Making bread can either be extremely complicated or very easy, it all depends on what kind of bread you want to make and the choices you make along the way.
I’m all about easy and simple, so I always try to figure out what comprises the basics of a recipe. Once you have that down, you can customise to your heart’s content. And this is exactly the approach I took with bread when I first started baking it.
This one is a biggie, so strap in and make use of the navigation.
- what is bread?
- choosing the ingredients
- yeasted bread
- soda bread
- sourdough bread
- leftover bread
What is bread?
As basic and common as it is, bread is surprisingly hard to define. I’m going to go with the most usual definition of flour, water and yeast kneaded together, left to rise, and baked. Of course, other things can be added to the bread for flavour or textrure.
And then there is bread made with chemical raising agents (like soda bread), bread made with a fermented starter (poolish or sourdough), and breads with no leavening agent whatsoever (unleavened breads). Flatbreads can have leavening agents or not, they take their name because of their shape.
Most bread is made with wheat flour, but other flours can also be used on their own or (most usually) mixed with wheat flour.
Choosing the ingredients
If you’ve never made bread before, it’s best to start with very basic ingredients: plain white flour and water.
There are many different kinds of flour, and some called ‘bread’ or ‘strong’ are usually considered the best for a basic white loaf. However, your regular cheapest supermarket brand of flour can make amazing bread (I never buy anything other than plain white flour and bake all the bread we eat successfully). Get used to the steps, the feel of the dough, and how your oven behaves before you start spending money on more expensive ingredients, you will probably have some less than stellar loaves when you first get started baking bread.
As you become more experienced, you can start experimenting with different flours and enriched doughs (with added eggs, butter, oil, and other ingredients).
Yeasted bread is the kind of bread that uses yeast to rise. It is the most common one you can find in shops, and very easy to make at home.
There are a lot of different kinds of yeast in the market. Some are used for brewing and are not good for baking, and some are used for baking (those are the most common ones).
- Fresh yeast: you find this one in fridges, usually in small cubes or blocks. Because it is fresh it can go off quite fast, so you only really want to get fresh yeast if you know you are going to use it fast and can keep the cold chain. Fresh yeast needs to be activated in lukewarm water, ideally with some sugars mixed in (granulated white sugar works well, but it’s not the only option).
- Active dry yeast: found in the pantry section of stores, it lasts for a long time, but not forever! Active dry yeast is dry and granulated, but it still needs to be activated. A common mistake is to confuse active dry yeast with instant yeast and skip the activation process, this will lead to the dough not rising.
- Instant or fast action dry yeast: thinner than active dry yeast. This is the longest lasting yeast, and doesn’t need to be activated, you can add it to your bakes straight out of the container. This is my favourite kind of yeast, as it can withstand weather changes better than the other two, lasts longers and is the easiest to use. The only catch is that you won’t know if the yeast is alive until your dough rises unless you actively do a test first.
Messing up bread is really hard. Even if you don’t end up with a prize-winning loaf, you will still have perfectly edible bread, but it might not look like the bread you had in mind. The biggest issues you will deal with when making bread are:
- a bad rise because the yeast is too old, or you didn’t use it correctly. You will notice something is wrong during the first rise when the bread rises very little or not at all. You can fix it by adding fresh yeast (the bread won’t be perfect but it will be good enough) or by using the dough to make flatbreads or a crispy pizza.
- the liquid was too hot or too cold. If too hot, you will kill the yeast. If too cold, you won’t be able to activate the yeast. If you killed your yeast, your options are as above. If the liquid was cold, you can activate the yeast by adding some warmer liquid or putting the dough in a very warm environment.
Another common issue is the oven:
- the oven is too hot. Your bread will burn on the outside and still be raw in the middle. Obviously the best option is to lower the temperature of the oven next time you bake bread. But to rescue a loaf that is already cooking, you can lower the temperature and cover the bread with some foil.
- the oven is too cold. In this case your bread will take very long to cook and will not rise much. The only way to fix it is by increasing the temperature as soon as you realise what’s going on.
