Every baker needs to start somewhere and if you're new to homemade bread, there is no easier recipe than this one-loaf yeast bread. The recipe produces a soft crust and a moist center while using the most basic ingredients that can be found in most kitchens.
Beginners will find this to be the perfect introduction to baking great bread. You can use it to learn about the essential ingredients that go into bread, practice your kneading and other techniques, and discover the perfect baking time in your oven.
It's best if you start with one loaf to see how it turns out. If needed, you can make slight adjustments on a second loaf. Your family will not mind your trials and you'll quickly find why baking your own bread is so much better than buying loaves at the store.
Experienced bakers will also find that this recipe is a perfect base for experimentation. If you're adventurous, feel free to alter and play with it to create your own bread recipes.
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
- 1/2 cup milk
- 3 cups all-purpose flour (approximately)
Mixing the Bread Dough
The first step in any bread recipe is to make the dough. It's very easy and after a few loaves, you will discover the perfect amount of flour to use.
- Pour the warm water in a large bowl.
- Slowly stir in the dry yeast and continue to stir until all of the yeast is dissolved.
- Add the salt, sugar, shortening, and milk to the bowl.
- Bread Science: Contrary to popular belief, salt does not kill the yeast. It simply slows down the yeast growth and this is called retarding: the salt 'retards' the yeast.
- Stir until everything is thoroughly combined.
- Mix in the first 2 cups of flour.
- If needed, begin adding more flour, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough chases the spoon around the bowl.
Important Tip: You do not need to use up all the flour called for in this recipe, or you may need more flour than called for. The amounts vary depending on many factors, including weather, which is why most bread recipes only give an approximate amount of flour needed.
Prepare and Bake the Bread Dough
Once you have mixed the bread dough, it is time to work it and let it rise. This is often the stage that turns many bakers away from making homemade bread because it does take time for bread to rise and practice to learn how to knead the dough. After a few loaves, you'll be a natural.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead. Add small spoonfuls of flour as needed, until the dough is soft and smooth (not sticky to the touch).
- Put the dough in a greased or buttered bowl, turn the dough over so that the top of dough is greased.
- Cover and let the dough rise in warm, draft-free spot for 1 hour.
- Punch down the dough.
- Turn out onto a floured board and knead.
- Preheat oven to 375 F.
- Form the dough into a loaf and set in buttered bread pan.
- Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes.
- Score the risen dough by cutting three slashes across the top with a sharp knife.
- Place it in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.
- Turn out the loaf of bread and let cool on a rack or clean dishtowel.
A Few Basic Bread Baking Tips
It's true that bread can be a little tricky, but with a few baking tips you'll be creating great loaves in no time.
- Use bottled water instead of tap water to make your breads. Water softeners and chlorinated public water can sometimes kill the yeast needed to make your bread dough rise.
- Brush loaves with butter immediately after baking to produce a soft crust.
- Brush loaves with milk before baking to produce a dark, shiny crust.
- Brush loaves with egg white before baking to produce a shiny crust.
- Spraying loaves with water while they bake will produce a crispy crust.