The Ultimate Bread Baking Guide: How to Make Bread from Scratch

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Learn how to proof yeast, knead bread dough and much more in our bread baking guide. We'll also share some of our favorite bread recipes.

Baking bread is one of the most satisfying at-home cooking projects. That freshly baked bread smell alone is worth the effort. Easy bread recipes are the way to go if you’re new to baking bread, and quick breads, made without yeast, are particularly simple to master.

After you learn the basics, we’re sure you’ll be absolutely hooked on making your own bread and the magic that comes with the process. From mixing to kneading to proofing, we’ve got all of the tips and techniques you need to make bakery-quality bread right in your own kitchen.

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How to Make Bread

To start your bread baking journey, opt for a simple, straightforward recipe like our top-rated Basic Homemade Bread. It has only a few ingredients, and it’s super versatile—you can slice it for sandwiches, serve it up with soup or toast it for breakfast.

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Ingredients

  • 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
  • 2-1/4 cups warm water, about 110ºF
  • 2 tablespoons + 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 6-1/4 to 6-3/4 cups bread flour

Directions

Step 1: Proof the yeast

Before you can get to mixing and kneading, it’s important to proof the yeast. This means ensuring the yeast is still alive and ready to create carbon dioxide, the gas that gives bread its lift.

To proof the yeast, dissolve it in a dish of warm water with 1/2 teaspoon of sugar. You want the water to be around 110º. If you go hotter, you can risk killing the yeast (and then you have to start again). You’ll know the yeast is alive and ready for bread when it starts to bubble and foam.

Step 2: Mix the bread dough

With the proofing taken care of, add canola oil to the yeast mixture.

In another bowl, whisk together half of the flour, as well as the sugar and salt. Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and work it into a sticky dough. When the mix comes together, add in the additional flour half a cup at a time until you have a soft bread dough.

Step 3: Knead the bread dough

Now for the fun part! When your dough is made, turn it out onto a floured surface to knead.

Kneading is the process where you push, pull and stretch the bread. The purpose is to develop gluten. Gluten helps give the bread structure (without it, it would crumble) and gives it that bit of chew we all love.

To knead, take the heel of your hand and push the dough forward to stretch it. Then fold it in on itself, give it a quarter turn and repeat. Knead until your bread dough is stretchy and doesn’t tear when you spread it between your fingers. Kneading times vary, but for this specific loaf, aim for about 10 minutes. Don’t worry about overkneading by hand—you will be tired long before you overwork the dough.

Step 4: Proof the dough

Next, let your bread proof. That means setting the dough aside so the yeast can do its work: creating air bubbles.

To proof the dough, coat it with a touch of oil or cooking spray. Place it in a large container, cover it with a damp towel and let it rest until the dough doubles in size. To get the best proof possible, make sure your kitchen is warm (above 75º) and humid. If it’s a bit chilly or dry, you can try these tips for how to proof bread in different weather conditions.

Step 5: Punch down and proof again

When the bread is doubled in size, punch it down. This just means using your knuckles to press out some of the air inside the dough. After punching the bread down, divide it into two equal portions. Shape and place the dough into greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pans and let it proof a second time, until it doubles. This should take about 60 to 90 minutes.

Step 6: Bake and enjoy

When the bread has grown a second time, pop it into a 375º oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 200º. Remove the loaves from the pans, and let them cool on wire racks. Then, slice and enjoy!

Types of Bread

Once you’ve mastered a basic bread, there are so many more delicious bread recipes to explore. Each recipe falls into one of two main camps: quick bread and yeast bread.

Within those categories, there are seemingly endless possibilities for interesting recipes depending on your preferences and dietary needs.

Quick Bread

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Quick breads are made without yeast. They rely on other leavening agents to rise, like baking soda or baking powder. Compared to yeast breads, quick breads are much faster to make. You can stir up the dough, pop it into a pan and bake—no proofing necessary. There are so many easy quick bread recipes, and they often fall into these categories:

Yeast Bread

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Yeast bread recipes are just what they sound like: recipes that call for yeast. They also typically require kneading and proofing, depending on the complexity of the recipe. So many classic bread recipes—like pizza dough, monkey bread and breadsticks—all require yeast. Some of the most popular types of homemade yeast breads include:

  • Shaped yeast breads: Different from breads made in a loaf pan, shaped yeast breads include rolls, pretzels and braided bread recipes, like challah.
  • Flatbreads: Despite a name that might imply they don’t rise, some flatbread recipes—including pita bread and naan bread—require yeast.
  • Sourdough bread: Sourdough bread is unique in that it uses naturally occurring yeast. However, you can use store-bought yeast to make a quick sourdough starter.

Bread Baking Tips

Baking bread takes a bit of time to truly master, but even the trial and error is fun. Plus, who doesn’t love the smell of bread baking in the oven? There are a few techniques you’ll want to brush up on when you dive into a new recipe—particularly when you’re learning how to make yeast bread.

