If you’ve ever felt like you lacked the necessary skills for baking homemade bread, I am here to tell you – as long as you have the desire to bake, you have all the skills you knead (get it?!)! Keep reading for my tips and tricks on baking scrumptious homemade bread.
Ahhhhh … the smell of freshly baked homemade bread.
Is there anything better?
If you’ve never experienced the life-changing experience of baking (and eating!) homemade bread, there is no time like the present, my friend.
Maybe you have never tried to bake bread because it seems intimidating and time-consuming.
Maybe you’ve tried to bake bread, but it has come out as an inedible brick of flour.
Whatever the reason you’ve been denying yourself the joy of baking homemade bread, I promise there are a million other reasons to jump in and try (and try again)!
(Okay, maybe not a million, but pretty darn close!)
So, for all my bread-baking beginners or strugglers, this blog is for YOU!
In this beginner’s guide, I’ll walk you through the various types of bread you can bake, what you should start with, my tips for baking each kind, and even a few of my favorite recipes!
So, hopefully, after you read this, you’ll be inspired to get out your mixing bowls and try whipping up some bread of your own!
You don’t have to be an expert to start baking.
Of course, I have to start off by saying that I am in no way a professional baker.
I have never had a class. I have never baked professionally. I simply have a few recipes that are tried-and-true and that I absolutely adore. That’s the extent of my baking credentials.
But just because you’re not a professional, it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn to bake and treat yourself and your family to super delicious, wonderful tasty treats.
Don’t be afraid of making a mistake. It’s low stakes!
Before you start mixing your flour and eggs, it is important to remember one thing: it’s okay if it doesn’t turn out right!
I’ve always seen baking as pretty low stakes. Why do I say that?
If something goes wrong with baking, you’ve maybe wasted 20 or 30 minutes of your life, plus a few bucks in ingredients.
And in my experience, most of the time, you end up with something at least edible, especially after you get a little practice under your belt.
(Yes, I have had baking go wrong and ended up with an inedible brick, but that is how I learned!)
So, if you’re worried about baking homemade bread because you’re not sure that it’s going to turn out well, don’t let that stop you!
No matter how it turns out, learn from it to be better next time and keep trying! I promise – you’ll get the hang of it.
A little backstory on my baking roots.
Baking is something that I learned at a pretty young age.
My mother was always baking things. She was always making coffee cakes, breads, cookies, biscuits, and all sorts of other yummy things. And I, being a naturally curious person who also happens to love carbs, watched intentently and began to help her.
Once out on my own, I found baking to be really therapeutic.
I baked so much that I became known as the “baking lady” at one of my internships in college.
I even had a mason jar on the corner of my desk that said “baking fund.” People would drop in a dollar or two to keep me bringing in tasty treats.
And now, I continue to bake because it is another facet of my self-sufficiency. When you bake, you don’t have to rely on the store shelves to be stocked.
Not to mention homemade bread just simply tastes better.
There’s nothing better than fresh bread out of the oven, warm and steaming, with butter slathered on it.
(Great, now I’m hungry. Maybe take a quick reading break and grab a snack …)
Why YOU should bake bread, too.
So, now you know why I bake.
But why should YOU bake your own bread?
I can think of a lot of reasons why baking is a great skill to have. For sake of time, though, here are my top 3 reasons why you should bake.
Reason #1: The self-sufficiency factor
I have to bring up the self-sufficiency factor again.
Knowing how to bake, especially a staple food like bread, is a great skill to have.
Whether the store shelves are bare (Ahem … you saw what happened during COVID), weather has you stranded at home, or you can no longer rely on the grocery store, having a skill like baking can feed you and your family for the long term.
Reason #2: A higher quality product
Not only do you have to worry less about stocked shelves at the store, but baking homemade bread also gives you more control over the ingredients.
Many pre-made packaged foods have extra ingredients to keep them shelf-stable longer. And mass produced products rarely use the highest quality of ingredients in order to make their product cheaper.
Take control of your bread (and other baked goods) by choosing the quality of ingredients you want.
Reason #3: Bread that fits your taste and preferences
I have now figured out the kind of bread Brandon and I like to eat – everything from the texture to the taste. So, that’s all I make.
I don’t have to buy bread or rolls that have a texture or taste I don’t like. After baking for years, I have been able to tweak things here and there to get the exact type of bread I want.
I love the freedom to tweak things to be exactly what you want.
And if you have food sensitivities to consider, knowing how to make something that is perfect for you and your family can provide a LOT of peace of mind.
Here’s a bonus reason for you: The feeling of accomplishment
I know, I know … I said three reasons. But I’ve got one more for good measure.
