Guide To Making Homemade Bread

For first-time bread makers, we’re all shaking in our boots a little bit. We’ve heard our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, and friends talk about their bread making woes, their triumphs and how it all boiled down to either a specific touch while kneading or an exact ratio of yeast. Ask any seasoned baker the trick to making a great loaf of bread and you’ll get a different answer.

So yeah, it’s intimidating. However, with time you’ll figure out what works and what doesn’t. What you really need is just a good starting off point.

Que our in-depth article about the basics of bread making.


Bosch Bread Making For Beginners – The What?, The How Much?, The For How Long!?, and Every Other What The You Can Think Of


First, let’s break down the basic steps to making a loaf of bread. These steps are:

  1. Activating the yeast
  2. Mixing and kneading
  3. Proofing
  4. Shaping
  5. Baking
  6. Storing

There is a lot that goes into these deceptively simple-looking steps. But don’t worry, we will take a look at each step individually, answer any possible questions, expel silly rumors, and share all the valuable tips we have.


Activating The Yeast


Yeast is probably the scariest part of this entire process. If you get the yeast wrong, even a little bit, you’ll end up feeding your loaf to the dogs.

Why Do We Need Yeast In Our Bread?

If you have ever taken a high school biology class, you have heard of a process called ‘fermentation’. This is a way of breaking down food for energy without the use of oxygen. You see fermentation in practice every time you pick up a jar of kimchi or drink kombucha. Yeast operates using the same method. It is a fungus that takes the sugars in your bread and begins to ferment them. This releases carbon dioxide, which creates the little holes that form as yeast is rising. That makes your dense, thick, hard-to-manage dough turn into a light and fluffy dream perfect for making delicious breads.

Active Dry Yeast or Instant/Rapid Yeast

There are two different types of yeast used in bread baking. The first is regular active dry yeast and the second is instant or rapid yeast. Both will have the same effect on the final product and are interchangeable in recipes. The only difference is the amount of time for the dough to rise. Instant/rapid yeasts take approximately half the time of active yeast, so use it when you need to raise your dough quickly.

Dissolving The Yeast

The first step to making bread dough is dissolving the yeast. This should be done in warm water or milk (whichever ingredient your recipe calls for). Water/milk that is too hot will kill your yeast leaving you with zero indication that this has happened until hours later when you notice your dough isn’t rising. So use warm water – somewhere between 105 and 110 degrees (F).

Some bakers will insist on dissolving the yeast in warm water with sugar. This is not necessary. Adding sugar is a good indication of whether or not your yeast is alive. It will bubble. But it is not necessary for activating the yeast.

TIPS AND TRICKS FOR HANDLING YEAST
Always dissolve your yeast in warm water or warm sugar water prior to adding it to your recipe. It should be totally dissolved into the liquid and foaming.
Yeast goes dormant below 50°. So store yeast somewhere cool and dry. Keeping yeast in the freezer will keep it active for years (some might say forever).
You can buy yeast in jars or in individual packets created to keep yeast fresh.
One tablespoon of yeast will leaven 3-6 cups of flour.

Mixing and Kneading The Bread Dough


The order in which you mix and knead your dough is incredibly important. As you combine the ingredients and work the dough, gluten develops. Proper gluten development traps the gas from fermentation caused by the yeast – ie. the gluten and yeast activation combined determine the texture of your bread. Overdevelopment of the gluten creates tough bread. Underdeveloped gluten doesn’t trap gas which also results in dense bread.

Mixing The Ingredients

First, you’ll want to dissolve your yeast in warm water (5-10 minutes) prior to mixing. You can do this directly in your mixing bowl. Once the yeast has dissolved (turned to foam) you’ll next add the sugar, salt, liquids, fats, and half the required amount of flour. Mix gently until ingredients are fully incorporated. Then you’ll slowly add the remaining flour a ½ cup at a time. As you near the end of your flour, pay attention to the consistency of your dough. Sometimes the suggested amount of flour in the recipe is more than your dough will need.

