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Jan 3, 2010 02:46 PM

Question on homemade bread.....

Hey! In all my years of baking and cooking, I have actually never made bread. I found this "simple" recipe online. Based on your experience, is this a good recipe to try for the first time, or are there some other recipes you would recommend that I try? Thanks so much!

1/4 cup milk
5 teaspoons sugar (or 1 1/2 tablespoons
)1 teaspoons salt
5 teaspoons butter (or 1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 package active dry yeast (you can get yeast near the flour at your local grocery store)
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups flour (get unbleached white for your first attempt)
Corn starch or nonstick cooking spray (just to prevent the bread from sticking to the bowl or pan)

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  1. Bread is always a matter of personal preference. In your case, it depends on what sort of bread you're after. As for your ingredient list, for a first bread making effort, I don't think you can beat a really simple four ingredient (yeast, water, salt, flour) recipe for French bread. I've looked over the web to see what I could find that is close to what I do. This one is pretty much on the mark:

    If you like the thick, crispy crust, the easiest way to get it is to use a clean spray bottle of cold water and spray the very hot oven a few times early on while the bread is baking. Have a lot of nice fresh butter on hand when this comes out of the oven. It won't last long! Good luck!

    6 Replies
    1. re: Caroline1

      Agree with C1. Make several 4 Ingredient loaves. The easy way, long term, is by weight of ingredients. If you weigh out 400 grams of flour, add 60% of that wt. in warm water, or 240 grams. Then add 2% each of yeast and salt. That would be 8 grams each. If you want a bigger or smaller loaf, use more or less flour. Weigh the flour and then use the same percentages for water and yeast and salt. The same PERCENTAGES, not the same weights. You can mix these ingredients together and knead for about 8 minutes by hand, or mix and then knead for about 1 minute in a food processor, or mix and knead for 4 or 5 minutes with a dough hook in a stand mixer. Let it raise in a covered bowl for an hour or two. Take it out and shape it into a loaf. You can put this in a buttered loaf pan, shape it round on a greased sheet, or shape it long on a greased sheet. Cover it and let it raise again. After a half hour, turn the oven on at 425. In another half hour, uncover the loaf and put it in the oven. It'll probably be done in about 25 minutes. If you want to be sure, stick a meat thermometer in the bread. If it's between about 200 F and 210 F, it's bread. Don't get the idea that your first ever loaf has to be perfect. If you can make a sandwich with it, you did well. From never having made bread to having made ONE loaf, your knowledge level will increase ten-fold. No matter how your first loaf turns out, you'll know sooooo much more the second time. Make this simple bread several times. There's plenty of time to start adding milk, eggs, butter, olive oil and "stuff." You may decide that this bread is all you need to know. This is not a beginners bread. As C1 says, this is a standard bread all over the world. Good luck.

      1. re: yayadave

        Are you trying to play boogie man, Yaya? This *IS* a beginner's bread, FAR less complicated than you make it sound. And a meat thermometer? You've got to be kidding! The only reasonable way to tell if a loaf of bread is done is to open the oven, then rap on the bread with the back of a soup spoon. If it sounds hollow, the bread is done. And four ingredient breads are VERY forgiving. '-)

        1. re: Caroline1

          "Boogie man"? Not me!! I don't scare anyone, even when I'm trying. This is a simple bread and easy for a beginner. But 4 Ingredient bread is made in bakeries all around the world every day as a daily standard. And you know this. You say "I don't think you can beat a really simple four ingredient (yeast, water, salt, flour) recipe for French bread." You're just messin' with me because I'm easy. I'll stand by what I wrote. It may seem complicated, but it's very clear. Like a lot of things, explaining this is much more difficult than simply going and doing it. Weem had the right idea as said below. Having a guide along the way is the way to go. And there are videos all over the web. And if you add a couple of spoons of olive oil or butter, the bread's texture will be softer. And if you put a pan of water in the oven when you turn it on, you get a nice crust. And if you mix half the flour and all of the water and a bit of yeast the night before, you make a tastier loaf. And if you use a little bit of milk in stead of the water, add 2 eggs, 1/2 stick of butter, and 1/4 cup of sugar, you have egg bread or sweet dough and you can make cinnamon rolls. Also, this method is called "baker's percentage" and allows you to change the amount of dough you make. If you want to use this method, you buy your yeast in a little jar in stead of packets or "cakes." Also, standard breads raise better if you use high gluten bread flour. I could have said all of this. I wanted to say something clear and concise. I did. "Boogie man"? Ol' helpful me?

          1. re: yayadave

            Hey Dave! I appreciate your input so much. Do you have your recipe with ingredients in an "American" version (e.g. tablespoons and cups vs. grams, etc.). If you don't, please no worries... I will google the 4-ingredient bread recipe.

            I did make "beer bread" yesterday because I didn't have yeast at the house, but did have beer (lol). It was actually pretty tasty and sort of tasted like sourdough bread. I am planning, though, on making real bread with yeast in the next few days.

            Thanks everyone!!

            1. re: Tehama

              You absolutely can use the recipe C1 referenced above. If that recipe were not there, I would say 3C flour, 2 t yeast, 1 t salt and 1 1/2 C water. You can put the 4 ingredients in your food processor with the dough blade and pulse them until they are mixed. Then you can "knead" them by running the processor for another minute. When you take the dough out of the food processor, give it a couple of kneads by hand. You will notice that the processor has made the dough surprisingly warm. Makes it raise very nicely.

