Whether you’re new to making bread or just need a little refresher course, this bread-making primer will answer all of your questions about making bread. Paired with additional resources and recipes, this primer will have you feeling like a culinary genius in no time.
Making this in your bread machine?
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Essential Tools and Ingredients for Better Bread
When it comes to making bread, you’ll find that there are certain essentials you could never bake without. From choosing the right flour to using proofing bags and dough conditioner, there are lots of nifty kitchen gadgets that will make your life much easier and specific ingredients that will make your bread the masterpiece it deserves to be.
Test it Out: Make a Basic Bread Loaf
You can make great whole grain breads! Often it’s as simple as substituting a whole grain blend for part of the flour in your favorite bread recipe. You may need to adjust the liquid a little, but other than that, it can be a straight substitution.
If you’re not too confident with making bread from scratch just yet, you can also make an easy and delicious loaf of bread from a bread mix.
1. Mix the Bread Dough
Whether you’re making bread in a bread machine, a stand-type mixer, or by hand, the most important ingredient to remember when mixing the dough is the yeast. It’s sensitive to temperature and its relation to other ingredients. Just make sure not to over-mix the dough if you’re using a stand-type mixer.
If you’re making your bread in a bread machine, the water should be 80 degrees. If you’re making bread in the oven, the water should be 110 degrees. Getting the right temperature for your water ensures that you’ll have the right temperature in the dough for the yeast to actively grow.
When mixing the ingredients, remember that sugar accelerates the yeast growth while salt kills the yeast. Be sure to keep the salt and yeast on opposite sides of the mixing bowl and get exact measurements of each of your ingredients, the salt especially.
- Mixing the Bread Dough
- The Importance of Gluten in Your Dough
- Click here to learn how to add inclusions and other substitutions to your bread dough.
Test it Out: Add Inclusions to Your Bread
You can make great breads with inclusions, like this Dilly Cheese Bread, but it takes patience as the inclusions affect the yeast and the rise time.
You can also try inclusions in a bread mix instead to keep things simple.
2. Knead the Bread Dough
The important part about kneading is giving the dough the elasticity it needs to rise. This can be achieved by using a dough hook in your stand-type mixer or by hand. Your bread machine will automatically go through this process for you. It takes about 15 minutes to knead the dough by hand and 5-10 minutes with a stand-type mixer.
To knead the dough by hand, simply press the heals of your hands into the dough and pull the dough back over itself only to press the heals of your hands back into the dough again. Repeat the process until the bread dough becomes elastic.
The way you know when you’re done kneading is when you can pinch a portion of the dough and stretch it into a smooth, thin layer before it breaks. With the stand mixer, the sticky dough will completely pull away from the sides of the bowl into a drier ball.
Test it Out: Develop Kneading Awareness
When kneading, you may need to adjust for stickiness or dryness according to your bread recipe. You will need to pay close attention throughout the process or your bread could turn out less than perfect.
You can try the kneading process with a bread mix instead.
3. Let The Bread Dough Rise
The important thing about letting your dough rise is that it needs to double in size, or else it will turn out flat and dense. There’s no precise expectation of time for this because it depends on the temperature of your kitchen.
The ideal temperature for a quicker rise is 79 degrees, and it could rise in as little as 45 minutes. To control the temperature and environment better and trap in the moisture and heat, we like to use proofing bags to cover our dough as it rises.
- Here’s why it’s important to let your dough rise.
- Make Light and Airy Bread
- How Long Should My Bread Rise?
- Proofing Bread Like an Artisan Bakery
Test it Out: Make Artisan Breads
When you let your bread rise for an extended period of time, retarding the rise with cooler temperatures, more flavor is developed in the bread, making it taste just like a loaf of artisan bread.
4. Form the Bread Loaf
The easiest way to form a bread loaf is by pretending the dough has a ball or cylinder in its center. Pull the dough around its center to create a smooth surface and tuck the seams into the bottom. Pinch the seams together firmly and put the loaf seam-side down into the pan.
Once your loaf has been formed, set it aside to rise for a second time, this time watching for it to double in size and for air bubbles to rise to the surface. That’s when you know it’s time to rush the loaf into the oven.
A Note from Dennis
Our test kitchen is air-conditioned. It’s too cool for optimal yeast growth and we have to be patient or find a shortcut. Often we will set dough in proofing bags in front of the south-facing windows in the kitchen.
“Last week we were making hamburger buns. (Jalapeno-cheddar burger buns are out-of-this-world good.) But they weren’t rising fast enough. So we were running baking sheets with rising buns down to the parking lot.
“If the sun is shining on a car, the car acts like an accelerated proofing box. Don’t leave the dough there for over about 20 minutes or the dough will take over your car. Use the car for only a kick start and then finish proofing in the kitchen.”
Test it Out: Make Free-standing Loaves
Forming a loaf doesn’t have to be as intimidating as it sounds. Make a batch of burger buns or dinner rolls, and you’ll have it down in no time.
You can also test your skills with a mix instead.
5. Bake the Bread
The most important part of baking bread is the internal temperature. It’s the only true way that you can know when your bread is done baking. Most bread mixes and bread recipes will call for a 350-degree oven. At this temperature, most loaves will bake in about 25 minutes, and rolls will bake in 15-20 minutes.
Use a kitchen thermometer to check the internal temperature to know when your bread loaf is completely done. You can stick it into the center through the bottom of your loaf. Your bread is done baking when the internal temperature reaches 195 degrees for regular loaves or 210 for crusty artisan loaves.
If your bread isn’t done yet, simply stick it back into the oven and cover it with tin foil to finish baking.
- The Perfect Internal Temperature for Breads
- How to Bake Bread Machine Mixes in the Oven
- Adjust Your Bread Baking and Recipes for Higher Altitudes
- Learn How to Bake Bread on the Grill
- Learn How to Bake a Crusty Hearth Bread
Test it Out: Make Crusty Hearth Breads
You can make beautiful crusty hearth breads just like the bakeries! The keys to a thick and chewy crust are heat and steam. By getting your oven hot and steamy for the first half of baking, you trap the moisture in the bread for a light and fluffy loaf but fast-bake the outer crust to make it nice and crispy.
If you’re not quite ready to tempt the heat and steam, you can try a bread mix that naturally forms the thick and chewy crust.
More Ways to Make Bread
Now that you understand the basics of making bread, why don’t you go ahead and try out the new techniques on other recipes? Bread baking doesn’t end at placing some bread dough into a pan and into the oven. You can do so much more than the basic bread loaf. Click on any of the links in the tabs below, and you might find your new favorite way to make and eat bread.
Try any of these recipes:
Try any of these techniques and recipes:
- How to Make Stuffed Braided Bread
- Sweet Chocolate Braided Bread
- How to Bake Challah Bread
- How to Make Italian Filled Bread
- Mini Challah Loaves
- How to Make Hamburger Buns
- How to Make Kaiser Rolls
- How to Bake Dinner Rolls
Flatbreads are easy to make even if you’ve never made bread before! Just press the dough into a pizza pan or baking sheet and let it rise once–no second rising and no loaves to form. It typically bakes in 15 minutes.
Try any of these recipes and techniques:
- How to Bake Focaccia from Scratch
- How to Top Focaccia
- 21 Meals You Can Make with Focaccia
- How to Make Veggie Flatbread Pizzas
- Focaccia Sandwiches
You can make fry bread out of any bread mix and make a delicious breakfast or treat. You only have to let your dough rise once, you don’t have to form a loaf, and you don’t even have to use your oven. If you can make a pancake, you can make fry bread. It’s that easy.
Try any of these fried bread recipes: