Introduction: How to Bake Easy Bread

Picture of How to Bake Easy Bread

Making your own bread can be easy, and it's tastier and definitely cheaper than store-bought. Here's a simple recipe for bread with an overnight rise and minimal kneading.

Mix up a batch of dough one evening, mess with it for ten minutes the next afternoon, then bake. You'll have fresh bread in time for dinner.

Step 1: Ingredients & Supplies

Picture of Ingredients & Supplies

Kitchen supplies:
1 or 2 loaf pans
1 or 2 mixing bowls, with lids or foil to cover
oven (and potholders)

Ingredients for two small loaves of bread:
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting
1/4 tsp instant/active dry yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
~1 5/8 cups water (can substitute milk/soymilk for part of this)
cornmeal as needed (a pinch or two)

Ingredients for 2/3 recipe, for one larger loaf of bread:
~2 cups AP or bread flour
1/5 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
~1 cup H2O (can substitute milk/soymilk for part of this)
cornmeal as needed (a pinch or two)

Step 2: Mix the Dough, Let It Rise Overnight

Picture of Mix the Dough, Let It Rise Overnight

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, yeast, and salt. If you're adding in any other dry ingredients, mix them in at this step. For a savory bread, add in chopped or dry herbs (I'm adding basil to this batch), shredded cheese, chopped olives, curry, or other spices. For a sweet bread, you can add a bit of sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, chopped nuts, whatever else might be tasty.

Add the water & milk/soymilk. (If you're going for a sweeter bread, you can add in a touch of vanilla here.) Stir until well blended. The dough should be sticky and wet.

Cover bowl with lid or plastic wrap. Let dough rise for 12-18 hours at warm room temp (~70F).

Step 3: The Next Day...

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After 12-18 hours, check the dough. The surface should be dotted with bubbles, and it should occupy more volume than it did the day before.

Lightly flour your counter or work surface. Place the dough on it -- you'll have to gently scrape it out of the bowl. Sprinkle the top of the dough liberally with more flour, the fold it over on itself once or twice. Form the dough into a ball, then set it seam-side-down back into a clean mixing bowl. Cover the bowl and let the dough rise again for another 1-2 hours. The dough should approximately double in size.

(The New York Times recipe I started with has several more steps here involving covering the dough with plastic wrap, letting it rest for 15 minutes, shaping the dough into a ball, then setting it in a flour-coated dishtowel for the second rise. I don't bother with any of that, and the bread turns out just fine.)

Step 4: Baking

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About 30 minutes before the dough is ready, put your empty loaf pan(s) in the oven and set it to 450F.

(Note: the NYT recipe recommends using a "large, heavy covered pot" such as a Dutch oven to bake the bread. If you've got one, use it; I hear it works well. I don't have one, so instead I use regular loaf pans, cover them with foil, and set a shallow dish of water on the bottom rack of the oven.)

When the dough is ready, carefully remove the loaf pan from the oven. (Remeber, they'll be very hot!) Sprinkle a bit of cornmeal on the bottom of the pan; this will keep the loaf from sticking and make it much easier to remove from the pan later.

Carefully tip your dough-ball into the loaf pan, using the spoon to gently release it from the sides of the bowl. You want to keep the little bubbles in the dough intact as much as possible.

Cover the loaf pan with foil (again, using the oven mitts because the loaf pan is hot). Set the loaf pan on the middle rack of the oven, and put an ovensafe dish with 1/2" - 1" of water in it on the lower rack of the oven. (I'm doing this because I'm not using a pot with a heavy lid to keep the moisture close to the bread.)

Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil. If desired, you can brush the surface of the loaf with milk or butter at this point. Bake another 15 to 30 minutes until the crust is well-browned.

Step 5: Mmm Tasty!

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Slide a knife around the edge of the pan to release the loaf, then tip the bread out onto a wire rack to cool.

Let it cool for 5-10 minutes. (I never manage more than that, because warm fresh-baked bread with butter is just too good.) Eat, toast, make sandwiches, enjoy!


Tarkanos (author)2012-04-19

I'm not sure, from the pictures, if my dough is turning out right in this step. I find it hard to "shape" it in any way at all, and usually end up just putting it back intot he bowl. I can't shape it as such because it is still rather sticky and wet. Is it possible I just need to decrease my original amount of water for the dough? Or is it still supposed to be rather wet and sticky when it goes back for the second rise?

reno_dakota (author)Tarkanos2012-04-19

When I've made it, it does stay pretty wet and sticky, and that seems to be fine. I use a liberal amount of flour on my counter & then sprinkled on top of the dough, just enough to fold it over itself a few times before it goes back in the bowl for the second rise.
(Sometimes I also just do the second rise in the pans / dutch oven and then pop it straight in the oven from there, too.)

banzitothecheeto (author)2011-10-05

This is an amazing recipe! I agree about double-quadrupling it. It's too good to only have a little!

hobbaloo (author)2010-12-25

Oh man, I have to say, this is a great recipe. I added half a cup of raw sugar, a dash of vanilla essence and a handful of sultanas and it resulted in the most wonderfully moist fruitloaf... I had it fresh out of the oven (burning my fingers in the process) with butter and milk... *drools* Thank you so much for the great 'ible :)

تولاي (author)2010-11-16

It is tasty. Good luck & enjoy!

