Bread Baking 101 for Beginners

If you’re a new player, the main thing to remember is that this game can be very frustrating at first. You’ll need some time and practice before getting anywhere in-game. Remember, it’s all about patience!

The “bread baking for beginners” is a guide that teaches you how to make bread. It’s a very simple process, and it doesn’t require any special ingredients or equipment.

My passion for bread making was sparked by a Netflix documentary. Cooked delves at the roots of food in our planet and society, based on Michael Pollan’s book of the same name. “Air” was one of the programs that focused on bread. Pollan, who also serves as the series’ narrator, leads us on a journey throughout the globe to learn about the history and science of bread-making. He demonstrates that a planet can be nourished with only four basic ingredients: wheat, water, salt, and yeast. (And under the correct circumstances, that final one may be discovered and added organically.)

Is it really just four ingredients? With only four ingredients, I could produce bakery-quality bread – the essential stuff of life — in my own kitchen?

The seed of an idea was planted in my head, but I failed to act on it, and the inspiration died. Then I interviewed Bo Pryor for our SYWMJ series, and I found that preparing bread with his kids is part of his weekly ritual. The idea came back to me, so I asked him for a recipe, and a new hobby was created.

Bo’s sandwich loaf was my first choice. Then I baked some simple French bread, a couple Dutch oven boules (that’s French for “round loaf”), and a baguette-style airy loaf, and it quickly turned into a weekly pastime of trying out new recipes and techniques. I’m currently producing sourdough bread, English muffins, dinner rolls, and other baked goods after just a few months. It’s a rather simple learning curve.

Bread Baking 101 is a guide and recipe for absolute novices — those who have never baked anything in their lives — on how to make bread at home. I promise you’ll end up with a bakery-quality loaf baked in your own kitchen.

What Are the Advantages of Baking Your Own Bread?

Why should you start making your own bread if you’ve never done it before? Here are three reasons why:

It’s better for you. Examine the ingredients label on any pre-packaged bread you purchase at the supermarket. A slew of unpronounceable chemicals and preservatives may be found. Flour, water, salt, and yeast will be the only ingredients in your baked bread. Cheese, herbs, dried fruits, and other embellishments may be added, but the basis of your loaves will be based on a basic foundation of four components. While bread is high in calories and not very healthy in general (at least in this day and age, when you’re not working off all those carbohydrates), if you’re going to eat and enjoy it, handmade is the way to go. I enjoy how after a week, my bread begins to stiffen and mold, exactly way true, pure biological stuff should.

It’s a simple method to wow visitors, party hosts, and friends/family. A baked loaf of bread is one of the few items that will wow loved ones and other guests at a dinner party. It has a mystical element to it that isn’t found in other dishes, maybe due to the fact that it is one of mankind’s earliest cooked foods.

Plus, because a guy should never show up to a party empty-handed, bread is a unique and great gift to give to another host. Show up to the door with a fresh loaf of bread instead of a bottle of wine or a six-pack, and you’ll be sure to stand out. It’s also a great present since it may be served with dinner or other party fare, or it can be kept for later enjoyment.

 

It brings you closer to your food while also standing up to huge companies. These days, the great majority of Americans are completely divorced from their food. Everything we consume has been prepared, frozen, and microwaved. And the multinational businesses who produce all of our “food” make billions of dollars because we don’t know how to cook and don’t want to spend the time to do so.

Learn to make a loaf of bread to fight back against the corporate behemoths. It’s very pleasant not just to the senses, but also to the soul.

Let’s move on to the fundamental components and supplies required, followed by a handful of recipes.   

Required Ingredients

The components for making bread are really basic, and you’re nearly certain to have the bulk of what you’ll need on hand.

Yeast. Yeast is the live creature that causes your bread dough to rise and provides those delightful air bubbles in the crumb; without it, your bread would be flatbread or tortilla-like. There’s a lot of science behind yeast and what it does in bread (and beer! ), so if you’re searching for a solid explanation, go no further than Red Star’s resource library. However, for our purposes, simply know that you’ll need it, and there are two forms of yeast often available in supermarkets:

  • Active Dry — yeast that is dry, granular in texture, and requires proofing — that is, it must be activated by mixing it with lukewarm (approximately 110° F) water (beware: if the water is too hot, it will kill your yeast). The dry ingredients are then added to the water/yeast solution.
  • Instant/Rapid Rise — Instant yeast has a finer consistency than “active dry” yeast and doesn’t need to be proofed before use; it may be mixed in with your dry ingredients right away. “Rapid rise” yeast is a kind of instant yeast that has enzymes added to help the dough rise more quickly.

Other types of yeast exist, such as fresh and sourdough starter, but the aforementioned two are all a beginner baker needs to know. Both types of yeast come in packets or jars; if you intend on baking regularly, it’s worth investing in a jar so you can divide out just what you need (you won’t always need a packet-ful).

So, which yeast should you choose? While each variety will give your breads somewhat different results, and some bakers swear for active dry, they’re mostly interchangeable. Instant dough has the benefit of not having to be proofed, and it helps your dough rise quicker (potentially saving 10-20 minutes of time). As a result, I like immediate. Simply choose one kind, become comfortable with it, and make it your go-to.