And when all else fails, if the bread doesn’t turn out great, you can always use it for bread crumbs or croutons! Or scroll all the way down to find some recipes for leftover bread (with my badly raised breads I usually make bread pudding).
Basic multi-use yeasted bread recipe
This is my go-to bread recipe. I make it at least once per week, and the record stands at 4 times in one week when I made a loaf for breakfast, sesame buns for burgers, pizza, and cinnamon rolls. It truly is multi-use!
This recipe will give you 4 medium pizzas, 3 small loaves, 2 big ones, or between 16 and 25 buns! You can freeze the dough to bake it later.
Mix in a bowl 1.5 kilograms (12 cups) of flour, with 1 litre (4 cups) of lukewarm water, milk, or oil (I prefer water for crusty bread, and oil for sandwich bread and pizza, and milk for sweet breads), 21 grams (3 sachets or 2 1/2 tablespoons) of instant dry yeast, 10 grams (2 teaspoons) of salt and 10 grams (2 teaspoons) of sugar (less salt and more sugar if you’re doing a sweet bake).
At this point it is easier to use a fork or a spatula to mix rather than your hands. I use a large wok as a mixing bowl, it has a comfortable shape for mixing and kneading and comes with a lid. It is also easier to clean in a sink than a mixing bowl.
When the dough is starting to come together, you can start kneading with your hands. You can do this on a flat surface or for easier cleaning, in the bowl. You’ll want to knead for at least 10 minutes, or until the dough doesn’t tear when stretched. It should feel smooth and look a little bit shiny.
At this point you may notice the dough is too dry or too wet, this may be because of the humidity of the environment or the flour itself. If too dry, it will fail to become smooth and the kneading will feel like a workout. In this case add some extra liquid, but slowly! If too wet, it will be sticky and very stretchy. In this case add some more flour or, if you prefer, oats are a great option that will give you extra texture and absorb the extra liquid without messing with the yeast amounts.
Cover the dough (a moist cloth over the bowl or a glass lid work perfectly) and leave it for about 2 hours at room temperature, and about 45 minutes in warm temperature. The time greatly depends on the temperature and humidity, I’ve had bread rise at room temperature in 30 minutes and in 4 hours, all because the temperature and humidity were different.
You can also slow the proofing by putting the dough in the fridge (you can leave it there overnight), or stop it altogether by putting it in the freezer if you’re preparing the dough ahead of time. If you go this route, make sure the dough is at room temperature before you move on.
Flavour, shape, and second proof
Once the dough has doubled in size, you should knead it again. It will go back to the original size. Now you can add any flavourings and shape. If you only have the basic ingredients on hand, onion bread is a great option. I personally love adding oats to my bread (you might need to add a bit extra liquid so the dough doesn’t get too stiff) as well as herbs, spices, and seeds.
‘Punching out the air’ helps give the bread a finer crumb and develop stronger gluten strands. The more you handle the dough, the finer the crumb will be. So if your prefer a more open crumb, keep this second kneading to a minimum. You don’t need to do the ridiculously thing you often see on television where people literally punch the dough or throw it at their counter, normal kneading is all that you need.
As before, leave the dough to rise, but it will only take about half the time. Once again, you can slow the process by putting the dough in the fridge or freezer. But remember to bring it to room temperature before baking.
Pre-heat the oven to 180 C (350 F). When it reaches temperature, you can bake the bread making sure it’s placed in the middle of the oven.
Baking time will depend on the size of the loaves or buns, and whether you are covering them or not. The best trick is to turn the bread over once it looks golden and tap it, if it sounds hollow it’s done.
For the best texture, before you cut into the bread, you need to let it cool completely, especially if you will be slicing it with a knife. My family doesn’t care about this, and grabs the bread right out of the oven.
For a harder crust (crusty bread), leave the bread to cool down uncovered. For a softer crust (like brioche or sandwich bread), cover with a cloth while it cools downs or keep inside the oven with the door cracked open.