If your dough is picking up the remnants of dough and flour from the edges of the mixing bowl (meaning the mixing bowl looks clean), stop adding flour. If you add too much flour, your bread will be very dense.

The texture of your dough will also signify that you’ve added plenty of flour.

  • It should be tacky – not sticky. Your dough will be sticky, messy, and a total nightmare to handle – until it has enough flour. It will still stick to your fingers when it’s ready to be kneaded, but will not cling to your fingers.
  • The Dough Needs More Flour: Touch the dough with your fingertips lightly. If you pull your fingers away and dough sticking to your hands rips from the dough in the mixing bowl, the dough is too sticky and needs more flour.
  • The Dough Has Too Much Flour: If you press your fingers into the dough and very little (or no dough at all) sticks to your hands, you’ve likely added too much flour.
  • The Dough Has Enough Flour: If it sticks to your hand but snaps back to the bowl when you move your hand away, then it is tacky and you’ve added enough flour.

Kneading The Bread Dough

Once all ingredients have been incorporated, you’ll have to knead your bread for an additional 5-10 minutes. The time will vary based on the amount of dough you have made and your method for kneading.

Batch StandMixer KneadingHand Kneading
Single Batch7 Minutes10 Minutes
Double Batch10 Minutes12 Minutes

Over-kneading your dough will overdevelop the gluten — resulting in dense bread. So watch the clock, set a timer, do whatever you have to do to make sure you’re not under- or over-kneading the dough.

Test The Gluten

As your dough kneads, whether by hand or machine, you can test the elasticity every few minutes. In the beginning of the kneading process, pull a golf ball-sized portion of dough from your batch. Stretch this ball of dough with your hands — like stretching a balloon before inflating it. You’ll see that the dough tears easily. The gluten is weak and the dough has little elasticity.

Add the dough back to your batch and continue to knead. Repeat this test every few minutes. You’ll know you’ve reached optimal gluten development when you stretch your small ball of dough and it does not break easily. A translucent membrane will be visible – like you’ve stretched a piece of bubblegum for blowing a bubble.

TIPS AND TRICKS FOR MIXING & KNEADING THE DOUGH
Instead of measuring ingredients with measuring cups, weigh them with a scale for more accuracy.
Save the last cup of flour for your dough to be used on the counter if you’re kneading the dough by hand. If you use excessive amounts of flour to prevent the dough from sticking to the counter or your hands, you may end up incorporating too much flour into your dough.
Specialty flour doughs (like whole wheat or rye) require less kneading.
Lift the ball of dough in your hand and hold it in the air for a second. If it holds its ball shape, that means the gluten is tight and strong. If it sags down between your fingers, the gluten is still loosey-goosey and needs some more kneading.
Poke the ball of dough firmly with your finger. If the indentation springs back quickly, you’re gluten is well developed. If it stays looking like a deep dimple, continue kneading.
If a dough ends up too dry, you can sprinkle it with water during the kneading.

Proofing The Bread Dough


Ratios are so important in baking. Because if you have incorrect ratios of flour-to-liquid or yeast-to-sugars, your dough won’t rise — leaving you with dense bread bricks that end up in the trash. The proof of your accuracy in measurements will present itself when it comes time to proof your dough. This is also known as letting it rise.

Typically you will allow your bread to rise twice. The first time you proof the dough is after you’ve finished kneading it for 10 minutes. Place the dough in a well greased, large mixing bowl. Cover it with cellophane, and place it in a warm room for 45 minutes to 1 hour. You’ll know the bread has finished rising when it has doubled in size.

You can also let the dough rise in the oven, but be careful. If your oven is too warm, the dough will partially bake as it rises which will ruin the dough. Set your oven to 200 degrees (F). Once it reaches 200, turn it off and let it sit for 10 minutes with the door shut. This will create a warm space for proofing bread dough.