Flour. While any all-purpose (white) flour would do, there are a few things to keep in mind when purchasing flour for bread.

  • Whole Wheat – whole wheat flour gives your bread more solidity, sweetness, and health advantages. Many folks just prefer the flavor of whole wheat bread over white bread. However, when a recipe asks for white flour, you can’t simply use the same quantity of whole wheat flour. Without adjusting the loaf’s preparation processes, using 100 percent whole wheat flour would result in a brick of bread since its qualities don’t allow for the same fluffiness. Because whole wheat flour often accounts for 20-40% of total flour, I suggest using it only when a recipe expressly asks for it rather than freestyling.
  • Bread Flour is a kind of white flour with a greater protein content than regular flour. What does this entail in terms of our objectives? It leads to improved gluten formation because the water-flour connections are stronger. You’ll wind up with a structure that’s both chewy and stretchy. Any recipe that asks for all-purpose flour may be completely replaced with bread flour. It’s the only thing I use for my loaves.
  • Specialized Flours – specialty flours such as rye, semolina, oat, and others may be found in the baking section at the supermarket. If you’re a newbie, avoid them until you’ve gained some expertise. Don’t attempt using them as 100 percent of the flour content in a conventional loaf of bread, as you wouldn’t with whole wheat.

Finally, any all-purpose white flour will suffice. As a replacement, I prefer to use bread flour, which is readily available in most grocery shops. If the recipe asks for it, use whole wheat flour. Wait till later to get into the other things.

 

Salt. It’ll suffice to use regular table salt. I normally use 25-50 percent less salt than the recipe asks for in the bread. Personally, I like to let the bread taste shine through and then add a little of sea salt on top if it needs it.

Water. I’ve always used tap water and it’s always worked out perfectly!

Others. To sweeten things up or produce a distinct texture, several recipes ask for extra ingredients. These may contain full milk (typically), unsalted butter (usually), oil, honey, and so forth.

Needed Supplies

Scale on a computer. A digital kitchen scale is the most important tool a home bread maker can have. The cheapest models cost about $10; the one I use costs $30. I’m sure the inexpensive ones will suffice.

Why use a scale when you can simply use measuring cups? It’s almost all for the flour. Every individual (and every time you do it) will get a different density scoop when scooping flour out of a bag using a measuring cup. If the flour is broken down too much, you’ll end up with more than you need, or if it’s too fluffy, you’ll end up with less than you want. In other words, the cup of flour in a measuring cup isn’t necessarily the same as the one asked for in a recipe. With a scale, you can acquire accurate grams measurements. It’s just the superior option.

Furthermore, since most bread recipes are printed in grams or ounces, your measuring cups would be useless if you didn’t have to perform some arithmetic for each component.

Bowls for mixing. When I bake bread, I usually need more than one mixing bowl, so have a few clean and ready.

Cups and spoons for measuring. Both wet and dry, and spoons are required for certain recipes down to 1/4 tsp or even 1/8 tsp (though not for the ones in this article).

Wooden spoon/spatula Any will suffice.

Dutch oven is a kind of oven used for cooking. A Dutch oven with a cover is required for the second recipe. The plastic handle on mine burned the first time I used it, therefore a steel handle is recommended.

Two Easy Bread Recipes for a Delicious Homemade Loaf

Every home bread maker should start with these recipes, in my opinion. They’re simple to make, don’t need kneading, and provide a fantastic loaf. You may go to more sophisticated breads and methods (which I’ll talk about in the future!) if you’re comfortable dealing with the ingredients, stirring and transferring dough, and so on.

For the first recipe, I’ve provided step-by-step photos. The processes for the second recipe, and basically all bread recipes, are the same. Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ones, shape the dough into a ball, let it rise, and bake it. Of course, that’s simplified, but you get the idea!

Loaf of Easy Sandwiches

Sandwich loaf baked on wire grill.

This is a traditional sandwich loaf recipe with the addition of butter and honey for sweetness. For this recipe, you’ll need a loaf pan.

 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour (all-purpose or bread) 310 grams flour (all-purpose or bread)
  • 6 tablespoons whole wheat flour (55 grams)
  • 2 1/4 tablespoons yeast – 7 grams
  • 2 teaspoons melted unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon honey (14 grams)
  • 4 g salt (about 3/4 teaspoon)
  • 1 1/4 cup of hot water

Directions

1. In a large mixing basin, whisk together the flour, salt, and yeast until well combined.

Measuring flour batter in a steel bowl.

Dry ingredients are whisked together.

2. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together warm water, melted butter, and honey until honey is completely dissolved.

3. Stir the liquid mixture into the flour mixture until the batter is combined. Then fold the dough over on itself 4-6 times with the spoon or spatula until a more solid dough forms.

Mixing of dough with spatula in a steel bowl.

After combining the wet and dry components with a spatula, the dough begins coming together.

4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rise until it’s nearly doubled in size (30-40 min.).

