Learn how to make delicious homemade bread with ease!
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My Homemade Bread Story:
For a number of years I was strictly a sourdough-only bread baker. I absolutely love the tangy flavor and chewy texture that you get from a sourdough loaf. The slow and connected process of bread making is truly enjoyable to me- doing the hourly fold and turns, working with the surface tension to shape the perfect loaf… I love it all.
I made my first starter when I was in culinary school (2012) and was delighted to bring it home and show it to my husband. An amateur fermenter of beer and cheese at that time, he was delighted to add another bubbling potion to our collection. We baked bread regularly in our old apartment with that school-project starter. It was an easy thing to do at that point in time, as we had very few responsibilities or time commitments. The fact that making a quality loaf of sourdough took two full days and lots of hands-on time didn’t even really clock with me, because it didn’t need to. I had all the time in the world.
As time went on, we traded sourdough in for a number of other kitchen crafts and science experiments. But then, 2020 came and (seemingly alongside everyone else on the face of the earth) I thought to myself- WTHeck will I do with all this time on my hands?
Before I knew it, I was feeding my new starter like it was a newborn baby and baking up a sourdough-storm. My family and I got VERY used to having fresh bread around. As years floated by and life went back to normal, I realized that fresh sourdough 3 days a week just wasn’t doable for me anymore. Feeding my starter became an oft forgot and daunting task. Quarter turn and folds every hour for 4-6 hours started feeling like a chore more than a blissful time-filler. The long, timed fermentations and rises were becoming quite the hurdle when trying to schedule our back-to-regular life activities.
Finding an easier way to make bread at home:
I lamented this paradox to a wonderful neighbor and fellow kitchen whiz:
‘I want to keep making fresh bread but this sourdough thing is becoming too time consuming.’
She very easily replied: ‘Just do it how I do’ and recommended this book:
What I Love About This Method:
Work once, bake several times.
This book is an actual miracle. It provides you with a ‘Master Dough Recipe’ which you can easily multiply (or scale down) to make as much bread dough as you desire in literal minutes. You then store the bulk dough in your refrigerator for up to two weeks at a time. You simply pull out a ‘grapefruit sized’ chunk any time you want to bake bread.
This book also has you use the ‘cloaking’ method to shape your dough for a boulé. This is basically just loosely hand shaping it into a ball and letting the bake do the rest of the work.
In our how-to video for this bread, I shape my loaves how I always have, using surface tension and quarter turns. That is what feels most natural to me. I have however, utilized the cloaking method detailed in the book and the results are the same.
Save time, gain control.
This system has cut down my hands-on time with bread exponentially and made it incredibly easy for me to bake fresh bread, with wholesome ingredients, whenever I want. I can now fit bread baking into even the busiest of weeks quite easily. Knowing that there is fresh dough fermenting away in my refrigerator at ALL TIMES, ready to go whenever I need, is a joy.
What do I need to make delicious homemade bread?
You don’t need much to get started. If you have ever baked bread before, you likely have most of these tools and ingredients on hand at home already. If you are new to bread baking, you may have to purchase a few things to get started but the investment point is rather low.
*As a note there are several variations of the master dough recipe in this book. The variations are for things like bagels, pizza etc. These variations use the master recipe below but with the addition of things like sugar or olive oil that need to be added at mixing time. This post works with the basic master dough recipe that is used for different shapes and types of bread*
Ingredients for the Master Dough recipe:
- Warm, filtered water (3 cups at between 100-105 degrees F)
- Kosher salt (1.5 tablespoons)
- Granulated Yeast (1 Tablespoon)
- All Purpose Flour (Organic recommended, 6.5 cups)
Tools & Materials for the Master Dough Recipe:
- Measuring cups & spoons
- a large (6qt) bowl or container with a lid, I use these Cambros
- Danish dough whisk (optional but highly recommended for ease) or sturdy wooden spoon, or clean hands
- thermometer for measuring water temperature (again, not essential but an all around useful kitchen tool. I use this thermapen for all my kitchen temping needs).
- lamé for slashing (a regular old razor blade works just fine too)
- parchment paper
- dutch oven
- loaf pan
Getting Your Delicious Homemade Bread Started:
Mix & Ferment
Time to mix up your first batch of dough!
Add all of the listed ingredients to your 6qt container, mix well, and allow to ferment on the counter for at least two hours. Then, transfer to the refrigerator and store cold for up to 2 weeks.
You are ready to bake at any time once the inaugural 2 hour fermentation is complete. I always make sure to mix up my next batch of dough as soon as I use up the previous batch. This way I never run out and I can bake bread at any time.
When you are ready to bake, pull out a ‘grapefruit sized’ chunk of dough from the container. This can be done by hand or using scissors. You really can eyeball it but if you are new to bread baking and want to really get the hang of it, use a kitchen scale (I have this one at home) to make sure your dough ball is about 2 pounds.
Loosely ‘cloak’ the dough ball by gently stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter turn as you go.
Alternatively, push and pull your dough ball across your countertop, rotating 90 degrees with each push and pull.
This forms a boule. Set on a piece of parchment, and rest inside of a shallow round bowl or dish to encourage shaping as the dough rises.