Taking that first bit of freshly homemade bread is one of the best feelings in this crazy world.
It’s so satisfying to enjoy your hard work! Let’s face it – baking your own bread is a true accomplishment.
So, are you convinced to start baking homemade bread? Good! Let’s get started …
What you need to get started baking homemade bread
Here’s some good news: You really don’t need a whole lot of tools to get started with baking!
There are just a few staple kitchen items that will help you make your delicious bread (or other baked good for that matter!).
1. Stainless Steel Bowl
One of the most useful things I have ever thrifted is a set of four stainless steel bowls.
The biggest one is about 20 inches across. It’s massive. It’s what I make all of my bread in. In fact, I use these bowls multiple times a week. They are so useful, so functional. I absolutely love everything about them.
Now, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on new bowls. Remember, I thrifted these! It doesn’t take a fancy bowl to make great bread.
(Now, that is a quote to remember. Someone write that down!)
You can also grab one at Walmart for less than $10.
2. Measuring Cups and Spoons
In addition to bowls, the other thing that’s probably going to be the most useful tools are measuring cups and measuring spoons.
I say this even though I am not super precise about my measurements. (I probably should be … oops!). I tend to eyeball things, especially if I’m making something that I’ve made a lot, and I know what it’s supposed to look and feel like.
But, if you are just getting started or are still new to baking, definitely pick up a set of measuring cups and spoons.
Pro tip: Once you gain some baking confidence and start making various kinds of breads, you may want to invest in a kitchen scale. Some more complicated recipes will include measurements in grams instead of cups. That’s where a kitchen scale comes in.
3. Baking Sheets and Pans
Of course, you’ll also need something to bake the dough in, either baking sheets or pans.
You’ll use the pans if you want your bread to have that “bread-like” shape. Otherwise, you can use sheets and just shape your dough into loaves yourself or you can shape them in roll form, too.
I have some very odd shaped bread pans that I scored at an antique fair – I absolutely love them!
Mine are 4×13, so long and skinny. Normally, bread pans come in 5×9 or 8×4.
I personally feel like my bread pan makes a better proportional size of bread, as opposed to your average pan sizes.These are hard to find, though. So, may the luck be ever in your thrifting favor!
4. Spoons and/or Spatulas
Although, I do have a quick disclaimer: I use my hands to mix my dough!
When I’m making bread at this point, I don’t stir it with a spoon. I put on a disposable glove (to avoid getting dough under my fingernails). And I mix the dough by hand.
It makes me feel old fashioned – like I’m a pioneer woman or something. It is also just insanely therapeutic to mix by hand.
Where to start with baking homemade bread
You’ve got your tools, ingredients, and a fully-working oven. Now what?
When looking where to start when baking homemade bread, I always say to start with what you’re interested in.
If you want to start with the simplest type of bread to make, I suggest first trying to make some quick breads.
What are quick breads?
Quick breads are breads made using baking powder or baking soda to help the bread rise, instead of yeast.
This type of bread recipe is the simplest to make for two reasons:
- The baking powder and/or baking soda causes your bread to rise into a nice loaf in the oven. There is no need to let your dough sit and wait for it to rise like you do with yeast bread.
- You don’t knead quick bread dough (more on that later …).
Banana bread, pumpkin bread, and zucchini bread are all types of quick breads.
How to make a quick bread recipe
I suggest starting with quick breads because you usually dump all the ingredients in a bowl, mix it up, add it to a bread pan, and bake. It’s that easy!
You can usually whip them up in about 15 minutes. It will take about an hour or more to bake in a bread pan.
Short on time? You can also add your batter to muffin tins. These bake much quicker!
Quick breads are usually pretty hard to mess up. I’ve experimented with different proportions of different ingredients, and they almost always turn out edible to some degree.
So, if you’re looking for something just simple yet chef’s kiss good, start with a quick bread.
Need a quick bread recipe to start?
I have two!
My favorite quick bread recipes.
My latest quick bread addition is my Chocolate Zucchini Bread. It is so delectable and cozy. It is a go-to dessert in our household.
Now if chocolate is not your thing – first, who are you?! I kid, I kid – you may prefer my Cinnamon and Vanilla Banana Bread instead.
Both of these recipes are great for beginners and delicious to boot!
How to make yeast breads
Once you’ve made a couple quick breads, and get your confidence up, you may say to yourself, “Well, that’s pretty good. What can I do next?”
And the answer is yeast breads!
People tend to get intimidated when it comes to yeast bread. And much of that intimidation is due to the time commitment. Before I get on my soapbox on that subject, let’s first talk about what exactly is yeast bread.
Unlike our quick breads that use baking powder and/or baking soda as the rising agent, yeast breads use a living thing called yeast.