50+ yeasted bread recipes
- Agege bread, by Nigerian Food TV
- Bath buns, by Jamie Oliver
- Beetroot, bacon & cheddar bread scrolls, by BBC goodfood
- Beetroot bread, by Baking mad
- Belgian buns, by BBC goodfood
- Black bread, by Jamie Oliver
- Brioche, by BBC goodfood
- Caramel apple cinnamon buns, by BBC goodfood
- Carrot cake monkey bread, by BBC goodfood
- Challah, by BBC goodfood
- Cheese, chive & ham tear-and-share bread, by BBC goodfood
- Chelsea buns, by BBC goodfood
- Chocolate orange babka, by BBC goodfood
- Courgette & mushroom bread, by BBC goodfood
- Easy bread rolls, by BBC goodfood
- Eggnog cinnamon rolls, by SIMPLY gloria
- English muffins, by Jamie Oliver
- Focaccia, by BBC goodfood
- Folar de Olhao (Algarvia) – Easter bread of Olhao, Algarve, by Anna’s Portuguese Cooking
- Garlic parmesan bread sticks, by SIMPLY gloria
- Gluten-free bread, by BBC goodfood (using a commercial gluten-free flour)
- Guernsey Gache, by Tales From The Kitchen Shed
- Hokkaido milk bread, by food for Torte
- Homemade garlic bread twists, by Tales From The Kitchen Shed
- Homemade potato bread, by Simply recipes (this makes great hotdog buns)
- Homemade soft pretzels, by BBC goodfood
- Honey oat bread, by this little home
- Iced buns with cream & jam, by BBC goodfood
- Irish malted bread, by BBC goodfood
- Light wholemeal bread, by baking mad
- Monkey bread, by BBC goodfood
- No-knead bread, by BBC goodfood
- No knead farmhouse bread, by Vikalinka by Julia Frey
- Oatmeal batter bread, by The English Kitchen
- Oatmeal casserole bread, by The English Kitchen
- Pan de muertos (Mexican bread of the dead), by allrecipes
- Panettone, by BBC goodfood
- Pizza dough, by Jamie Oliver
- Porridge bread, by BBC goodfood
- Pumpernickel bread, by Baking mad
- Rye bread, by BBC goodfood
- Simit bread, by BBC goodfood
- Simit pogaca, by BBC goodfood
- Slow cooker bread, by BBC goodfood
- Soft fluffy breadsticks with sundried tomatoes, by this little home
- Spiced fruit & pistachio bread wreath, by BBC goodfood
- Sticky lemon sweet rolls, by SIMPLY gloria
- St Lucia saffron buns, by BBC goodfood
- Stuffed focaccia, by Jamie Oliver
- The best everyday brown bread , by brighton baker
- Tiger bread, by BBC goodfood
- Twisted spiced bread with honey & tahini butter, by BBC goodfood
- Vegan Polish sweet cheese rolls with berries, by lazy cat kitchen
- Vegan pretzel buns, by lazy cat kitchen
- Vegan pretzels with mustard dip, by lazy cat kitchen
- Yeasted pumpkin and cranberry bread, by Tales From The Kitchen Shed
Soda breads are made using baking soda as a leavening agent. They don’t need to be left to rise for a long time and the texture is crumblier.
Some breads use baking powder instead of baking soda. The making process is the same, the only difference is that they can’t technically be called soda breads so they are often called quick breads.