Once your dough has proofed, you’ll punch it down, shape it into loaves, and let it rise again for another 45 minutes to 1 hour. Again, you’re watching for your dough to double in size. We’ll talk more about shaping the dough prior to placing it in loaf pans for the second rise in the next section.

Your recipe may only call for one rise. That’s perfectly fine, as the type of bread and recipe will dictate how many rising cycles it needs. If you would like to proof your bread a second time, even if the recipe calls for only one, that is usually fine as well.

Over-Proofing The Dough

If you allow your dough to over-proof, you’re allowing the gas caused by the yeast fermentation to over-fill the pockets trapped by gluten. This causes the gluten to break down and the dough to collapse. Over-proofing your dough will result in flat bread.

Over-Proofed DoughUnder-Proofed DoughPerfectly-Proofed Dough
Poke the dough with your finger. If the indentation remains and the dough does not spring back into shape, it has been over-proofed.Poke the dough with your finger. If it springs back quickly, leaving no indentation, it is under-proofed. Cover it up and leave it to continue proofing.Poke the dough with your finger. If the indentation slowly bounces back but only halfway, it is perfectly proofed and ready for baking.

Reasons For A Low Rise

If the dough does not rise or the rise does not double in size after 45 minutes to 1 hour, you could have a number of problems with your dough:

  • The yeast was old
  • Too much/too little flour
  • Overworked/underworked gluten
  • The space is too cold
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR PROOFING THE DOUGH
Cold proofing (letting the bread rise longer in colder conditions) can enhance the life of your bread preventing it from going stale quickly and make the texture fluffier.
Whole grain breads will not rise as high as breads made with all-white bread flour
Fat, eggs, dairy, salt, and cold conditions slow down yeast activity. Lean doughs made of mostly flour and water will rise faster than rich doughs that are made with more fat, eggs, or dairy. Rich doughs like cinnamon rolls, monkey bread, and brioche may not rise as much or may simply take longer to rise than other doughs.
The microwave oven can also be used for the first rising of doughs. Place 1 cup of water in a glass measuring cup in the microwave. Heat on high for 2 minutes. This creates a moist environment to keep the dough soft during rising. Place covered bowl of dough in the microwave and close the door.
If your breads are not rising very well, it may also be the water you’re using. Tap water can slow down the rising because of chemical treatments to the water. Hard water is alkaline which weakens the gluten. Acidic soft water creates more active yeast. Boil the water and let it cool to room temperature or use bottled spring water.

Shaping The Bread Dough


After your first proofing, the dough will have doubled in size. Punch it all down and section out your dough into separate loaves. If you’re baking one batch of dough which typically fills two 9-inch bread pans, split your dough into even halves.

Begin pressing one loaf into a lightly floured surface. The goal is to flatten your dough, releasing any air pockets, while simultaneously working it into a rectangle the length of your loaf pan. Be sure not to overwork the dough. This should only take you a minute.

Roll your pressed dough into a tight cylinder starting from the longest edge. Rolling it tightly will reduce large air pockets from baking into your bread. If you roll them loosely, you end up eating slices of bread that have holes which drip butter, jam, or whatever else you slathered on top.

Pinch the ends of the cylinder closed and fold them under the loaf, placing all seams into the bottom of your loaf pan. Repeat this process with your second loaf.

Now allow you loaves another 45 minutes to 1 hour to rise again. This time, leave them uncovered.

Bread Scoring

You can create beautiful loaves of bread by scoring the tops. This involves cutting into your dough with a very sharp blade to allow the top to expand while baking. It looks very easy — but it isn’t. As you score the loaf, you’re aiming to control its expansion while it inflates during baking.

To correctly score your loaf, you must use a very sharp blade. While cutting, you cannot press into the dough. Cuts have to be made via the sharp blade and NOT pressure. Make cuts ½ inch deep. If you are new to scoring, start out by making 1 long score down the center of your loaf, lengthwise.