What is yeast and how does it work?
Yes, you actually use a living organism to make yeast bread. Sounds a little weird, but I promise you, it is actually quite amazing.
A single-cell organism, yeast (also referred to scientifically as Saccharomyces cerevisiae) basically “eats” sugars and starches through a process called fermentation. This produces carbon dioxide.
The carbon dioxide the yeast produces is what magically causes your bread dough to multiply in size.
Simply put, “the yeast ferments the sugars in the flour and releases carbon dioxide,” which can’t escape out of your stretchy dough. So, as the gas expands, the dough begins to inflate like a balloon – a.k.a. rise!
Pretty cool, huh?
Is working with yeast difficult?
Yeast can be a bit tricky to work with.
In order to activate the yeast (a.k.a. make it work its fermenting magic), you need to add it to lukewarm water – about 70 to 80 degrees fahrenheit.
If you add it to water that is too warm or too cold, your bread may not rise properly. You’ll that the yeast is active if it dissolves in the water and begins to bubble up.
As you can tell, there’s a lot of little things to learn about yeast bread. Once you master it, though, you can make so many delicious things – rolls, hamburger rolls, hot dog rolls, sub rolls, breads. The possibilities are truly endless.
So, the outcome of delicious bread is worth the trial and error of working with yeast.
Will baking homemade yeast bread take a lot of time?
As I said earlier, many people avoid yeast bread because of the time commitment.
Start to finish, yes, it does take quite a bit of time.
You have to mix your dough, knead it, let it rise, shape it into your desired bread, let it rise again, and THEN finally bake it. PHEW!
But here is the thing, friends – In terms of the time you’re actually spending making and working the bread, it’s really not that much.
Most of the time is taken up with waiting for the yeast to do its thing and make the bread rise. So, don’t let the time commitment scare you away.
Wait … what was that about kneading the dough?
We can’t talk about yeast breads without talking about a very important step: kneading the dough.
This process is done by putting your dough on a floured surface and gently folding and turning the dough with your hands – another therapeutic aspect of baking homemade bread!
Kneading the dough is what strengthens the gluten in the bread, giving your bread a structure and texture.
Under or over kneading can result in unwanted textures. The trick here is to experiment and find what works for you.
Try my favorite white bread recipe!
My absolute favorite kind of yeast bread to make is my white bread recipe. It’s the best sandwich bread I’ve ever made in my life.
It’s kind of sweet and rich – there’s a LOT of butter in it. It’s fairly easy to make, and is just really, really good!
You can download my recipe for free here! It’s a great one to start with as you venture into baking yeast breads.
What’s the deal with sourdough?
In my kitchen, I usually stick with baking yeast and quick breads.
That is until recently when a good friend of mine sent me their sourdough starter.
Sourdough bread never used to be my thing, which is kind of a crime in the homesteading world. It was difficult to create the starter, and honestly, the tangy flavor is not really for me.
Lately, though, I’ve been giving sourdough another try, and it does have its perks for those brave enough to venture into the world of sourdough.
What is sourdough bread?
Sourdough bread rises thanks to a ‘starter,’ rather than yeast, baking soda, or baking powder.
The starter is simply a mixture of flour and water that has fermented on its own, full of good bacteria and wild yeast. Usually sourdough has a tangy flavor, hence the “sour” in its name.
Thanks to all the good bacteria in the starter, sourdough bread has a lot of health benefits and tends to be easier to digest than your average yeast bread.
How to make a sourdough starter
Before you can bake your bread, you first have to create your starter, which takes days, even weeks.
It’s a daily process of mixing water and flour, then discarding half, and adding more water and flour.
It can be quite tedious in the beginning, but it is much easier to manage once it is ready for use.
Luckily for me, I have a friend that is an expert in this area – Lisa from Farmhouse on Boone! (Getting your starter from a friend is definitely the easiest way to do it!)
If you want to start your own sourdough starter, check out Lisa’s blog here for a step-by-step guide.
Once you have your starter ready, the process becomes similar to that of yeast bread.
However, keep in mind that, pending what type of sourdough you are making, the rising process can take much longer.
In fact, one of Lisa’s recipes for sourdough sandwich bread takes 10 to 12 hours on the first rise.
So, make sure you plan accordingly!
Ready to start baking homemade bread?
I hope I’ve inspired you to break out your bowls and measuring cups!
Whether you are brand new to baking or you’re an avid baker looking for a new challenge, I hope you’ll try a new bread recipe soon.
Because there really is nothing like making your own fresh bread, and enjoying it straight out of the oven.
Alright, now I am really hungry. Anyone else?
Happy bread baking, my fancy friends!