How To Make Bread (without a bread machine)

Picture of How To Make Bread (without a bread machine)
This is an easy, basic recipe for bread that does not require much skill.

There are many ways to make bread and this is one of them (and in my opinion, a very simple way). Remember, bread making is not an exact science.
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: What you'll need

Picture of What you'll need
You will need:
  • Yeast - 2 Tbsp
  • Hot-ish* water - 2 cups
  • Bread flour - 5 cups total, 2 for the sponge and 3 for later. (NOT regular flour)
  • Sugar - 2 Tbsp.
  • Salt - 2 tsp.
  • Oil - 2 Tbsp.
  • 3 loaf pans
  • Quick-read thermometer
  • Oven pre-heated to 375

*Hot-ish means between 95 and 115 degrees F. much colder and it won't activate, much warmer and it will kill the little guys.

Step 2: Make the sponge

Picture of Make the sponge
This recipe uses what I call a "sponge." The sponge will activate the yeast and get things started; getting the yeast warm, happy, and ready to go

Start by mixing the hot water and the flour. Then, add 2 Tbsp. sugar, 2 Tbsp. oil, 2 Tbsp. yeast, and 2 tsp. salt.

Let this sit for about 8 or 10 minutes. Assuming your water was hot enough, it should be nice and bubbly.

Step 3: Add some flour and knead it

Picture of add some flour and knead it
Now you need to add about 3 more cups of flour. I added a little less this time, it really depends on the humidity and how exact your measurements were in the sponge step.

Once it gets too tough to stir, flip it onto a clean floured surface. Now, knead away, adding flour as you do so.
Knead the dough for 8 or 9 minutes. As my Mother says, it should be the texture of your earlobe when it's done kneading.

When you finish this part put it back in the bowl and cover it with a slightly damp towel.

Step 4: Let it rise...

Picture of let it rise...
let the dough rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes to an hour. the dough should be about doubled in size by the time it's finished.
1-40 of 303Next »
juliepacker842 months ago

does anyone know if you can just mix cinnamon as you were just making a plain loaf and do you have to add sugar to this as well

If I remember eating cinnamon toast as a youth, you should mix a little sugar with it - but if you don't, you can always spread a little sugar onto the bread along with the butter if it needs it after baking.

RodgerC23 days ago

Wonderful recipe! I now use it all the time; lately, I have been substituting a cup of rye flour for a cup of bread flour - people love it. Today I am going to substitute a cup of rye and a cup of whole wheat. The salt I use is Hawaiian black salt style garlic salt (made from fresh garlic) -- hmmm, I have some leftover cheese so I might add that.

Ganado3 months ago
Very nicely done. A simple elegant recipe for making bread. It makes me laugh when I see people posting corrections. Bread making is an ART. there is no 'right way' to make bread. There are 100's of variations based on taste, elevation and what kind of beard you want to make

A few minor tweaks to your recipe. First you do not need hot water, warm or room temp water will do just fine and it helps keep the rise at a slower pace. Remember time is our friend when making bread, but before cooking the dough heat is our enemy. Second you should not add the salt right away when making your polish / sponge, the salt should be added after you mix everything together and let your dough rest for 20 minutes for the gluten form and bond then add the salt and mix again. Third don't look for doubled in size rather test you dough to see when it has finished rising, poke it with two fingers if the dough pushes back it is still rising, if the dough stays indented it has finished rising and if it falls it was over proofed. Forth and just as a different way of kneading, I knead in three steps each have a 10 minute break in between, I fold the dough ten times and place it in an oiled bowl folded side down, each time I knead I flip it over and knead from the bottom. after the last knead I give it 40 to 50 min to rise "when it tests right when poked" then form into loafs or what ever you are making and let rise until it tests as ready to bake. hope this helps. Note salt is a yeast killer but also adds to the flavor of bread. That is why we delay putting the salt in!

I am sorry to contradict you just a little, but salt does not kill yeast. They will function just fine even with some salt.

