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How to Make Bread

Four Methods:Making Basic French BreadMaking Basic Sandwich BreadMaking Quick BreadsMore Variety of Breads

Freshly baked bread is one of life's greatest simple pleasures, and one that's much easier than you might think. You can make your own crusty French bread, soft sandwich loaves, and deliciously sweet quick breads as a great way of saving money and filling your home with the wonderful smell of fresh baked goods. Anyone can make bread with a few simple ingredients and a little know-how.

Method 1
Making Basic French Bread

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    Assemble your ingredients. For this basic French bread, all you'll need is:
    • 6 cups of all-purpose white flour
    • 1 tsp. salt
    • 2 cups of warm water
    • 3 tsp. or 1 package active dry yeast
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    Activate the yeast. In a cup or a small bowl, mix your yeast with about a 1/4 cup of warm warm (100-110˚F) water. The temperature of the water needs to be warm to the touch, but not hot. If the water is too warm, the yeast will be killed, while if it's too cool, it won't activate enough to make the bread rise properly. It should be warm enough you could keep your finger in it without becoming uncomfortable.
    • After a minute or two, the mixture should start to take on a thicker, frothy texture, and should smell a lot like a beer. If it's bubbly and thick, the yeast is activated properly and ready to go.
    • If you use "Rapid Rise" or self-activated yeast, you don't have to activate the yeast before adding it to the flour. Skip this step and go to the next.
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    Mix the flour and salt together thoroughly in a large mixing bowl. The bowl needs to be big enough to hold all your flour and water together at once and mix it comfortably, preferably with a sturdy wooden spoon. When you've mixed the dry ingredients, you can also add the yeast, whether you're using quick yeast or the bubbly activated wet mixture. Stir it into the flour.
    • Alternatively, you can mix the dough in an electric mixer or KitchenAid, provided you've got a dough hook attachment. Mixing the dough, however, is only a short part of making a loaf of French bread, so it's usually easier to just mix it up by hand. It's not necessary to use a mixer, especially because you'll need to get your hands dirty anyway!
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    Add the water, mixing thoroughly. Slowly add water to the bowl with one hand, while you stir the flour with the wooden spoon in your other hand. You're looking to form the initial dough and get all the ingredients to come together into a workable mass, so it's important to keep your spoon moving. It can be helpful to have someone add the water while you stir, or vice versa.
    • The amount of water you'll need to make the dough can be quite variable (less in humid climates) but you'll get it with some practice. Add slowly and stir, watching the dough come together. As soon as the bread starts coming together in the bowl, you should stop adding water.
    • Reach into the bowl with your hands (get some flour on them first) and pull the dough together. Push all the stray bits of wet dough into the ball and start to form the basic dough in the bowl before turning it out.
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    Turn the dough out on a well-floured kneading surface. Let the dough rest for at least five minutes. At this stage, the gluten strands are starting to form, giving the bread its wonderfully chewy texture. The strands are forming whether you're kneading or not, so it'll be easier to knead if you let the gluten do its work for a few minutes, making your job easier by bringing the bread together.
    • In the meantime, you can clean the mixing bowl out thoroughly, before using it to rise the dough.
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    Knead the dough. The initial kneading is the most important step in preparing the dough. You want to firmly knead constantly for at least 5-10 minutes, or until the dough feels smooth. The surface of the dough should be soft and look mostly uniform, not tacky or lumpy. If it looks like the craggy surface of the moon, keep kneading, adding flour as necessary.
    • It takes some practice to get the motion right, but it's a lot like Mr. Miyagi's advice from Karate Kid: wax on, wax off. You want to push hard into the dough, rolling it away from you, and folding it over. Don't be afraid to push hard, as if you were trying to push through the dough and touch the table, pushing it forward and rolling it over.
    • Make sure your hands are well-floured, and that the dough isn't sticking to the surface by keeping a light dusting of flour on both. If the dough seems wet, add more flour to the surface of the dough by sprinkling it on and continue moving it.
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    Let the dough rise for about 3 hours. Put the dough back into the bowl after cleaning it out thoroughly (or at least rinsing it) and cover with plastic wrap, or a towel. Keep the dough in a warm, but not hot, place. The ideal temperature is about 70-75 degrees F for dough to rise.
    • If it's cold in your house, or you're baking in the middle of winter, a good place to rise your dough is on or in the stove while it's off, letting the warm pilot light control the rise.
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    Punch the dough down, turn it out, and reform it. You don't need to knead the dough for nearly as long as you did before the first rising. Roll it over a few times on a floured surface and return it to the bowl for the second rise. Here, you're looking to simply reform the dough into the basic shape you started with. It won't take long and the dough should be much more easy to work with, smooth and soft.[1]
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    Let the dough rise again for about 90 minutes. Opinions vary on the necessity of a second rising: some bakers skip the second rise and go straight to forming loaves and proofing the dough before baking, while some bakers prefer three risings for the best consistency. Good crusty French bread is distinctive for the airy inner crumb, which you'll only get from lots of little bubbles created by the yeast in the rising. If you want to make "real" French bread and you've got the time, rise it twice, or three times. If you want that hot delicious bread smell filling your kitchen like ten minutes ago, go ahead and skip it. It'll still be great.
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    Form the dough into whatever shape you choose. Remove the dough from the bowl and cut it into however many distinct loaves, batards, or baguettes you want to bake, then start rolling it out.
    • To form boules cut the dough in half and reform into two simple rounded lumps like you've been forming. Place them onto a sheet sprinkled with a small amount of cornmeal and cover.
    • To form baguettes cut the dough into 4 equal portions and roll them out on a floured surface, long and skinny. It'll take several rollings to get them worked out long enough, so keep moving from the center of the loaf outward, rolling them as evenly as possible.
    • To form batards, cut the dough into 4 or 6 portions and roll shorter, squatter baguettes. There's no perfect way to roll them, and they'll taste good no matter what.
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    Let the dough proof for at least 45 minutes. After placing your rolled-out loaves onto the baking sheets you intend to use in the baking, cover them for at least 45 minutes and let them plump back up before putting them in the oven.
    • It's customary to cut the top of the loaf, with an X or your own patented pattern before putting it in the oven. Make small cuts, about half an inch into the dough, spaced about an inch away from other cuts to let the dough plump up evenly as it bakes.
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    Bake at 400 degrees F for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. The bread will be ready to come out when there's a good golden crust on it and the bottom of the bread is firm, making a hollow-ish knocking sound when you tap on it or flick it with your finger.
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    Crust the bread up with steam. The secret to the perfect crust? Steam. Use a spray bottle to periodically squirt the bread, or squirt the inside of the oven with a small amount of water a few times during the baking to create a steamy mist on the inside of the oven that'll yield a crunchy exterior, perfect for French bread.
    • Alternatively, it's common to put a pan of water in the oven on a rack under the bread, so allow steam to gradually form throughout the baking process. Experiment some with your oven to see what works best for you.