              Of course, if you use the food processor in stead of kneading it by hand, you miss a special enjoyment of making your own bread. But either way, you get home made bread.

              Just tighten your apron strings and jump in. Sooner or later you have to do the first loaf. But, once you do make your first loaf, you'll be on your way. But you gotta start.

              By the way, a packet of yeast is 2 1/4 t. So if you buy packets of yeast, you can use 1 packet in these recipes.

              1. re: Tehama

                The problem with measuring by volume is that you can get anywhere from 4.5 to 6 ounces of flour into a measuring cup. More, if you pack it down. A 33% difference in the amount of flour used is going to significantly change your end results.

                Experienced bakers know when a dough looks and feels right, and can adjust the flour:water ratio as necessary to achieve the desired result. But until you're experienced, the easiest method by far is to weigh the ingredients. So that's what most bakers do.

                But if you don't have a kitchen scale handy, don't sweat it. Ideally you want to measure your flour by putting a sifter above the measuring cup and sifting so that the flour falls loosely into the cup. Once it's overflowing, scrape the top with a straight-edge without packing the contents down. That ought to give you right around 4.5 ounces per cup.

                The recipe you posted to is going to make a nice sandwich loaf. Others are suggesting stuff more along the lines of the classic French and Italian ("four-ingredient") breads. The easiest way to make one of those is the Bittman recipe below. It might be a good jumping-off place for you. For a greater variety of recipes and techniques, check out

                But the thing to keep in mind is that baking bread is easy. If you want to make the same bread every time you're going to have to master consistency, but the simple fact is that there's no such thing as bad homemade bread. Roll up your sleeves, get a little dough under your fingernails, and enjoy!!!

      2. what about Mark Bittman/Jim Lahey's no-knead bread? it's delicious and incredibly simple. recipe here:

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        I started out with a baguette-style loaf like the one Caroline1 posted, which has the advantage of really giving you a sense of how bread-making works, where the Bittman/Lahey recipe is vaguely magical in its ease.

        I also really like Mollie Katzen's description in (I think) Enchanted Broccoli Forest of a general method to make bread.

        the recipe you have looks like more of a soft sandwich bread, though, so if that's what you're looking for, bake that one!

        1. You have the ingredients for a good simple loaf of white bread. I assume that there is extra water (about 3/4 to 1 cup) to proof the yeast, otherwise, your recipe does not have enough liquid. I think it is a good starting point for bread making. It will yield a much better loaf than any store bought.

          1. This recipe is short on method. Two basic bread making points (according to Harold McGee and RLBerenbaum) are that active dry yeast should be dissolved in quite hot water (105º-110º) and the milk should be scalded to kill the lactose or lactase - I forget which. Bread loves one of those but doesn't like the other. The chances are good you'd end up with a decent loaf omitting these methods, but why not get off to a proper start?

            1. Plenty of good advice above already, but I'll add my two cents worth because I've recently switched to making my own bread, and I enjoy it enough to want to encourage others.

              Without having tried it, the recipe you've selected seems fine, and the website you've linked comes with handy photos and advice.

              Aside from working with yeast, which is not a part of any other cooking/baking I do, the only thing that intimidated me about break making was the set of techniques (am I proofing the yeast correctly? how do I know the water is hot enough without a thermometer? is there a correct kneading technique? how do I know when I've kneaded enough? etc.). A friend gave me a copy of "Beard On Bread" by James Beard, which is a good beginner's book. And after reading it, I invited a friend with bread making experience over to spend an afternoon making a couple of loaves of bread with me. It was a fun, social activity, and I got a grip on the technique enough to not only try it on my own, but try experimenting with future loaves.

              I can only encourage you to give it a whirl. Even if you botch it, it's not the same as ruining an expensive cut of meat or something. And an imperfect loaf can still taste good.

              While it's not necessary, wrapping my mind around the chemistry/mechanics of it (how the yeast works, what purpose the kneading serves, etc.) helps me approach it. For the purposes of experimentation, you might enjoy trying a Sally Lunn bread (which requires yeast but no kneading) or a beer bread (which involves self-rising flour and beer, but no yeast). See how the different ingredients and techniques produce rather different types of bread, and with each experiment you'll end up with a fresh loaf of bread!

              If you're interested, the recipe I've settled on these days as my standard is this one:

              Believe me, the first time you take a loaf of bread from the oven and slather it, still warm, with butter and honey, you'll thank yourself.

              2 Replies
              1. re: weem

                What a cool idea to invite a bread-making friend over! I like Beard on Bread too - have you tried the raisin bread? It's delicious and I especially like his story about his mother making it during WWI when she had her fellow Red Cross volunteers in to roll bandages (or whatever), and served this bread. Tea with buttered raisin bread was so appreciated: ahhhh simpler times. I urge you to get an inexpensive instant-read thermometer weem. It's also useful if you have any doubts about when your bread is baked enough - along with dozens of uses of course.

                1. re: cinnamon girl

                  Thanks, Cinnamon Girl. No, I haven't tried the raisin bread, but I love stories like that. For me, one of the pleasures of cookbooks is the cultural/historical context of the recipe. And yes, a quick-read thermometer is on my to-buy list. Currently, I just run the tap until it's very warm, but not quite steaming, until it feels hot on the inside of my wrist without burning it. That has served me fine when proofing yeast.