How to Bake Bread

Whether you are new to baking your own bread or looking for new and exciting bread recipes to make from scratch, I’ve got you covered! I’ve been baking bread weekly for over a decade and will share our tried and true tricks and suggestions so you can make the best basic bread recipes for everyday use in your kitchen. Learning how to bake bread is part science, part art, part practice and a bit of luck.

There are some foods that are just best homemade and bread is one of them. Coming right from the oven, homemade bread fill your home with a delicious scent and is the perfect vehicle for butter, jam and sandwiches.

Looking for more recipes from scratch? Check out what’s happening in our homestead kitchen or learn how to make your own Sourdough starter.


Our Favorite Bread Recipes

History of Bread Baking

People have been baking bread since around 10,000 BC. There is evidence on breadmaking in many early civilizations including ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Greece. Over the years bread making has become more and more refined with the introduction of new ingredients, techniques, and equipment. Every civilization has left it’s own mark on bread.

In more recent history, the industrial revolution has marked a significant turning point as much of bread production became mechanized with mass production techniques. Today, baking bread remains a fundamental culinary practice worldwide, and you can find unique cultural differences between the typeo of bread and the art of breadmaking.

Bread is a staple food made from a mixture of flour, water, yeast or leavening agents, and salt that is typically baked. It generally has a spongy texture, from the fermentation of yeast or the action of chemical leavening agents, which cause the dough to rise. Bread comes in various forms, flavors, and textures, and it is consumed worldwide as a primary source of carbohydrates and an accompaniment to meals.

Types of Bread

In our homesteading kitchen we make a wide variety of bread. The major differences in the type of bread comes from the agent used for causing the bread to rise. You may see breads like a traditional white bread that uses yeast or sourdough which uses a different type of fermentation. You can also make quick bread with baking powder or soda or even make bread with very little leavening that results in a flatbread.

Another variation in the type of bread comes from the grain used to make the dough. This can result in lots of different options and types of bread. Below are some of the most popular types of grain used for baking bread:

  • Wheat: Wheat is by far the most common grain used in breadmaking due to its high gluten content, which provides the necessary structure and elasticity for bread dough. Different varieties of wheat, such as hard red wheat, soft white wheat, and durum wheat, can be used to produce a wide range of breads, from soft white loaves to hearty whole wheat breads.
  • Rye: Rye is another popular grain used in breadmaking, particularly in Northern and Eastern European countries. Rye flour has less gluten than wheat flour, resulting in denser and darker bread with a distinctively earthy flavor. Rye breads can range from light and fluffy to dense and hearty, depending on the ratio of rye flour to wheat flour used in the recipe.
  • Corn: Cornmeal or corn flour is often used to make cornbread, a traditional staple in Southern cuisine. Cornbread has a crumbly texture and a slightly sweet flavor, making it a versatile accompaniment to savory dishes like chili or barbecue.
  • Oats: Oats are sometimes used in breadmaking to add texture and flavor. Oat flour or rolled oats can be incorporated into bread recipes to create breads with a hearty texture and nutty flavor. Oat breads are often slightly denser and more filling than traditional wheat breads.
  • Barley: Barley flour can be used in breadmaking to create breads with a slightly sweet and nutty flavor. Barley breads are less common than wheat or rye breads but can be found in some specialty bakeries or homemade recipes.
  • Spelt: Spelt is an ancient grain related to wheat that has gained popularity in recent years due to its nutty flavor and nutritional benefits. Spelt flour can be used in breadmaking to create breads with a slightly sweeter flavor and a denser texture than traditional wheat breads.
how to bake bread - two loaves of unbaked bread
How to Bake Bread

Basic Bread Baking

Every bread recipe is different and there can be dramatically different steps depending on what you are making. Most bread (made with yeast) follows this process:

  • Mixing: Combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, then gradually add the wet ingredients (water, oil, etc.). Use a spoon or mixer to combine the ingredients until a rough dough forms. Depending on the type of yeast you are using, you may need to put the yeast into warm water.
  • Kneading: This process helps to develop gluten, which gives the bread its structure and texture. Most bread will be kneaded for about 10 minutes. This is best done by hand, but can also be done with a mixer and a dough hook.
  • First Rise (Fermentation): This first rise, also known as fermentation, allows the yeast to produce carbon dioxide gas, which causes the dough to expand. The length of this varies, but this is best done in a warm area.
  • Shaping: After the first rise, you will shape the dough. This allows the dough to rise a second time in the correct shape.
  • Second Rise (Proofing): This second rise, also known as proofing, allows the dough to relax and further develop its flavor and texture. Cover the shaped dough with a towel or plastic wrap and let it rise again in a warm, draft-free place until it doubles in size once more.
  • Baking: Baking times vary depending on the size and type of bread being made. If you’ve done your two rises correctly, the bred will maintain the right shape during baking.
  • Cooling: Remove the baked bread from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack for at least 15-20 minutes before slicing and serving. This allows the bread to set and finish cooking internally. This is a hard step in my family, but if you don’t wait, the bread will smush down when sliced.

As mentioned, there are many variations and quick bread and sourdough generally have a different set of steps.

5 Tips for Successful Bread Baking

Over the years we’ve made plenty of bread baking mmistakes. We’ve ended up with tough bread, flat bread, burnt bread and everything in between. Each time we mess up, we’ve also gained another nugget of information. Below are some of the top tips we’ve gathered for success when baking bread:

  1. Ingredient Ratios Matter: The ingredients and rations are important and you can’t just wing it. Understanding these ratios and how they interact is important for achieving the desired result. Start by following the recipe exactly and then over time you can begin to make your own adjustments. The only exception to this is if you dough is too sticky or dry I will add more flour or liquid.
  2. Gluten Development is Key: Gluten, formed when flour proteins interact with water and are kneaded, provides structure and elasticity to bread dough. Getting your gluten development right means the difference between soft bread and flat hard bread. Kneading the dough thoroughly allows it to ferment and develop gluten properly.
  3. Fermentation is Key: Fermentation, the process by which yeast converts sugars into carbon dioxide and alcohol, is also key. It not only causes the dough to rise but also develops flavor and texture. You can both under or overferment your bread. Both will lead to poor results. You can control the fermentation with the temperature. Faster fermentation occers in warmer temperatures. You can turn a 1 hour rise into a 12 hour rise by putting your dough in the fridge.
  4. Oven Temperature and Steam Are Important: The temperature of the oven and the presence of steam during baking significantly impact the crust and texture of the bread. Preheating the oven properly is important for bread. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized how important steam is in creating a crispy crust and a desirable oven spring. I also like to use a dutch overn for some of my bread as it helps the bread start at a warm temperature.
  5. Practice Makes Perfect: Baking bread is a skill that improves with practice. I’ve made the same bread recipe two days in a row with completely different outcomes. Becoming better at baking bread can only be achieved by actually baking a lot of bread.

See updated information from our homestead kitchen in our Backyard Farming Connection Newsletter!

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