  • wrappingbreaddough
    Finally, fold the other side to the center, over the top of your first fold. Now, repeat the process. It’s as simple as that. 
    JIM MACKENZIE

  • easy homemade bread
  • breaddough
  • foldingbreaddough
  • wrappingbreaddough

I have always found baking homemade bread to be truly simple. I just put flour, water, leaven, and salt together and stir. I often put the water in the bowl directly from the tap and just turn off the tap when I think I have enough. I never measure precisely, and people always love my bread. I honestly think you can’t fail at bread making as long as you pay attention to the dough and don’t try to bake it when it isn’t ready.

Making bread you’re happy with is a matter of both the bread and your expectations. A loaf of bread doesn’t have to look the same every time or match a picture in a book. There is no one pathway to delicious bread.

Here, I’ll share how to prepare easy homemade bread and provide links to recipes for three variations: a crusty white loaf, a deeply flavorful multigrain bread and a lovely sandwich bread. I encourage a largely free-form, no-knead system in which your role as bread baker is like that of improvising jazz musician or nurturing gardener. It is a holistic system that recognizes fermenting bread dough as alive and ever-changing. It is a system that sees each batch of dough as having the potential to produce an infinite range of successful conclusions, such that each recipe is a window into a world of possibilities rather than an end in itself.

The Yeast You Can Do

Yeast is active in dough at any temperature above freezing up to the oven temperature that finally kills it (about 140 degrees Fahrenheit). Like plants, yeasts grow more quickly at warmer temperatures. Just as hothouse vegetables may look beautiful but have little flavor, when dough rises at hothouse temperatures (80 degrees and higher), you get good gas production but not good flavor. Yeast needs time to create good flavors. I suggest using an instant-read thermometer so you can check dough temperature conveniently.



Experiment with long, slow fermentations (12 to 20 hours). This means experimenting with a small amount of yeast in the dough — no more than one-half to 1 teaspoon per pound of flour — and dough rising temperatures from the low 70s down to those of your refrigerator. In a hot summer kitchen, mix the dough with cool water. In a cold winter kitchen, mix it with warm water. Be patient with your dough and it will always yield fabulous bread.

That said, sometimes you may need to make bread in a hurry. If you have to, use a packet of yeast (2¼ teaspoons), mix the dough with warm water and let it rise in a warm place — and be happy! It’s always better to enjoy a homemade loaf than plastic-packaged bread.

candy
8/9/2015 2:39:28 PM

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Michael Lovett
12/15/2013 7:27:53 PM

I liked the comment about "if you need bread in a hurry". I don't have the patience or need to wait 24 hours for the bread to rise--two hours is plenty! I have been making that "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes" that seems to be prominent in every search online I do these days. I have actually never baked a thing, other than those chocolate chip cookies you pretty much cut off a log of pre-made dough. My mom was a major baker; before she retired, we always had a cake, a pie, or a cobbler on the table. After retirement, the number doubled! I am 52, and really want to improve my quality of life and reduce costs, so naturally, I have looked at how I can spend less, cook more, be happy. I started making the Artisan bread mentioned back in November, 2013. Now it's December and I am currently waiting for some dough to rise--the two loaves I will get out of the 6.5 cup recipe are the 7th and 8th loaves I will have made. I let one cool, then cut it up with a serrated knife and cover it with a plastic bag on a plate. The other loaf I don't cut, and wrap it up in two plastic bags with a couple of newspaper pages inside to absorb any "sweat". The two loaves usually last me about six to seven days, depending on how many sandwiches I make. Bake bread people! It's as easy as he says here.


TERRY HAWK
1/9/2011 8:25:07 PM

I am sooo relieved to find out I wasn't the only one who had trouble with the opulent farmers bread. My hubby has been giving me a hard time about Elly Mae Clampetts biscuits. It was so hard I couldn't cut it with a knife so I finally broke it in somewhat half. I managed to slice those halves in half by going through the inside and trying to break through on the other side. I managed to break those halves open too. I could chew it but hubby said I sounded like I was eating milkbones. I have good teeth and wasn't about to waste all that hard work. The taste of the bread was very good despite the hardness of the crust.







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