Chances are you like bread, but have you ever made any? It’s so easy to get overwhelmed and think you would never be able to successfully bake a loaf of bread. I was in that boat too. I started to watch more videos about breadmaking and reading more articles. Although most of that content discussed days-long processes to the perfect sourdough, I did find tons of recipes for bread that were easy to tackle. So that’s what I’m talking about today. We will go over the hurdles, both mental and physical, and go over recipes to get you comfortable with sticky doughs and yeast. And some recipes that don’t even require yeast.
What’s Stopping Us? We get this idea in our head that we’re going to be the people that make bread on the weekends. Then life happens. Knowing what’s stopping us from trying out some recipes is important. And just as important, we need to find simple recipes that steer clear of these issues so we can develop our skills without purchasing expensive equipment that we will never use or get overwhelmed with timing the bread process with the rest of our plans. Luckily, all the recipes that follow are simple to make all-around.
- Equipment: I’ve seen simple equipment for breadmaking listed on recipes, like a loaf pan, stand mixer, and a Dutch oven. But I’ve also seen some wild equipment requirements, like a 4-foot metal chain.
- Utensils: Egg brush, bread towel? We will talk about what’s needed for most bread recipes and what common utensils you can use instead.
- Ingredients: Bread flour? Active dry yeast? Sourdough starter?? Room temperature eggs? Oh geez. We will talk about some of these next.
- The process: Over and underworking the bread. Letting it rise. From a 30 minute recipe to a 30 hour recipe.
Questions on Ingredients & Processes: I’m working on a whole separate post about this, but here are some questions I had about ingredients when I got started.
What’s the difference between bread flour and all-purpose (aka AP) flour? Bread flour has a higher protein content than AP flour, so it gives the dough a chewier texture and a better rise. But it is completely okay to substitute 1:1 AP flour for bread flour if you don’t have.
Why do you need room temperature ingredients sometimes? (All the recipes below do not require room temperature ingredients.) Room temperature ingredients incorporate better into mixtures. Some recipes will call for cold butter to create flakiness and that’s really important for texture. I find that room temperature ingredients matter more in egg whites and cheesecake recipes, and you can get away with colder ingredients in your first go-arounds. However, it is easy to change the temperatures if you want. You can quickly get eggs to room temperature by placing them in warm water for 10 minutes. Butter can be quickly microwaved at 20 second intervals (stirring in between) a couple times to soften. You can do the same for milk, ensuring it is stirred thoroughly so there aren’t hot spots.
What does an egg wash do? An egg wash means painting bread or pastries with a raw egg before baking or in the middle of the baking process. It adds shine and color. For more shine but little change in color, use just the egg whites. For a darker color and shine, use just the yolk. For a nice combo of both, whisk the whole egg. If you don’t have an egg, you can use milk. Or butter. But I recommend doing a butter wash halfway through baking or it might burn.
What does yeast do and how can I not mess it up? Yeast can be complicated and there are whole posts dedicated to it, but simply, yeast is living and as it eats sugar (that you feed it) it bubbles. Those bubbles help bread to rise, but it can take awhile, 30 minutes to a few hours depending on the recipe. Too hot of water can kill yeast so that’s why instructions will tell you the temperature needed. Too cold and they don’t wake up. Most recipes call for the exact amount that’s in the yeast packets at the store (they’re usually in 3 packs), so it isn’t difficult to figure it out on the first try. If you don’t have a thermometer to check the water temperature, you’re looking for slightly more than lukewarm. Not as hot as bath water or water you use to wash your hands, but just warm water straight from your facet.
What can I replace a kitchen brush with? What about a bread towel? If you don’t have a clean brush for an egg wash, a paper towel, regular towel, and really even your hands will work. Don’t let that be the one thing that’s stopping you from a recipe. Same with a bread towel: any clean kitchen towel that will cover your bowl is perfect.
Bread Recipes: You will need the following to make the recipes at the end of this post. I’m betting you will have almost everything (which is the point). Pick one that sounds good to you and know that even average homemade bread is still better than most of the stuff on the grocery shelves.
- Equipment: a functioning oven and stovetop, a baking sheet, big bowls, a skillet or pan.
- Basic ingredients: All-purpose flour, egg, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, olive oil, salt, butter
- Special Ingredients: Greek yogurt, sour cream, raisins, spices. Everything but the bagel seasoning is really clutch for the bagel recipe, but plain bagels are just fine.
- Time: from 30 minutes to over 3 hours. The longer the recipe doesn’t mean you have to be actively involved, but it is something you plan your day around. Try one of the 30 minute recipes first to get a feel of the process.
