Out of all the bakes out there, bread can be the most intimidating (especially the yeasted kind!). These easy bread recipes, though, will get you started fuss-free.
How to Make Bread
- 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
- 2-1/4 cups warm water (about 110ºF)
- 2 tablespoons + 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 6-1/4 to 6-3/4 cups bread flour
Step 1: Proof the Yeast
Before you can get to mixing and kneading, it’s important to proof the yeast. This means ensuring the yeast is still alive and ready to create carbon dioxide, the gas that gives bread its lift.
To proof, dissolve the yeast in a dish with half a teaspoon of sugar and warm water. You want the water to be around 110ºF. If you go hotter, you can risk killing the yeast (and then you have to start again). You know the yeast is alive and ready for bread when it starts to bubble and foam
Step 2: Stir Up the Bread Dough
With the proofing taken care of, add canola oil to the yeast mixture.
In another bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: half of the flour, sugar and salt. Add the wet mixture to the dry and work into a sticky dough. When the mix comes together, add in additional flour a half cup at a time until you have a soft bread dough.
Step 3: Knead
Now for the fun part! When your dough is made, turn it out onto a floured surface to knead.
Kneading is the process where you push, pull and stretch the bread. The purpose is to develop gluten. Gluten helps give the bread structure (without it, it would crumble) and gives it that bit of chew we all love.
To knead, take the heel of your hand and push the dough forward and stretch it. Then fold it in on itself, give it a quarter turn and repeat. Knead until your bread dough is stretchy and doesn’t tear when you spread it between your fingers. Kneading times do vary, but for this specific loaf, aim for about ten minutes. Don’t worry about over-kneading by hand—you will be tired long before you overwork the dough.
Step 4: Proof the Dough
Next, let your bread proof. That means setting the dough aside so the yeast can do its work: creating air bubbles.
To proof, coat your bread dough with a touch of oil or cooking spray. Place it in a large container, cover with a damp towel and let it rest until the dough doubles in size. To get the best proof possible, make sure your kitchen is warm (above 75ºF) and humid. If it’s a bit chilly or dry, you can try these proofing tips.
Step 5: Punch Down and Proof Again
When the bread is doubled in size, punch it down. This just means using your knuckles to press out some of the air inside the dough. After punching the bread down, divide it into two equal portions. Shape and place into greased 9×5-inch loaf pans and let proof a second time, until doubled. This should take about 60 to 90 minutes.
Step 6: Bake and Enjoy
When the bread has grown a second time, pop it into a 375ºF oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 200ºF. Remove from the pans, let cool on wire racks. After that slice and enjoy!