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- What Is Bread?
- What Ingredients Do You Need to Bake Bread?
- A Note About Bread Yeast: What Is Levain?
- How to Make Homemade Levain
- What Equipment Do You Need to Bake Bread?
- 3 Tips for Baking Perfect Bread
- 2 Most Common Mistakes in Bread Making
- How Should You Store Bread?
- 2 Ideas for Stale Bread
- Easy Homemade Bread Recipe
What Is Bread?
Bread is a staple food across the globe, made by baking a dough made of flour and water. Bread is thought to be one of the earliest prepared foods in existence, and can take on unlimited shapes, flavors, and textures. From country loaves and baguettes, to white bread, yeast bread, and brioche, bread is an indispensable culinary format.
A Note About Bread Yeast: What Is Levain?
For a simple bread recipe, active dry yeast is your best. It’s convenient, easy to use, and lasts a long time. But if you’re interested in making bread with a bit more character, like sourdough, consider making your own levain, or yeast starter. While it’s more labor intensive, a levain can take your homemade bread to the next level. Learn more about making your own levain here.
How to Make Homemade Levain
Watch Chef Dominique Ansel demonstrate how to make your own homemade levain.
What Equipment Do You Need to Bake Bread?
Homemade bread can be made many ways. Common pieces of bread-making equipment include the following:
- Prep equipment: large mixing bowl, stand mixer with dough hook, knife or bench scraper, bread lame (a double-sided blade used to score the top of a bread loaf prior to baking)
- Cooking vessel: loaf pan, cast iron dutch combination oven, baking sheet or baking dish,
- Cooking method: oven or bread machine
3 Tips for Baking Perfect Bread
Follow these tips next time you want to take a shot at baking your own bread at home.
- Use baking flour or bread flour instead of all-purpose. Though not required, the higher protein content in baking flour or bread flour will aid in developing gluten, which gives bread that perfect chewy texture. If you don’t have baking flour, try an all-purpose flour for your first loaf, then switch to baking flour for your second and compare your results.
- Don’t forget salt. Without sufficient salt, your loaves will be bland and too starchy.
- Use steam to your advantage. High heat and humidity combine to give bread a shiny, burnished crust. Create steam in your oven by spritzing the baking pan, using a steam injector device, or baking the bread in a Dutch oven to trap and circulate the steam.
2 Most Common Mistakes in Bread Making
Be aware of two important things when you’re baking bread at home.
- Not letting the bread dough rise long enough. Nothing is worse than a flat, dense loaf of bread—unless, of course, you meant to do that! Giving the dough time to rise allows for better volume, better texture, and more developed flavors.
- Using hot water instead of lukewarm water. Yeast needs to be alive and kicking in order to make your dough rise. Hot water from your tap can reach temperatures of 120°F or higher, which will kill your yeast. Instead, stick to 70-80°F for your water temperature.
How Should You Store Bread?
Fresh bread is best stored tightly wrapped in plastic and/or foil in the freezer, and reheated in the oven as needed. If you’d rather not have to deal with constant defrosting, keep bread (still wrapped in plastic and/or foil) at room temperature. Keeping bread in the refrigerator accelerates the staling process.
2 Ideas for Stale Bread
Think Like a Pro
James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Dominique Ansel teaches his essential techniques for making delicious pastries and desserts in his first-ever online class.View Class
If your homemade bread has gone stale, don’t throw it out. Here are two uses for stale bread.
- Make homemade breadcrumbs. To make breadcrumbs from stale of fresh bread, slice bread and place directly onto racks of a 250°F oven. Bake until bread is golden brown and inflexible; remove and crumble into small pieces or blitz in a food processor to desired consistency.
- Make homemade croutons. Because it’s drier than fresh bread, stale bread is ideal for crunchy homemade croutons. To make croutons, cut your homemade bread loaf into medium-sized cubes (stale is best, but fresh will also do), toss in a drizzle of oil, and bake at 350°F for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool and store in an airtight container.
Easy Homemade Bread Recipe
Prep Time3 hr 25 min
Total Time4 hr
Cook Time35 min
This easy recipe for bread is as simple and foolproof as they come: once you’ve mastered it, level up the next time by using a sourdough starter to give your loaves a subtle, tangy flavor, or experiment with different flours like whole wheat flour or rye for more nuanced loaves.
- 1 packet active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 cups lukewarm water
- 5-6 cups all-purpose flour
- Semolina, to prevent sticking
- In a large bowl or a stand-mixer, mix all of the ingredients together, starting with the yeast, sugar, and warm water, then 4 cups of flour and salt, gradually adding more flour until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.
- Knead the bread dough. Fold the dough into a rough envelope shape, pulling the top edge towards you, then pushing back with the heel of your hand. Rotate 90 degrees, and repeat. Continue kneading for at least five minutes to develop gluten; the dough will take on a smoother texture and begin to stretch. Add small sprinkles of flour to work surface to prevent sticking as needed.
- Set the dough aside, and clean the bowl of the stand-mixer. Grease lightly with olive oil or vegetable oil, then transfer dough to bowl. Turn once to coat, then cover the bowl and place in a warm, draft-free spot for 2 hours to allow the dough to rise.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, transfer back to clean work surface. Cut neatly in two with a bench scraper or large knife, then mold into two oval-shaped loaves. Sprinkle baking sheet with semolina, and place loaves on top. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise again for at least 45 more minutes, until puffy. (This final dough rise is called “proofing.”)
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Carefully, but decisively, slash tops of loaves with a razor or sharp knife (this will allow loaves to expand in the heat without splitting along the middle).
- Bake for 20-35 minutes, until crust is golden and internal temperatures is at least 190°F.
- Remove loaves and let cool; they should sound hollow when the bottom of the loaf is tapped, and feel light in the hand.
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