Washing Your Loaf

The top of your loaf will brown naturally as it bakes. You can control the browning to a degree. If you would like to slow the browning, cover your loaf with tented tin foil one it has browned sufficiently.

To increase the browning or to glaze the top of your loaf, wash (or paint) the top of the loaf before baking.

Type Of WashLevel Of ShineWhen To Apply
Butter/MargarineDull ShineBefore or During Baking
Egg WhiteHigh ShineBefore or During Baking
Whole EggHigh ShineBefore or During Baking
HoneyHigh ShineAfter Baking
MilkDull ShineBefore Baking
Olive OilMedium ShineBefore & After Baking
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR SHAPING THE DOUGH
The time allowed for pressing the dough varies from baker to baker. Some swear by minimal touching and others will press for up to 30 minutes. Test out different methods with each batch until you find one that works best.
Instead of pressing the dough with your fingers, you can use a rolling pin.
Scoring Tip: wet the blade in water between making cuts or spray the blade with cooking spray/oil. It will help the blade to glide through the dough without sticking.
Wash Tip: Add salt or sugar to your wash depending on desired sweet or savory taste to enhance the flavor.

Baking The Bread


Any oven can be used to bake bread, including earthen and ceramic ovens. For most of us, we will use a conventional oven for the task. Follow the directions for cooking temperature and time in the recipe you are using.

The internal temperature of your bread will ideally reach 190 to 205 degrees (F). If you don’t have an oven thermometer, you can test your bread the same way you would test a cake — insert a skewer and when it comes out clean, the bread is fully cooked.

When placing loaf pans in the oven, give them several inches of space from each other and the sides of the oven. Typically you will position the loaves on the lowest rack in the lowest position in the oven.

You can use a number of pans depending on what shape you want your bread in. Cookie sheets work for biscuits, as do muffin tins. Bread loaf pans help the dough to keep its shape as it bakes. Some people use casserole or dutch oven pans.

Reheating Bread

IN THE OVENIN THE MICROWAVE
Once bread has been baked, you can reheat it in the oven at 350 degrees (F). Wrap the loaf, slices of bread, or rolls in aluminum foil and place in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.Place the unwrapped loaf, slices of bread, or rolls on a paper towel. Heat briefly (about 15 seconds) to warm it up. If you put bread in the microwave for too long, it will be tough and chewy.
TIPS AND TRICKS FOR BAKING THE BREAD
Oven temperatures may vary so check your bread 10 minutes before the timer is set to go off.
After turning bread out of the pan, tap the bottom or side of the loaf. If it sounds hollow, the bread is done.
Cool bread on a wire rack to prevent it from getting soggy from steam accumulating on the bottom of the pan.
Don’t try to cut the loaf of bread right away, wait at least 15 minutes so that you don’t tear the crust.
For a thick, crunchy crust, create steam in your oven by placing a pan of water on the top shelf. Vent the steam after 15 minutes of baking.

Storage


Storing Baked Bread
IN ROOM TEMPERATURE
To keep your homemade bread fresh, wrap it tight and store it in a bread box at room temperature. A tight seal will protect the bread from moisture in the air. Refrigerating fresh bread is a bad idea. The cold temperature will dry out the bread and cause staleness quickly
IN THE FREEZER
You can freeze baked loaves of bread in an airtight plastic bag or tin foil and reheat them in the oven. This is actually the best way to store bread but most of us want easy access to our carbs, so leaving it unfrozen and tightly sealed on the counter is your next best option.
Storing Bread Dough
IN THE FREEZER
You can make bread dough and freeze it until you are ready to bake it. Using your favorite bread recipe, double the amount of yeast it calls for if you’re planning to freeze it. Follow all of the same instructions for mixing, kneading, and the first rise. Then punch it all down, shape the dough into loaves that are 2 inches thick (for faster thawing) and place them in an airtight freezer bag. They can stay in the freezer for up to 4 weeks.When you are ready to bake the dough, remove the loaves from the freezer and place them into a greased loaf pan covered with greased cellophane and allow the dough to rise (this would be the second proofing for this batch of dough — the first was done before it was frozen). The second rise will take a few hours as the dough will have to defrost and then rise slowly. Once it has doubled in size, following your recipes baking instructions.
IN THE FRIDGE
You can also store bread dough in the fridge. Make the dough according to your recipe and allow one proof. Punch the dough down, separate and shape into loaves. Store in loaf pans. Cover and place them in the fridge and store for several hours or overnight. When you’re ready to bake them, remove from the fridge and partially unwrap the loaves. Allow second proof and bake according to the recipe.