Hi. My son is doing a project on break baking and we would like to use the photographs provided with this recipe. We need written permission from the owner of the photographs. May we please use the photographs and can you please send an email giving us permission to do so. My son is Dian Liebenberg. Thank you. Alma (Pretoria; South Africa)

docweathers10 months ago

when I make my whole grain homemade sourdough bread it goes into the
baking cycle with a nice smooth rounded top. When it comes out the top
has a half an inch to an inch deep dense and it weren't sagged. What
causes this?

rickharris1 year ago

There is no sweat in using yeast at cold temperatures. there is no need to "activate" it at all.

In fact bread proved in the fridge overnight develops more flavour than bread proved quickly. Unless the yeast is dead (unlikely) it will do it's job, even at low temperatures.

If you buy fresh yeast and don't use it all you can freeze it for many weeks and still use it once defrosted.

What can I say apart from thanks to the author! Jesus, it turned out to be perfect! and this is coming from a 35yr+ man who knows how to cook but baking has been my Achilles heel. In addition I live in a country(Norway) where the average prices for good loaf of bread is around $7-8, yes that much and now I can easily bake my own bread and enjoy it. Please follow the instructions to detail, temperature, flour measurements, etc. my problem with baking cake in the past was i wanted to be a bit loose and fast and it turned out disastrous! Thanks once again and see the pictures I added.
oops could not upload the picture but yeah the bread is great!
rrrmanion1 year ago
with regard to temperature, between 35 & 45 degrees C - or, about body temperature. i think a good way to test might be to dip your finger in, and if it's neither hot nor cold, it's probably about the right temperature (correct me if I'm wrong of course)
nowayride1 year ago
For the main article, try pulling the bread under before the second rise. Basically, stretching the top a bit. It not only makes the top smooth but helps seal the top for a good rise.

@dutch981 (because this site keeps complaining about a capcha that doesn't exist).

Your bread was probably one of the following:

Under kneaded. If it was really crumbly/coarse it wasn't kneaded enough. Also avoid whole wheat as it does the same. The dough should feel really tough. If you over knead it your bread will turn out more tough (think pizza) not dense.

Not enough water. Your dough needs to be really tacky and wet. Also cover very lightly with oil. Bread will not double properly if it's too dry.

Under/over rise. It needs to have just doubled in size and making an indentation with your finger will have no spring back. This goes for first and second rise, especially the first. You know it's risen too much when it comes out with large air pockets in the top.

Too drafty. Try turning the oven to warm for a couple of minutes. It should feel like 90F (or a nice warm day). Turn it off and shut the bread in. The warmth will help it rise at a good pace.

Keep trying. You'll quickly learn what the dough is suppose to feel/look like at different stages. The whole process becomes second nature and feels a lot less like work (the clean up is a different story).
lmp06071 year ago
I was wondering if a whole wheat flour can be used?
dutch9811 year ago
Tried this for the first time. My loaf was really heavy and dense. I think it's because I got impatient on the second rise. Or maybe I over kneaded it. I don't know, I guess the only way to find out is to try it again!
Bev19491 year ago
need to see the reply to can I use my electric mixer in this recipe... please thanks
rlarios2 years ago
This instructable popped up when I googled how to bake bread back in 2007. I have become an instructable fan since then..... and after many batches of delicious baked bread, of course !

Great instructable !
diy_bloke2 years ago
Interesting. Heard many statements on what flour to use and everybody disagrees :-)
I have baked many loafs with regular flour which goes very very well
Can I use electric mixer for the sponge part? :D
jsummers432 years ago
Thank you!
It was my very first time making bread, and it turned out delightful! We were all very pleased!
Great instructions! and photos! I'll be following them again :)
Adomini2 years ago
Hi, what if i'd like to keep some dough in the freezer, should i do this after second rising? Will i get same quality bread if i directly put the defrosted dough inside the oven?
anjaylah2 years ago
WOW! I thought I would never be able to make bread without a machine or a complex method. This was right up my alley. It really is not time consuming, just waiting. You do not have to sit and watch it. Thank you so much, i enjoyed this a lot.
This is my first time baking bread... or anything from scratch really, and it worked really well!! I had a rough start in the beginning due to a poor yeast purchase in the bulk foods section at the grocery store. Apparently, there is such a thing as nutritional yeast, or basically, a kind of deactivated yeast that people just add straight to certain dishes.... I didn't know that. It was a fine yellow powder and it smelled "yeasty" but it made NO bubbles! LOL... so with dry ACTIVE yeast the recipe went smoothly, AND without bread pans!