20+ soda bread recipes
- Brown seeded soda rolls, by apples under my bed
- Christmas soda bread, by fabfood 4 all
- Courgette & cheddar soda bread, by BBC goodfood
- Easy beer bread, by baking queen 74
- Easy cinnamon swirls, by baking queen 74
- Easy soda bread, by BBC goodfood
- Easy soda bread with yogurt, by Searching for Spice
- Easy spelt pizza, by Jamie Oliver
- Einkorn soda bread, by BBC goodfood
- Fruit & spice soda bread, by BBC goodfood
- Nigella seed and tomato quick bread, by Searching for Spice
- No yeast pizza dough, by BBC goodfood
- Onion soda bread with whipped English mustard butter, by BBC goodfood
- Plain flour bread, by BBC goodfood
- Rustic oat & treacle soda bread, by BBC goodfood
- Savoury oatmeal bread, by Odlums
- Seeded wholemeal soda bread, by BBC goodfood
- Slow cooker mozzarella and herb soda bread, by baking queen 74
- Soda farls, by BBC goodfood
- Stout & apple wheaten bread, by BBC goodfood
- Sundried tomato soda bread baps, by BBC goodfood
- The perfect damper, by Australia’s best recipes
- Traditional Irish soda bread, by the cook’s pyjamas
Sourdough bread is made with a fermented starter. In the past few years sourdough has gone from a niche food item to being trendy, and bakeries across the world charge ridiculous amounts for them.
Luckily, a starter is very easy to make at home, and maintaining it is not too hard either. If you are not ready to commit yourself to taking care of a starter, a bread using a poolish might be a good starting point. A poolish is a pre-fermented starter that is made only 1 or 2 days before making the bread dough.
I am far from being an expert on sourdough, so if you want to make your own starter, I recommend this recipe for a white flour starter or this one for a rye flour starter. If you’re after a step-by-step guide to making sourdough, thekitchn has a fantastic article and The perfect loaf goes into all the science.
20+ sourdough bread recipes
- Baguettes (French bread), by BBC goodfood (uses a poolish)
- Ciabatta, by BBC goodfood (uses a poolish)
- Easy sourdough bread, by BBC goodfood (dough includes some yeast)
- Homemade sourdough bread, by BBC goodfood (a basic recipe with started instructions)
- Honey & rye sourdough loaf, by fuss free flavours
- How to make sourdough bread, by BBC goodfood
- Muesli sourdough loaf, by fuss free flavours
- Pizza dough made with sourdough discard, by A Day in the Life on the Farm (uses some yeast)
- Pumpkin sourdough bread, by Zesty South Indian Kitchen
- Rye sourdough bread, by BBC goodfood
- Rye yoghurt sourdough, by cuisinefiend
- Slow rise no knead sourdough loaf, by fuss free flavours
- Sourdough apple cinnamon rolls, by yummish
- Sourdough bread, by Baking mad
- Sourdough cinnamon buns, by BBC goodfood
- Sourdough crumpets, by Manu’s Menu (uses a bit of baking powder)
- Sourdough discard bread, by hungry lankan (uses yeast)
- Sourdough focaccia, by BBC goodfood
- Sourdough hot cross buns, by BBC goodfood
- Sourdough sandwich bread – with yeast, part whole wheat, by leelalicious
- Sweet sourdough, by BBC goodfood
Flatbreads follow all sorts of recipes: yeast, soda, baking powder, sourdough, no leavening agents…. The one thing they have in common is that they are all flat, some can be fluffly, but none is baked into a loaf.
Flatbreads are a great way to get started in bread-making, they are quick and very hard to mess up. And what’s best, most cuisines have at least one form of traditional flatbread.
25+ flatbread recipes
- 3 ingredient gluten free flatbread, by healthy living James
- Aloo paratha / potato masala stuffed Indian flatbread, by Kurry leaves
- Best gluten-free naan bread, by healthy living James
- Chickpea flat bread, by healthy living James
- Easy naan bread, by BBC goodfood
- Flatbreads, by BBC goodfood
- Gluten-free Spring flatbread pizzas, by Jamie Oliver
- Gobi paratha / cauliflower masala stuffed Indian flatbread, by Kurry leaves
- Grilled flatbreads with rosemary oil, by Jamie Oliver
- Homemade fry bread, by SIMPLY gloria
- Homemade peshwari naan bread, by this little home
- Homemade pitta bread, by Tales From The Kitchen Shed
- Indian bread with courgettes & coriander, by BBC goodfood
- Irish potato bread (Irish potato cakes or farls), by Christina’s cucina
- Lebanese flat bread, by little big H
- Naan bread, by BBC goodfood
- Navajo flatbreads, by Jamie Oliver
- Nigella seed flatbread, by Searching for Spice
- No-knead Turkish bread, by lazy cat kitchen
- Pitta bread, by BBC goodfood
- Puran poli / sweet lentil flatbread, by Kurry leaves
- Quick & puffy flatbreads, by BBC goodfood
- Rustic bread, by BBC goodfood
- Spiced flat breads, by BBC goodfood
- Tortillas, by BBC goodfood
- Triangular bread thins, by BBC goodfood
- Vegan Turkish pizza, by lazy cat kitchen
- Wild garlic butter on music paper bread, by BBC goodfood
Using leftover bread
Bread, as amazing as it is, has a tendency to go stale. You can keep this from happening by keeping your bread inside the fridge (in a plastic bag to prevent it from drying) or in the freezer, but the texture will change somewhat and it will eventually go stale anyway.