Method 2
Making Basic Sandwich Bread

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    Assemble your ingredients. Sandwich bread works in basically the same prep process as the French bread, but with a few more ingredients to give it a sweet, soft, texture. Additions or alternative ingredients will be suggested throughout, but for the basic starter sandwich bread, you'll need:
    • 6 cups all-purpose flour (white or whole wheat)
    • 1 cup water
    • 1 cup milk
    • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
    • 2 tablespoons of sugar or honey
    • 1 tablespoon of salt
    • oil (optional)
    • 1 egg, beaten (optional)
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    Activate the yeast. Using 1 cup of warm water (100-110 deg. F), sprinkle the yeast into the bowl of a standing mixer or a large mixing bowl and cover it with water to let it activate.
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    Scorch the milk in a saucepan. Heat the milk quickly on the stove over high heat, until just before it boils, then take it off the heat and add in the butter and the sugar, mixing it thoroughly. You don't want to actually burn the milk, and be careful that it doesn't boil over, since milk tends to start frothing very quickly. Keep an eye on it and take it off the heat as soon as it starts to steam. Let it cool down slightly before you add it to the yeast.
    • Alternatively, it's perfectly fine to heat the milk in the microwave and add the butter and sugar when it's hot.[2]
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    Add the wet mix and 1 cup of the flour to the mixer. Stir the mixer for about 2 minutes at medium speed. As the dough starts to form, gradually continue adding in the rest of the flour, one cup at a time. When all the flour has been added, beat on a higher setting for 2 more minutes.
    • How much flour you use will depend on how humid it is, so keep an eye on the dough and use your judgment. Wheat flour is likewise very different to work with--you'll likely need to use less of it to form the dough. When you're first starting out, it might be a good idea to use half wheat and half white flour to get used to the difference.
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    Turn out the dough and start kneading. Press all the leftover crumbs of flour into the dough ball, then turn the lump out onto your floury kneading surface. Keep kneading until the dough has a soft, smooth surface texture that springs back when you push into it.
    • Alternatively, it's perfectly fine to knead in your electric mixer, provided you've got a bread hook. It can be much easier on the hands. Knead the dough in the mixer for about 10 minutes to form the gluten strands that'll give the bread a wonderfully chewy texture.
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    Cover the ball of dough with oil, and put it in an oily bowl. This stops the surface from drying out and cracking while it rises--the dried dough will become nasty lumps in your finished bread. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel or plastic wrap and put the bowl in a warm (but not hot) location.
    • Leave the dough alone for about 90 minutes while it rises. It should about double in size, or at least plump up significantly if you're using a lot of wheat flour.
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    Punch it down. Put your fists on the ball of dough and squish it until it's about the size you started with. You don't need to knead it again, as the dough should be soft and springy. Divide the dough into two equal portions with a chef's knife or a pastry knife to form your loaves.
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    Roll two loaves and to greased loaf pans. On your kneading surface, roll out the dough with your hands by flattening it first into a kind of tall rectangle, then folding the bottom and top in toward the middle and pinching the seam closed. This will make the bottom of the loaf.[3]
    • Add the loaves into the greased pans and cover the pans again with the towel to let the dough rise again for 30-45 minutes while you clean up the kneading surface and preheat the oven.
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    Bake the bread at 400 °F (200 °C) for 35 minutes or until golden brown. Before adding the bread into the oven, slit the dough 3 or 4 times about a half inch deep to score the surface, then top with beaten egg or oil if you want to create a shiny crisp top crust.
    • The bread is finished when the bottom of the loaf is firm, and you're able to make a hollow tapping with your finger. If you're not sure, turn it out of the pan and check by tapping on it with your finger a few times. It'll be hot, so be careful.

