Photo Credit: Courtesy of "The Illustrated Kitchen Bible: 1,000 Family Recipes from Around the World" by Victoria Blashford-Snell
There’s nothing more intoxicating than the smell of freshly baked homemade bread. But there’s no getting around it: when learning how to make bread, you’ll need yeast, and you’ll need to knead. Beyond that, it’s not hard at all!
Active dry yeast needs to be “proofed” with warm water to wake up the yeast organisms, while instant yeast can be added directly to the flour and salt. Stir the ingredients together with water into a shaggy dough, then knead the dough for 8-10 minutes to develop the gluten (the protein in flour that gives the bread structure and elasticity).
Once kneaded, let the dough rise for an hour and a half, letting the yeast do its work, then shape the dough into a round or sandwich loaf and let it rise a second time for about a half hour, though timing will vary depending on the recipe and the warmth of your kitchen (this step is called “proofing” in baker-speak). The double rise is crucial for the most flavor and texture in your bread.
Bake the bread until its crust is golden brown and hard; when you tap it gently with your fist, it should sound hollow inside. Let cool completely before slicing.
Crusty White Loaf
3 cups bread flour
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 2/3 cups tepid water, as needed
Makes 1 large loaf
1. Stir the flour, yeast, salt, and sugar together in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and pour in the oil. Stir in as much of the water as needed to make a soft dough.
2. Knead on a lightly floured work surface about 8 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball. Turn into a large oiled bowl, and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap. Let stand in a warm place about 1 hour, or until doubled in volume.
3. Oil and flour the inside of a 9 × 5in (23 × 13cm) loaf pan, and tap out the excess flour. Punch down the dough. Shape it into a rough rectangle to fit the pan and place in the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand about 30 minutes, or until almost doubled in volume.
4. Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C). Dust the top of the loaf with flour. Cut a shallow slash down the center of the loaf. Bake for 20 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C) and bake for 20 minutes more until the loaf sounds hollow when removed from the pan and tapped on the bottom. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.
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