تولاي (author)2010-11-16

It is tasty. Good luck & enjoy!

wenpherd (author)2009-12-21

Hey this looks great, but would it be better to do a double, triple, or even quadruple recipe since this takes a real looooong time?

reno_dakota (author)wenpherd2009-12-24

The only limit is how much bread you can consume before it goes stale or moldy!

etymological (author)reno_dakota2010-10-03

Freeze it!

bonfire817 (author)2010-08-19

I am SOOOO getting the dough going tonight! This looks FAN_TABULOUS! I even have some fresh basil I need to use up!

thenear1send (author)2008-08-28

Hey, Nice Instructable!! I drew inspiration from this and decided to bake my own bread. I followed NO recepies or proportions and came up with a beautiful disaster! You know that you learn from your mistakes, i figured the more mistakes i make the smarter i will become, which worked in my instance! Lets see, it tasted horrible, it was fairly hard, it was too gooey in its dough stages, i added all sorts of berries, AND i even added green food coloring. xD Thanks for the inspiration!

SpiroExDeus (author)thenear1send2010-07-31

Erk! Frankenbread!

notker (author)thenear1send2009-08-15

but mine look like yours

thepelton (author)thenear1send2009-02-13

LOL. That looks like something off of CSI.

notker (author)thepelton2009-08-15

i lold

porero (author)2010-04-24

Hi, everybody. great, smooth and more. you use this recipe as a starter..... we, the newly born in the Heaven of bread, use as a sparker for creation..... I said too much, didn't I? be sure it is fantastic. 
million thanks reno dakota. the same to instructable..... 

Kroil (author)2010-01-16

Made this the other day with brown sugar, flax seeds, and a drizzle of honey on the top.

Holy delicious.

homemadebywife (author)2009-03-12

I've tried dozens of bread recipes and it wasn't any see I've aurtirites in my hands. and your recipe is just God sent. it just wonderfully ease, ant what a taste. i would recommend this recipe to anyone who's hands are hearting-no knedding-thats what attracted me to this recipe. just follow the instructions to the T .( I've used small cast iron casserole dishes w/lids-perfection. Thank,you and God bless you for this.

Good to know, and I'm glad it worked out!

Thanks for the great instructable.! I can't wait to try it! Also: Dear "Homemadeby wife", thanks; your comments inspired me. God bless you too :0)

jhowen1 (author)2009-02-02

This bread is so easy to make, I have made it a half dozen times, I have added chopped pecans and it turned out amazing.

smurfsahoy (author)2008-11-18

You don't ever really HAVE to wait overnight for bread to rise. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and put in the oven on warm with the door cracked open, and it will be risen enough to knead in maybe an hour.

sdhgslijesadf (author)2008-04-11

hi just wondering, whats teh difference in using water or milk?

My impression is that it makes the bread moister and more tender on the insides (the "crumb"), but I'm not an expert. Harold McGee's book On Food and Cooking is a great place to look for answers to those sorts of questions.

t.rohner (author)2007-10-28

It looks nicely risen. I just baked bread this morning in my wood fired oven.
Do you use loaf pans, because the dough would flow away otherwise? If yes, is this because it's a non kneaded dough? The bread i made this morning was made from a extremly moist dough. After "forming", it needs to go into the oven really quick, otherwise it will flow quite wide. The moisture gives it a huge ovenspring with a crunchy crust and a very moist crumb.

reno_dakota (author)t.rohner2007-11-20

The original recipe recommends using a dutch oven; I used loaf pans because I have no dutch oven. But yeah, I think on a flat surface the dough would spread out pretty quickly.

Patrik (author)reno_dakota2008-03-06

Might be worth a try, if it has a nice crust. There's plenty of other flatbreads, like focaccia or ciabatta. You could even go completely the focaccia route, and sprinkle with olive oil, herbs and some sea salt. A pre-heated dish will presumably also help to keep the bread from spreading out too widely.

t.rohner (author)Patrik2008-03-07

Yeah focaccia is a very nice bread as well, especially with a spread made of olives on it or some nice cheese. But i wouldn't call ciabatta a flatbread. And since i give the ciabatta and the focaccia a final proof, i don't have such a moist dough, as i mentioned in my first comment. The dough in my first comment has 78% water. (780ml for 1000g of flour) My boss found out that it's enough to stir it to distribute the ingredients, then give it enough time to develop the gluten. (around 6-8 hours) I started to make the dough in my breadmaker. I time it, so the dough is ready when i get up in the morning. I preheat my electric oven with a baking/pizza stone. Then i put the dough on my workbench (it almost flows out by itself), then i use cold water on my hands to form it. I degas the biggest bubbles a little bit and give it a twist. Then i put the loaves on a baking sheet and shove it on the baking stone pretty quickly. This way it hasn't the time to flow too wide. Since i do this in my small oven, i don't even have to add steam. The moisture on the dough seems to saturate the oven room enough to keep the loaves from ripping. After around 5 minutes i open the door for a couple of seconds to let the steam out. I do this two or three times more during the 30 minutes baking time. This way you get a cheewy moist crumb and a crispy crunchy crust. This bread used to be a speciality around here, normally formed as small round kind of rolls. Since the dough is so moist, forming it with flour isn't the way to go, so dipping the hands in cold water pretty often keeps the dough from tacking. Two important things i learned lately: With a moist dough and a long fermentation, you can go without kneading. (Since i have a Kenwood kitchen machine and a breadmaker, kneading is no strain for me...) By all means, buy a baking stone and preheat it some 60 deg higher, than you intend to bake. This gives a wonderful oven spring. You could take unglazed spanish tiles as well, but a baking stone is easier to use. (no gaps) keep on baking