So, with this basic recipe, can I throw in some extra sugar and say, cinnamon for some sweet bread, or is there something else I need to know or do before I just start throwing things in the mix?
the thing about cooking and baking is the directions are basically an outline you can adjust pretty much anything in the recipe to your tastes word to the wise though make sure if you adjust something you try it before you serve and always write down what you did so when you get it perfect you'll know exactly what you did right
links41112 years ago
This was my first attempt at making bread and it was a total success. I cut the recipt in half because I didn't think it could possibly work the first time and it was perfect!
neongloss2 years ago
I made some modifications...

I'm making it right now. I halved the recipe and I'm currently on the first rise. (I'm giving it 90min on first rise, 30min on second).

About the water temperature, I know it's hard to get right if you don't have a thermometer. Use your wrist to judge. The water shouldn't feel too hot or too cold. It should pretty much match your body temperature. I added it to a big mug and quickly added the yeast and sugar before the water cooled down, and covered it with a paper towel for 10 minutes. My first try with this was successful, but unfortunately a fruit fly got in there and died. :/ I think this is a good fruit fly trap lol.

Instead of kneading it, I used a dough hook on my mixer and it took half of the time. I kneaded it for a minute with my hand just to add some olive oil around it so that it wouldn't stick to the bowl.

I think that half of the recipe will make 2 smaller loaves of bread, which is perfect for just the 2 of us. I'm going to braid one plain, and make a cinnamon raisin loaf because I have a ton of raisins.

Thanks for the recipe!
sltai2 years ago
Thanks for sharing this recipe.. Tried to bake bread with half of the ingredient listed and it tastes good !!
YO YO YO!! One of the best receipies Iv'e used. And one of the best info sites Iv'e seen. Keep it up. When I start making money from my breads i'll pay for a membership. That is a big thing u are too!! Thank you.
breadmaker22 years ago
good recipe now what if i want to bake less; say one loaf of bread or a normal baguette size...
what's the recipe for that ? thank you.
drinkmorecoffee (author)  breadmaker22 years ago
Try making half the recipe. Or freeze half the dough for later.
Yeast - 1 Tbsp
Hot-ish* water - 1 cup
Bread flour - 2.5 cups total, 2 for the sponge and 3 for later. (NOT regular flour)
Sugar - 1 Tbsp.
Salt - 1 tsp.
Oil - 1 Tbsp.
1 loaf pan
Quick-read thermometer
Oven pre-heated to 375

i tried freezing it's no good. this is only good for awhile. which is somewhat good i guess since it makes you keep baking fresh bread.
mgarner23 years ago
trying this today im at the second rise stage and its not looking good lol but hay i have never made bread by hand before so will try again didnt quite look right at the first stage to be honest the mix wasnt wet enough but i put the correct amount of water in but i think that my water may have been too hot as well hmmmm oh well we will see wish me luck lol
me thinks i have killed the yeast will have another stab at it either this afternoon or tomorrow :(
well the wet mix looked right this time but after the second prove its nowhere near looking like the pics :(
Dry salt kills yeast. So add the yeast last.
I followed all the steps and they all looked right except that I couldn't get the dough to rise and stay full in the bread pans. I put the yeast in last but, still no luck. Any advice.
I think if you use wheat flour in the recipe you need to increase the water a tad and since wheat flour has less gluten in it than bread flour you have to work it a bit more, one wheat bread recipe that I tried had me do a second punch down and a third rise with a 15 minute resting period before shaping the loaves. One thing you could do is replace two cups of wheat flour with the bread flour, you would not have 100% wheat bread, but you would have a lighter, less dense loaf that would rise nicely. I have been using this recipe for about two months now and it's great, I'd never made my own bread before and now I am comfortable enough with it that I have been experimenting a bit :)
I have been using wheat bread flour so I was wondering if that might be a factor
1-40 of 303Next »