How to Proof Yeast

Person pouring an open packet of yeast into sugar and water inside a glass bowlTaste of Home

Proofing yeast is a precaution to take before baking any yeast bread. This step, which involves letting the yeast sit in warm water with a touch of sugar, is a way to check that the yeast you’re using is alive and ready to create carbon dioxide, the gas that gives bread all those air bubbles.

How to Knead Bread Dough

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Kneading dough is the fun part of bread making! You can work out some of your frustrations while working to develop the gluten in the bread. This gluten development gives the bread structure and the texture you love. To knead bread dough, push it with the heel of your hand, fold it over and turn. Repeat this process until your bread dough reaches the right texture.

How to Proof Bread Dough

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Proofing bread dough is perhaps the trickiest part of the bread baking process. To properly proof bread, you need a warm, humid environment. This encourages the yeast to create the carbon dioxide that encourages the dough to expand.

Wondering how long it takes for dough to rise? It depends on factors like the room’s temperature and the freshness of your yeast.

How to Tell When Bread Is Done

After working so hard to knead and proof your bread, you want to get the perfect bake. For yeast breads, the best way to tell if the bread is done is to take the internal temperature with a quick-read thermometer. According to our Test Kitchen, yeast breads are done when they reach 160º to 185º inside.

For quick breads, you can use the toothpick test, much like you would for cakes. When the toothpick comes out clean, the quick bread is done.

How to Store Homemade Bread

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After taking the time to make homemade bread, the last thing you want is for it to go stale before you finish eating it. Storing bread properly is key. Homemade bread lasts for 3 to 4 days when stored correctly. Bread boxes work exceptionally well for keeping your bakes fresh for a few days. If you can’t finish your bread in a few days’ time, learn how to freeze bread—it’ll last for 3 to 6 months in the freezer.

Bread Baking Supplies

You don’t need a lot of extra gear or gadgets to get into bread baking. A quality stand mixer certainly helps, and you’ll definitely need a loaf pan or two, but you don’t need much else to get started.

If you catch the bread baking bug, you can invest in all sorts of bread making tools to make whipping up your favorite recipe a joy. A great serrated knife, a dough whisk and even a countertop proofer can make homemade bread even easier. Bread machines can also be super useful in the kitchen, especially when you’ve got some great bread maker recipes.

When it comes to baking pans, check out the Taste of Home cookware and bakeware line to give your gear an upgrade.


Troubleshooting Tips

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Your Bread Isn’t Rising

There are lots of reasons your bread might not be proofing the way you envisioned. The most common issue is that your room just isn’t warm enough. To remedy this situation, crank up the thermostat or pop your bread in a cold oven with a pan of boiling water. If that doesn’t help, check out our list of common reasons your bread isn’t rising.

Your Bread Is Dry

If your bread is dry, then chances are you overbaked it. This means that it stayed in the oven too long or the temperature inside was too hot. Do your best to keep an eye on the time and calibrate your oven’s temperature every so often. It really helps!

Your Bread Is Raw or Chewy in the Middle

In this case, you didn’t bake your bread for long enough. To prevent raw or chewy bread, check your bread’s internal temperature before removing it from the oven to ensure it’s baked.

If you’re still having issues, you may have to calibrate your oven, as mentioned above. You want to be sure that 350º is really 350º.

How Do You Know If Bread Is Kneaded Enough?

The easiest way to tell if your bread is kneaded enough is to conduct what bakers call the “windowpane test.” To do this, stretch a bit of dough between your fingers. If the dough rips, keep kneading. If it stretches to form a translucent window, you’ve developed enough gluten and the bread is ready to proof.

How Do You Know If Bread Is Kneaded Too Much?

Overkneaded dough can produce tough, overly chewy bread. The good news is that it’s nearly impossible to overknead your dough when you knead by hand—you will be tired long before the dough is overworked.

If you’re kneading in your stand mixer with a dough hook, just be sure to pause every few minutes and conduct the windowpane test.

What Happens If You Don’t Let Your Bread Rise Long Enough?

If you don’t allow your bread enough time to rise, it will be dense and chewy when you bake it, so  be sure to give it plenty of time to get the lift it needs. You can tell if the bread has risen enough when you poke a knuckle into the dough and the indentation slowly springs back.

What Happens If Your Bread Is Overproofed?

Your bread is overproofed when it looks stretched across the top and when you press it with your fingertip, it springs back instantly. If you bake your bread like this, it’ll crack and collapse. If your bread proofed for too long, just punch it down, knead it briefly and let it proof to the correct size. You can reset the process and still end up with a perfect loaf.

Yeast Bread Recipe to Serve with Dinner
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Teddy Nykiel, Taste of Home Associate Digital Editor, contributed to this article.

Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa is also dedicated to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.