Method 3
Making Quick Breads

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    Make a quick beer bread. It doesn't get any simpler than a warm, dense, deliciously yeasty beer bread, without having to go to all the trouble of letting it rise. Simply mix together 3 cups of white flour, a half cup of sugar, and a 12 oz can of beer thoroughly in a bowl. Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan, brush with melted butter, and bake at 375 F for 45-50 minutes. It's impossible to mess up and makes a great quick accompaniment to dinner.
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    Try a soda bread. Soda breads can be sweet or savory, depending on your tastes and the ingredients available. For a simple one, mix together your dry ingredients: 4 cups of flour with a tsp each of salt and baking soda, then add several tablespoons of sugar (1 if you want savory bread, up to 4 if you want it sweeter). For the wet ingredients, mix together 2 cups of milk or buttermilk with four tablespoons of melted butter and combine everything in a bowl. Knead lightly and bake in a greased loaf pan for about an hour at 375 F.
    • Common additions include lemon or orange zest and dried fruits or nuts. Serve topped with marmalade or plain.
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    Experiment with other recipes. Quick breads are cabinet and fridge cleaners: throw in whatever you've got and see if it's good. It can be a great way to use whatever you've got taking up space. Try making:

Method 4
More Variety of Breads

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    Make garlic bread. Garlic bread is a favorite with many dinners and can be made using different kinds of bread.
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    Make challah.This wonderfully, rich Jewish yeast bread resembles brioche but is a bit sweeter. It's a delicious treat that is delicious with butter and other spreads.
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    Make fruit breads.These type of breads give you a chance to be creative and make your bread much tastier. Examples could be banana bread, apple bread, papaya bread, and even mango bread.
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    Make cinnamon swirl bread. One delicious treat is cinnamon swirl bread, favored by many in the winter and holiday months. Easy to make and very tasty as well!
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    Make vegetable breads. Vegetable breads are delicious, and healthy too! Examples could be pumpkin bread, cornbread, and even zucchini bread.
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    Make croissants.These buttery and flaky French breakfast treats take a long time to prepare from scratch, but they're irresistible. Take time to gobble them all up!
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    Make biscuits. This recipe makes hot, flaky homemade American-style biscuits using self-rising flour. Ready to sink your teeth into some flaky, buttery goodness?
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    Make French bread. Ah, a crusty baguette with fresh butter - is there any greater culinary delight? French bread tastes wonderful fresh from the oven; once you start making it at home, you won't want to stop.


  • What you use for liquid will change the flavour of your bread. Milk and shortening make light white bread. Water and olive oil make tougher Italian bread. You can use wholewheat (wholemeal) or white flour, or a mix of both (recommended as whole wheat can be too heavy), or add other grains, bran, flax seeds, other seeds and herbs... Once you know how you can make up any combination you want!
  • Buns--a recipe for one loaf will usually make 1 dozen dinner rolls. Put them on a greased baking sheet spaced a couple inches apart, as they will swell and touch each other when you rise them the second time.
  • "Bread machine flour" is high in protein and helps the yeast form more gluten, making it ideal for bread in or out of a bread machine. For super-stiff and coarse Italian bread, substitute in some 'pasta dura' flour, and don't use a loaf pan.
  • Optionally, brush the top of the loaf with milk if you want a soft finish, or with egg for a hard shine. If you want to sprinkle any seeds or stuff on top of the bread, do it before baking. Poppy seeds, plain oats, or sesame seeds are fine.
  • You can make the oven into a warm place by turning it on low for 5-10 minutes. Other options are on top of a radiator on low, or in a strong beam of sunlight, especially if you have a dark cloth over the dough.
  • Make sure you have the right ingredients. Cake or pastry flour is too "soft"--bread should be a bit chewy. Avoid self-raising flour as well. All purpose is fine, but bread flour (it will be labeled as "bread flour," "high protein flour," or "flour for bread machines") is best--it has a higher gluten content, so will respond to kneading better.
  • Kneading: with the ball of dough in front of you, put the heels of your hands on the dough and push into it, as if you want to push the dough away from you. Rock your hands back and do it again. Don't let go with your right hand: grab and turn the far end of the dough 1/4 turn to the left, then fold it back on itself, put down your heels and push again. The idea is to work the whole ball of dough--the turning gives you new dough to massage.


  • When the bread comes out of the oven, don't try to cut it immediately, you will likely crush the loaf, or at least tear up the soft inside. It will set in 30-60 minutes. A few clean dish towels draped over the top will keep it warmer, but make sure air can circulate, so the crust doesn't get soggy.

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