Bread Making Equipment


There are so many items you can use to create bread and it can all get very confusing and expensive. From proofing baskets to bannetons, dutch ovens, bench scrapers, and bread cloth (couche) — you really can make quite an artistic fuss over this process. But as a beginner bread maker, you’ll want to master the simplest form of bread before moving on to artisanal loaves and baker’s couche.

Digital Scale


Using a digital scale to weigh your dry ingredients is a much more precise way of measuring. When using only a measuring cup to divvy out flour, it’s easy to over-pack the cup. Scaling the weight of your dry ingredients also means you don’t have to worry about the do’s and don’ts of sifting or packing your flour. You can find a good digital scale for around $50. Measuring cups are fine for liquid ingredients.

Stand Mixer

Of course, you can do all of this by hand, but a stand mixer is such a useful tool for so many reasons that you’ll find one in most kitchens. You’ll need a stand mixer with a strong motor and large mixing bowl for heavy batches of bread dough. The stand mixer will be especially handy when it comes time to knead the bread dough for 10 minutes. This is truly a tiring process but the physical labor can be eliminated completely if you’re using a stand mixer.

The Bosch Universal Plus Stand mixer is known for its ability to fully incorporate all of your ingredients. When compared to other stand mixers in a test of incorporating food dye into a dough mixture, the Bosch blew its competitor out of the water.

This Bosch mixer has an 800-watt motor — double the strength of other pricey stand mixers. The 6.5-quart mixing bowl is large enough to hold 14 pounds of bread dough. Another standout feature of this unique mixer is its open-faced bowl. While other stand mixers have their motorhead fixed over the top of the mixing bowl, the Bosch Universal Plus mixer positioned its motor at the bottom of the bowl. The allows you to easily add ingredients while the mixer turns, without having to work around a bulky motorhead.

Baking Pans

The average bread recipe will have you bake your loaves in two 9” loaf pans. But you can use a variety of pans, materials, and sizes for baking your bread. The size and material will have an effect on the time they’ll need to bake.

Material – Loaf pans come in all different materials. Dark metal, light metal, non-stick, glass, stone, clay, ceramic, cast iron, and silicone are the most common. Dark metal pans and cast iron require less cooking time.

Shape – Standard loaf pans are rectangular. But many options are available. You can buy bread loaf pans that are round and encased. These are designed to shape the bread into a round loaf while also trapping in steam for a crunchier crust. As you’re just starting out on your bread making journey, we’d suggest you use a metal or glass rectangular loaf pan. Once you’ve perfected this simple form of bread, then you can expand your sights to more artisanal loaves.

Size – The size will have a large effect on your baking time. If your recipe uses a 9”x4” loaf pan and you’re using smaller pans, you’ll scale down the baking time called for in the recipe. As many bread recipes can be used for baking rolls and cinnamon rolls, you can also use muffin tins and cookie sheets for baking small mounds of dough.