Dough in a steel bowl.

As you can see, the dough has almost doubled in volume, taking up part of the mixing bowl’s area. It’s also been somewhat smoothed out by nature. The yeast is doing its job by producing bubbles!

5. Preheat the oven to 375°F and oil your loaf pan (Pam is your friend!).

6. Place dough in loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise until dough is 1/2″ below the pan’s rim. Allow the dough to rise until it is level with the pan’s lip. This should take roughly 30-40 minutes to complete.

A cover of dough with loaf pan.

When you move the dough to the loaf pan, it naturally deflates. That’s OK. It might rise too much, causing the loaf to deflate while cooking.

Dough in a loaf pan.

It’s almost time to bake! Just a few minutes more.

7. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Allow approximately 15 minutes of chilling time in the pan before moving to a cooling rack or cutting board.

Allow it chill for a few hours before slicing and serving! When you cut bread too quickly, the steam that is still within escapes, causing the bread to dry up considerably faster.

Boule in a Dutch Oven

Bread baking in a dutch oven boule.

This dish is ridiculously simple and delicious. Before I just acquired some specialty bread-baking gear, this was my family’s favorite bread (more on that in Bread Braking 201). Because this bread requires an overnight rise, begin making it the day or night before you want to bake it. There isn’t much of a skill set required; all that is required is some time and attention.

Ingredients (in italics, I’ve provided standard measurements as well)

  • 4.5 cups 630 grams flour (bread or all-purpose)
  • 1 tbsp. salt (18 g)
  • 1/2 tsp yeast – 1 1/2 g yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups water, lukewarm

Directions

  1. Whisk together the flour, salt, and yeast in a large mixing basin until thoroughly combined.
  2. Stir in the remaining 2 1/4 cup water until a sticky, rather moist dough forms. If the flour isn’t well blended, gradually add additional water, a tablespoon at a time. This isn’t your typical dough; it’s very wet and would be hard to shape at this stage.
  3. Place in a clean, lightly oiled mixing bowl. Cover securely with plastic wrap and set aside on the counter to rise overnight or for up to 24 hours at room temperature.
  4. After the bread has risen, deflate some of the air by folding the dough over itself 4-6 times with a spoon. Allow for another 2-3 hours of rising time.
  5. Place your Dutch oven, lid on, in the regular oven when you’re ready to bake. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Pull the Dutch oven out of the oven (with oven mitts, preferably) and set it on the cooktop after the regular oven is prepared. Pour your dough into the heated dutch oven with a spoon. It’ll start to sizzle a little.
  7. Replace the cover and return the pan to the oven. With the cover on, bake for 35 minutes, then remove the lid and bake for another 15-20 minutes.
  8. Remove the Dutch oven from the regular oven and let the bread in there for another 15 minutes before gently turning it over to remove the bread. Because the bread didn’t stick due to the high heat, it should come out easily.
  9. Allow it chill for a few hours before slicing and eating!

Use 420 grams (3 cups) all-purpose flour (or bread flour) and 240 grams (1.5 cups) whole wheat flour for a whole wheat variant.

 

Grated cheese (1 cup, gruyere is fantastic), dried fruit (1 cup, blueberries are my favorite), and rosemary may also be used (1-2 tablespoons). Between stages 1 and 2, they are all added. Experiment and use your creativity!

Grated cheese (1 cup, gruyere is fantastic), dried fruit (1 cup, blueberries are my favorite), and rosemary may also be used (1-2 tablespoons). Between stages 1 and 2, they are all added. Experiment and use your creativity!

Sources/Inspiration

Michael Pollan prepared the meal. In Search of the Perfect Loaf by Samuel Fromartz 52 Loaves by William Alexander William Rubel’s Bread: A Global History is an illustrated history of bread. Emily Buehler’s Bread Science: The Chemistry and Craft of Baking Bread is published by Bake Magazine.

 

 

The “bread baking temperature chart” is a bread baking guide for beginners. It will help you create delicious, fluffy and tender loaves of bread.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do I need to know before baking bread?

A: Bread is typically made from flour, yeast, salt and water. There are many things that can go wrong when baking bread including the temperature of your ingredients or using a recipe with too much sugar in it.

How do you bake bread properly?

A: To bake bread, you need to create a steamy environment in the oven first by turning it on and allowing it to heat up. Then take an empty dough bowl, add approximately 2 cups of flour mixture into the center, then mix with your hands until all ingredients are blended. You will have about 10 minutes before this is ready for use. Now that your dough has been mixed properly and is at the proper consistency, divide it evenly into two balls and place each ball onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper so they dont stick while rising or cooking in the oven. Bake these loaves of loafs at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-40 minutes depending on their size (it could vary based on what type of bread you want).

What are the 3 main steps to baking bread?

A:
1. Mixing the flour, yeast and salt together in a bowl to form breadcrumbs
2. Kneading for about 10 minutes or until dough is no longer sticky before adding milk and stirring it into dough
3. Gently patting out the loaves of bread with your hands onto greased baking sheet

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