Stale bread can be brought back to life by steaming it or warming it up in a microwave for a few seconds. But, just life the fridge, this will change the texture.
If your bread is beyond recovery, you can use it as croutons or make it into breadcrumbs by using a food processor or a hand grater (which will help you control the process and sizes much better!). Or, you could try one of the recipes below.
45+ leftover bread recipes
- Bread & butter pudding toast, by BBC goodfood
- Bread & tomato soup (pappa al pomodoro), by Jamie Oliver
- Bread crumb fried potatoes, by The English Kitchen
- Bread masala – Spicy masala bread, by Swasthi’s recipes
- Bread pakora – cheesy bread fritters, by foodvedam
- Bread pudding, by BBC goodfood
- Bread pudding, by the English Kitchen (some scrolling before the recipe, but worth it)
- Bread soup, by The English Kitchen
- Buttered toast bread sauce, by BBC goodfood
- Buttermilk, brown sugar & rye bread ice cream, by BBC goodfood
- Chicken kiev, by Jamie Oliver
- Chicken parmo, by BBC goodfood
- Classic bread & butter pudding, by BBC goodfood
- Creamy bread & shallot sauce, by BBC goodfood
- Eggy bread, by BBC goodfood
- Eggy spelt bread with orange cheese & raspberries, by BBC goodfood
- Extra creamy bread sauce, by BBC goodfood
- Feta & roasted tomato shakshuka, by BBC goodfood
- Fish cakes with potato and dill, by little big H
- French toast, by BBC goodfood
- Garlic bread nachos, by BBC goodfood
- Homemade Scotch eggs, by this little home
- Lamb & garlic bread salad, by BBC goodfood
- Leek & tomato eggy bread bake, by BBC goodfood
- Long-stem broccoli bread bake, by BBC goodfood
- Meatball & garlic bread traybake, by BBC goodfood
- Meat bread rolls, by Kurry leaves
- Meatloaf, by Jamie Oliver
- Mexican eggy bread, by BBC goodfood
- Pan-fried red mullet with crispy breadcrumbs & a herby tomato salad, by Jamie Oliver
- Panzanella, by BBC goodfood
- Roasted sweet garlic, bread and almond soup, by Jamie Oliver
- Roast fennel & bread gratin, by BBC goodfood
- Salmorejo – rustic tomato soup with olive oil & bread, BBC goodfood
- Sesame prawn toast, by BBC goodfood
- Sloppy Joe pizza breads, by BBC goodfood
- Sourdough bread sauce, by BBC goodfood
- Sourdough bread stuffing with Italian sausage, by SIMPLY gloria
- Spicy pangrattato risotto, by Jamie Oliver
- Stuffing, by Jamie Oliver
- The best bread dressing, by The English Kitchen
- Tofu katsu curry (vegan), by Searching for Spice
- Treacle tart, by Jamie Oliver
- Tuscan-style ribollita, by BBC goodfood
- Ultimate roast chicken Caesar salad, by Jamie Oliver
- Vegan bread and butter pudding, lazy cat kitchen
- White bread / sweet milk bread, by Kurry leaves