Easy Bread Recipes to Try
Greek Yogurt Bagels
- Ingredients: Greek yogurt, AP flour, baking powder, salt, egg (any temp is fine), bagel seasoning
- Equipment Needed: a large bowl, oven, baking sheet
- Total Time: 30-45 minutes
- Recipes: I’ve stuck with this recipe from day one and they come out perfect every time.
- Notes: This is the dough recipe that gave me confidence to try more bread. I can wake up on a weekend, decide to make these, and have them on the table in 40 minutes. You can’t say that with many bread recipes. There’s no yeast in this recipe and you don’t boil the bagels, which is often requested. But the egg wash gives it that crunch and shine. The sourness of the yogurt gives the bagels wonderful flavor. They won’t ever replace your bodega bagel, but I promise you will be fully satisficed with them.
No Yeast Focaccia
- Ingredients: AP flour, baking powder, salt, olive oil, rosemary or other spices
- Equipment Needed: Oven, baking sheet, large bowl
- Total Time: 30-40 minutes
- Recipes: The Spruce Eats recipe is what I’ve used a few times and it turns out great.
- Notes: Because focaccia is a flatter bread, skipping the yeast process doesn’t make a big difference. The baking powder is enough to give it a few bubbles and a slight rise. I love making focaccia because the oil makes the dough easier to handle and the shape of the dough is meant to be rustic. No stress, but still beautiful. Makes for a great appetizer to an Italian dinner or make some wonderful sandwiches with it. I just like to dip it in good olive oil. The recipe calls for fresh rosemary, but I like it with spice blends: herbs de Provence, za’atar, or Italian seasoning.
Irish soda bread
- Ingredients: buttermilk or regular milk (see note below), AP flour, egg, sugar, baking soda, salt, butter, raisins (optional)
- Equipment Needed: Large bowl, cast iron skillet or baking sheet; knife, oven
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Recipes: This recipe goes into some good detail to help you through your first bread.
- Notes: I chose this bread recipe because there’s no yeast and uses cold ingredients. It is a crumbly bread and don’t fret if it seems a little dry. It’s meant to be sliced and smeared with butter. I love raisins, but feel free to leave out or substitute with dried blueberries or cranberries or even walnuts. The recipe calls for buttermilk, but it gives you a cheat option: adding something acidic (vinegar or citrus juice) to the milk. I’ve used this hack plenty, from making this bread to pancakes. It works great. The cast iron skillet will give the bread a nice texture on the bottom and it looks cool, but a baking sheet will work just fine. You may just need to add a couple minutes to the baking.
Swiss Braided Bread (Zopf)
This is the longest recipe, but it is still very simple. Up to three hours is just letting the dough rise. It’s your first recipe with yeast but it is not intimidating. I made this bread just kneading with my hands. There are fun ways to braid the bread but any basic twists will look lovely. The egg glaze makes the bread extra shiny and it’s a wonderful bread to show off to friends without stressing too much. Traditionally served with butter and jam.
- Ingredients: AP flour, sour cream, melted butter, eggs, salt
- Equipment Needed: large bowls, baking sheet, oven
- Time: 3.5 hours; 3 hours to rise, collectively; 30 minutes to bake
- Recipes: Many recipes are in grams, but I liked this one from King Arthur
- Notes: The King Arthur recipe asks for room temp butter, but the two times I’ve made this bread I just put cold butter in the microwave and zapped for 20 second intervals then let cool slightly before adding to the mix. It turned out great. Adding too much egg glaze can give the bread a tougher exterior so don’t go too heavy. This is a great bread to make during a Saturday and be able to enjoy it on a Sunday morning with butter and jam.
- Ingredients: AP flour, oil, yeast, sugar, plain yogurt, salt, butter
- Equipment Needed: Large bowl, large skillet/pan, stove top
- Time: 1.5 hours
- Recipes: I’ve always stuck with Rasa Malaysia’s recipe.
- Notes: This recipe is a good intro to yeast. You only need to let it rise for about an hour and the cooking process of using a skillet makes the rest of the recipe go much quicker than baking something in the oven. The dough is sticky though, so don’t be afraid to add flour to your work surface and grease your hands with some cooking oil. If you’re curious about naan, check out my post where I give you several options from store-bought to homemade.
Do you have any quick bread recipes of your own that wow your friends and family? What about using store-bought dough? Like anything, it’s better to slowly get comfortable with breadmaking before you dive deep into more difficult recipes. Sure there’s an art to breadmaking, but half the battle is making time to allow the yeast and other ingredients to do the work. If that’s not part of your schedule, stick to recipes like above and enjoy warm, homemade breads the easy way.