A Little Bit About The Flour


FLOUR – When baking, people tend to prefer the taste of white bread until they’ve had time to acclimate to whole wheat breads. It is possible to slowly transition your taste buds to prefer whole wheat by substituting up to 50% of the all-purpose flour in a recipe with whole wheat flour. If you are looking for gluten-free alternatives for bread making, consider the following non-wheat flours:

  • Coconut flour – high in fiber and healthy fats
  • Sprouted flour – made from yellow corn
  • Oat flour – natural oats are gluten-free
  • Rice flour – tends to be non-allergenic for most people
  • Almond flour – packed with L-arginine, magnesium, copper, manganese, calcium, and potassium
  • Tapioca flour – one of the purest forms of starch and low-calorie
  • Chickpea flour – high in fiber, B vitamins, and folate
  • Sorghum flour – contains obesity-fighting tannings
  • Cassava flour – large amounts of vitamin C
  • Amaranth flour – supports bone health and contains protein and folate
  • Buckwheat flour – B vitamins, manganese, magnesium, zinc, iron, and folate
  • Teff flour – aids circulation, supporting cardiovascular system and bone health
  • Cricket flour – 3x the amount of protein as a sirloin steak
  • Arrowroot flour – excellent thickener for sauces and gravies
  • Barley flour – sweet nutty flavor
  • Bean flour – made from chickpea and fava beans
  • Bulgur flour – for easy preparation
  • Chia seed flour – performs a 1:1 replacement for wheat flour
  • Cornmeal Flour – white, blue, yellow corn, corn husks can all be used to create cornmeal
Whole Wheat FlourWhole GrainsWhite FlourNon-Wheat Flours
Made from wheat grains that have not undergone heavy processing.Store your whole-grain flours, wheat germ, bran, nuts, and seeds in the refrigerator or freezer.Made from heavily refined and processed wheat grains.Use bean flours as a portion — about 25% of total flour ratio in all purpose gluten-free flour mixes and recipes. Bean flours can also be used to replace brown rice in gluten free recipes.
½ cup of whole wheat flour contains 6.4 grams of fiberWheat germ increases the nutritional value of bread, but it also inhibits the gluten action. Do not use more than 2 tablespoons for every 2 cups of flour.½ cup of white flour contains 1.3 grams of fiberMost store-bought gluten-free, all-purpose flour mixes are about 1:1 for all-purpose flour
Whole grain flour must be stored in the fridge or freezer in a tightly sealed container to prevent the germ from going rancid.To soften cracked wheat, simmer in hot water for 15 minutes, then drain and cool.Unbleached flour is best for yeast bread while bleached flour is best for pie crusts, cookies, quick breads, pancakes, and waffles.If the gluten-free flour you are using does not contain a binder (look on the ingredient label), then you’ll also need to add a binder if you are making anything other than muffins, pancakes, or cookies.
Bakers can usually substitute up to 50% of the all-purpose flour in a recipe with whole wheat flour, without making other adjustments, and still enjoy a comparable taste and texture.When ground at home, alternative whole grains like Spelt and Triticale are more affordable options than wheat.Bread flour contains more high-protein wheat which makes for better gluten strength and protein content than all-purpose flour.Another binder to use with non-wheat flours is flax meal slurries: 1 part golden flax meal to 2 parts hot water.
When baking with whole wheat flour, allow the dough to rest for about 20-25 minutes before kneading.All-purpose flour can be used in recipes calling for self-rising flour. For each cup of all-purpose flour in the recipe, add 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt.Subbing all-purpose flour with coconut flour, tapioca starch or other specialty non-wheat flours is tricky. It’s best to use a recipe already formulated for those types of flours.
Chocolate and cocoa powder do a wonderful job of covering up any hints of whole wheat.There are about 3 1/3 cups of flour per pound. There are about 34 cups of flour in a 10-pound bag of flour.Flour Substitutes – In standard recipes, one of the following may be substituted for 1 cup of wheat flour:

1 cup corn flour
3/4 cup coarse cornmeal
7/8 cup rice flour
1 scant cup fine cornmeal
5/8 cup potato flour

As you begin this incredible bread-making learning experience, start small with single batches and simple recipes. Once you’ve perfected a basic loaf of white bread, start moving on to bigger and prettier loaves of bread. Getting to know and understand the relationship between the ingredients you’re using is crucial to making great bread. Once you’ve built a solid foundation for the basics, you can expand.