reno_dakota (author)t.rohner2008-03-09

That all sounds great. Thanks for the suggestions!

student_for_life (author)2008-02-28

Hi, friend!! I can't WAIT to try out your recipe . . . just as soon as I finish eating the loaf I made a few days ago. I had issues with it rising enough (and how long that took), so perhaps if I already plan on waiting overnight, my mind can concentrate on other things.

Homework, for example. =)

Yeah. When I first started baking bread again, I told myself I could "get work done" during the rise times. Instead, I...erm...started another loaf of bread, cleaned the kitchen, puttered about, and then it was time to deal with the dough again. This recipe gives lots of non-doughy-hands time for doing other useful things like sleep or homework. That said, the (more work-intensive) recipe I use for making king cakes is ridiculously tasty, and I think it'd make a lovely cinnamon bread...

Kaiven (author)2008-02-29

could i use baking powder instead of yeast? and how so?

reno_dakota (author)Kaiven2008-03-05

For the long rise, I'd suggest sticking with yeast. From the little bit I know, baking soda is more often used in quick-rise breads.

Valche (author)2008-02-24

Sounds and looks delicious, +1 & favorited. As for the bread's consistency, is it chewy/doughy? I think that has to do with the gluten forming, and I believe the resting accomplishes that. True? I love chewy bread.

reno_dakota (author)Valche2008-02-25

Thanks! It's a bit chewy, but not too dense or doughy. Offhand, I think the long rise does help with gluten formation, but it's been too long since I read the relevant chapter of On Food & Cooking.

Valche (author)reno_dakota2008-02-25

Nice! Thanks for sharing the recipe, I can't wait to try it.

ursus57 (author)2008-02-25

We have been given this HUGE dutch oven with a lid made of cast iron. We can barely lift this great pan. We used all purpose flour, and baked the original Times recipe.This dutch oven produces the greatest easiest bread ever. Glad to see your recipes can adapt to how most of us cook, in a bread pan. Great intractable, helps to de-mystify bread making. Yeast is all about staying warm. Crispy crust, home made bread you don't have to foll with a lot-Wonderful- The aroma attracts neighbors you have never met and sharing is the best way to make friends.

reno_dakota (author)ursus572008-02-25

Thanks! One day I'll have a real dutch oven (and a bigger kitchen) the meantime, this seems to work well enough. :)

kaiserpanda (author)2008-02-06

Could this recipe be adapted to making wheat bread?

reno_dakota (author)kaiserpanda2008-02-08

I haven't tried it, but I'd imagine so. Wheat flour tends to make a heavier loaf, so I'd probably make it with 1/2 AP flour and 1/2 wheat. You could also try adding a little extra yeast.

Genflag (author)2008-01-28

I made this the other day and I really like it. Though I don't really see why you have to heat the pan up first. I think you would get a better loaf out of letting it rise in the pans. I'm doing some more later today, and I'm making that way, and also doing one loaf broken up with cheese through out it.

reno_dakota (author)Genflag2008-01-28

My impression is that heating the pan up first has something to do with getting the crust all crunchy, but I'm not sure. Let me know how it turns out your way; I'm curious.

shooby (author)2007-11-25

Thanks for this, just tried it. Of course I only let the dough rise for about 5 hours because I'm inpatient, however it tastes alright, and I know that it'll turn out great once I do it properly. -shooby

reno_dakota (author)shooby2007-12-06

How much of a rise did you get with 5 hours? I usually mix this up in the evening and then don't check it again 'til the next day.

jerseygem (author)2007-12-03

Thanks for the recipe sounds sooo good.I can't wait to try it

reno_dakota (author)jerseygem2007-12-06

It is tasty. Good luck & enjoy!

T3h_Muffinator (author)2007-10-25

Cool! I'd really like to try this!

Go for it! It's tasty.

code_e (author)2007-10-26

Homemade warm bread is highly addictive. :) The only thing I might change in this instructable would be letting the 2nd rise happen in the loaf pans. That would eliminate having to be careful when putting the dough in them.

reno_dakota (author)code_e2007-11-20

It is addictive. Not sure about the second rise, though; I haven't tried doing it that way, but I think having the loaf pans be hot when you put the dough in is important.

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