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I love bread, especially homemade bread. This simple homemade bread recipe is not only easy to make, but it’s also simply delicious. When I first learned to make this recipe I’ll share today, I made it every few days for over three years.
Nothing compares to the smell of a fresh loaf straight from the oven.
It has only a few ingredients and requires no kneading. Best of all, you can extend indefinitely without additional yeast as long as you make a batch once a week.
When I was young, my fondest memory of sick days was being home while my mom made bread. The smell, the taste of a still-warm slice loaded with melting butter. That’s what really made me better again.
Fast forward to the summer of 2010. I was reading “One Second After” and everything changed. A month into the incident the characters resorted to mixing grass and sawdust into biscuits to fill their stomachs. This scared the hell out of me!
I immediately did the calculations. How many pounds in a bag of flour? Are there three or four cups of flour in a pound? How many cups in a loaf? Do we eat one loaf a day or two?
I’ll spare you the advanced calculus. One 25 lb bag of flour will last my family almost 30 days – if we eat one loaf a day.
I picked up three bags of flour on the way home.
I’ve since learned to make my own I’m really into it. Sunday night’s dinner of pasta or roasted chicken isn’t complete without a loaf right out of the oven.
Easy Homemade Bread Method
There are several things I like about this recipe. The main one is that it’s easy. I’ve derived this simple homemade bread recipe from “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois.
It literally takes 5 minutes each time you touch the dough which is about once a day. Honestly, the only thing I’ve done differently is to increase the loaf size so that it doesn’t disappear so quickly.
The basic premise is that good bread requires long gluten protein chains. These are formed in one of two ways: physical agitation (kneading) or time and humidity. This second method is what makes this recipe so easy.
Adding more water and time enables this recipe to remove the tiring and implied complexity of kneading.
So, let’s get you on your way to a warm slice of homemade bread. The exact recipe is listed below, so I’ll just cover the highlights here.
Step 1: Mix
The first step is to mix the ingredients thoroughly. Um, I wish it were more complicated but it’s not.
It will be wet. It will be sticky. This is good!
If you are using bread flour, you will need to add a little extra water. If it is winter time you will need to add extra water. The dough needs humidity for the gluten to form.
Step 2: Rise, Rest
Once it is mixed, put it in a warm stop to rise. For me, this takes 4 hours. The longer the better. The more time the dough sits the richer the flavor.
Once it has doubled in size, put it in the fridge to rest.
Fridge time is a minimum of 6 hours and up to 1 week. Again, the longer the better.
If you are running low on yeast, you can use less than 1½ tablespoons, it will just take longer for the initial rise.
I came up with this second secret one day when I ran out of yeast.
You can reserve a half cup of dough (a small ball in the palm of your hand) and add it to the next batch. This works great if you are making this bread on a regular basis. We make two loaves a week from this simple homemade bread recipe and always have dough in the fridge.
Cut the chunk up and add it to the water and mix it well. You want to break it down so it can mix in with the rest of the added ingredients.
I’ve done this with great success, adding no additional yeast for six months.
Step 3: Cook
When you are all through the initial steps and are ready to cook separate out half the dough and shape it. There is no good way to describe the “gluten cloaking” process. Watch this video for a great description.
Place your shaped loaf in a warm spot for the second rise and let it go for 40 minutes. Halfway through this turn on the oven.
This recipe is best with a bread or pizza stone however you can work without one. I’ve had good success with a large cast iron pan. In a pinch, a cookie sheet will do.
The important part of the bake is the steam bath. Dedicate an old broiler pan or sheet to the process. You will heat this pan in the oven with your stone, when you add water it will warp.
Cook until golden brown.
You can do two loaves at the same time if your oven is large enough. You can also divide the dough into smaller portions and cook for a shorter amount of time to get rolls.
Step 4: Eat and Repeat
When the bread is cooked, resist the urge to cut right in, let it cool completely. At least a little bit…
Warm bread with butter, jam, honey, roasted garlic and olive oil, marrow, oil, and spices. A quiet morning on the porch with your bread, a hot cup of coffee, and no kids… Ok, I’ll stop there; you get the picture.
During the winter we have dough in the refrigerator at all times and make two loaves a week, sometimes four. It’s easy, cheap, and soothes the soul. Repeat – many times.
- 6 ½ cup all-purpose or bread flour
- 3 cups warm water (plus 3 tablespoons if using bread flour)
- 1 cup of hot water for use during cooking
- 1½ tablespoons yeast
- 1½ tablespoons salt
- Cornmeal or Semolina flour to dust the resting and cooking surfaces
- Mix water, flour, yeast, and salt until fully incorporated (it will be wet and sticky)
- Place the dough in a warm spot until it doubles in size
- Refrigerate the dough a minimum of 4 hours and up to 1 week (I refrigerate for 12 hours)
- Cut off half the dough and shape and cloak into a ball (see video above)
- Place the dough ball on a surface dusted with cornmeal or semolina flour
- Let the dough rise for 40 minutes in a warm spot
- 20 minutes into the rise, set your oven to 450°F.
- Warm the pizza stone or cast iron pan in the oven along with the broiler pan
- When the rise is done, make 3-4 slashes across the top of the dough
- Transfer to the pizza stone/cast iron pan
- Pour 1 cup of hot water into the broiler pan to create the steam bath
- Let cook for 40-45 minutes until golden brown
- Remove from the oven and allow to completely cool
- Slice, slather, enjoy. Note: It’s ok to slice it while warm
If you are making rolls use the following steps:
- When you take half the dough out of the fridge divide into 6 equal pieces
- Shape/cloak each portion into a small roll
- Continue with steps 6-12 however cook for only 20-25 minutes
Wrapping It Up
Did I mention I love bread?
When we purchased our little corner of off-grid paradise, it wasn’t complete until I could make a fresh loaf (and I stashed 100 lbs of flour).
We arrive Friday night and the first thing I do is mix up a batch of dough. Saturday morning the family wakes up to the smell of fresh bread and we enjoy it with coffee, silence, and the view of God’s glory from the front porch.
Bread is the cornerstone of a good meal and for a prepared family. It can extend meals and lift moods. Being able to make your own is easier than you know.
This is a skill that is worthy of your toolkit.
Give this simple homemade bread recipe a try. With 25 pounds of flour, a few packets of yeast and other ingredients you can fill bellies and provide a bit of yum on the good days and normalcy in trying days.