This Versatile Bread Dough Is the Secret to Making So Many Recipes

Learn just one basic bread recipe and make dozens of delicious bakes. We'll show you how to make the base and give you ideas to transform this bread into pizza, cinnamon rolls, garlic knots and more.

Who doesn’t love a good multipurpose recipe? A great cake that can be transformed into layered treats, 13×9 desserts or even cupcakes is a must. Same with an easy-to-customize cookie recipe. Lately, though, our Test Kitchen has been relying upon a single bread recipe to make everything from calzones to cinnamon rolls. Find out how you can make this basic homemade bread and transform it into plenty of treats that go beyond the loaf pan.

How to Make a Multipurpose Bread Dough

When it comes to an all-purpose recipe, you want simple, and this basic bread recipe from reader Sandra Anderson of New York City fits the bill (and it’s highly recommended by many other readers). You need only a few pantry staples to make it:

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

Step 1: Proof the Yeast

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The first step to making yeasted breads like this one is to proof the yeast. This step ensures that your yeast is alive and ready to give the bread its lift. To proof the yeast, dissolve the packet of yeast and a half teaspoon of sugar in warm water. Don’t let the water get hotter than 115ºF or it will kill the yeast. Let this mixture stand for about five minutes until it bubbles and froths.

Step 2: Make the Dough

kneading dough with a stand mixer and dough hookTaste of Home

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the remaining sugar, salt and three cups of flour. Then stir the oil into the yeast blend and mix into the dry ingredients. Beat this dough until smooth. (You might want to use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook for this one.) Then stir in enough remaining flour to create a pliable dough.

Editor’s tip: This recipe calls for bread flour, which has a higher protein content and is better for this sort of bread. If you don’t have bread flour on hand, you can sub in all-purpose flour.

Step 3: Knead and Let Rise

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Once you’ve created the dough, move it to a floured surface and knead the bread until smooth and elastic. This will take about ten minutes. The bread is kneaded enough when you stretch it between your fingers and it forms a windowpane. If your dough tears easily, keep kneading. If you’re kneading by hand, don’t worry about overdoing it—you’ll get tired before you knead it too much.

Editor’s tip: You can knead this dough with your stand mixer, too. Use the dough hook attachment

When the dough is kneaded enough, transfer it to a greased bowl (be sure to get a coating of cooking spray on the top, too), cover and let it rise until doubled in size—about 90 minutes. A warm kitchen is a good atmosphere for proofing, but if your bread isn’t proofing, here are some tricks to jump-start the process.

Step 4: Shape and Let Rise (Again)

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After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down (that means just pressing your knuckles into the dough to release some of the air and volume). Turn out the bread onto a floured worktop and divide the dough in half.

If you want to make this recipe into the traditional loaves of bread, shape and place into greased 9×5-inch loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled—about 60 to 90 minutes.

Editor’s tip: If you want to customize this recipe, here’s the point where you’ll want to veer off course.

Step 5: Bake

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Once risen, pop the bread into a 375ºF and bake until golden brown—about 30 to 35 minutes. The internal temperature should read 200ºF. When the bread is finished, remove from the oven and let it cool on a wire rack.

How to Transform Basic Homemade Bread Dough

This recipe makes enough dough for two loaves of bread. If you’re not looking for two identical loaves, you can easily transform half of this recipe (or all of it) into plenty of other bakes. Since this recipe is so straightforward, it makes a great canvas for lots of flavors from savory to sweet. Here are some ideas from our Test Kitchen staff:

Pizza Crust

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You can easily transform some (or all) of this bread recipe into a pizza crust according to Senior Food Stylist Shannon Norris. Just press into a pizza pan and top with the sauce, cheese and extras of your choosing. For baking times and temperatures, just follow the directions provided in your favorite homemade pizza recipe.

Potpie

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You can also use some of this dough to top off a potpie. This Mediterranean turkey pie calls for frozen pizza dough, but Shannon says you can easily swap in some of your freshly made dough here.

Garlic Knots

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Culinary Assistant Sarah Fischer transformed half of her batch of homemade bread dough into garlic knots. Divide half of your recipe into 20 pieces and roll into ropes. Tie into knots and bake at 375ºF for 12 to 15 minutes. While warm, toss in a mixture of a quarter-cup olive oil, two tablespoons grated Parmesan, a teaspoon each of dried oregano, garlic salt and parsley. You’ll want to eat these warm!

Cinnamon Rolls

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Taste of Home’s Executive Culinary Director Sarah Farmer uses this basic homemade bread recipe as a foundation for cinnamon rolls. She uses half of the bread dough and this top-rated recipe for the filling and icing—no alterations needed.

Homemade Hot Pockets

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This ham and cheese pocket recipe typically calls for frozen bread dough, but you can easily swap in a portion of the freshly made stuff according to our Prep Kitchen Manager Catherine Ward. She added some onions and a bit of mustard to her ham and cheese filling. You can also customize the filling further—turkey and cheddar would be a good pair, as would pepperoni and mozzarella.

These recipes are just the start, though! Use this basic bread dough whenever a recipe calls for frozen bread dough. Here are a few dozen ideas to inspire you.

Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an associate 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. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.