If you want to bake a sandwich style loaf, follow the same steps but then continue by gently stretching the ball back and forth from end to end, creating an oblong/rectangle shape. Place this into a loaf pan.
Leave this dough (on parchment for the boule, in the loaf pan for a sandwich loaf) in a warm-ish area of your house. The warmer it is, the faster it will rise. It will rise just fine in a cool area, it will simply take longer. Allow your dough to rise until it has noticeably increased in size and is rounded across the top. This will take anywhere from 30-90 minutes depending on the temperature and humidity of your house as well as your schedule.
The thing I love most about this method is it can be very flexible. Play around with it and see what works best in your home and with your time allotment!
This book instructs you to bake your bread boule on a preheated pizza stone dusted with cornmeal. While I am SURE that that method works great and yields tremendous and tasty results, I don’t own a pizza stone. I make alot of pizza at home, but we typically bake ours pan-style in a baking sheet or (my favorite way) in a cast iron skillet. I’m not going to use a pizza stone for anything really, so I’ve combined this new method of bread making with my old trusty sourdough baking and continue to make my loaves in a preheated Dutch oven. If you have a pizza stone but no Dutch oven- awesome! You can get these loaves baked any one of a number of ways.
I digress- you’ll want to preheat your oven, as well as your Dutch oven or pizza stone, in a 450°F oven. Set oven temperature to 450°F and let your Dutch oven or stone preheat inside for at least 30 minutes while your shaped loaf is rising on the countertop.
For a sandwich loaf: you do not preheat the loaf pan. Instead, you need to preheat a baking sheet on the lower rack of your oven, underneath where the loaf will be baking.
Slash & Bake
Once everything has preheated and loaves have risen adequately, it’s time to bake these babies!
For a boule: Use a lamé or clean razor blade to slash 1/2 inch deep across the length of your loaf. This is to allow pressure to escape from the loaf during baking. There are many different ways to slash or score your loaves. Many of them are quite beautiful. For simplicity’s sake and especially if you are just getting started, plan on making one singular slash, about half an inch deep across the widest part of your bread.
For a sandwich loaf: NO SLASHING!
For the boule: Use oven mitts to remove the Dutch oven and the lid. Use the parchment as a sling to transfer your loaf (with the parchment) into the Dutch oven and cover with the lid. Place back in the oven and allow to bake for about 20-30 minutes with the lid on. After 20-30 minutes, remove the lid and continue to bake, until your loaf is a DEEP. GOLDEN. BROWN.
NO. PALE. LOAVES. PEOPLE! BAKE BOLDY!!
This part is really quite dependent on your oven and can take anywhere from 15-30 minutes. Play around with times, pay close attention to your first couple of bakes, and you will have your timing dialed in no time.
For the sandwich loaf: Place in the center rack of your preheated oven and pour about 1 cup of warm water into the preheated baking sheet on the bottom rack and close the oven door quickly. This step is a bit alarming the first time you do it as it makes a ton of noise and sprays droplets of water all over the place. It is necessary to create steam for the loaf to rise effectively (much like what is happening inside the Dutch oven for the boulé). Bake for about 40 minutes or until nicely risen and, once again, deeply golden brown.
Easy Speedy Home-Made Bread!
- 6qt cambro-style container or bowl with lid
- parchment paper if baking the boulé style
- dutch oven or loaf pan depending on style of loaf
- baking sheet
- measuring spoons and cups
- danish dough whisk, regular whisk, wooden spoon or clean hands
- lamé or razor blade
- 3 cups warm water 100-105 degrees
- 1 T granulated yeast
- 1.5 T kosher salt
- 6.5 cups all purpose flour organic recommended
- Add the warm water, salt and yeast to your cambro (or other 6 qt container with lid), stir to combine.
- Add 6.5 cups of flour (making sure to measure without compacting the flour!) and mix until there are no remaining clumps of flour
- Loosely cover your dough mixture and allow to ferment at room temperature for at least 2 hours. Your dough is ready to use immediately after this 2 hour period OR can alternatively be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks
- When ready to bake: remove one 'grapefruit sized' chunk of dough (about 2lbs) and shape by either 'cloaking' or using your counter's surface tension (both methods detailed above) to form a ball for a boulé style.Alternatively, for a sandwich loaf: take your shaped dough ball and stretch gently, back and forth from end to end for form a rough rectangle.For the boulé: Place your shaped dough on a piece of parchment, inside a shallow bowl and allow to rest/rise for anywhere from 30-90 minutes depending on the temperature and humidity of your kitchen.For the sandwich loaf: place your rectangle dough in a greased loaf pan and allow to rise at room temperature, 30-90 minutes depending on the temperature and humidity of your kitchen.
- Preheat:For the boulé: while your dough is rising, preheat your oven to 450°F with your Dutch oven inside to match the internal temperature of the oven.For the sandwich loaf: while your dough is rising, preheat your oven to 450°F with a baking sheet on the bottom rack to match the internal temperature of the oven.
- Once your regular oven/Dutch oven/baking sheet have preheated and the dough has risen:For the boulé- use a lamé or clean razor blade to make a 1/2 inch deep slash across the widest part of your loaf. Use oven mitts to remove the Dutch oven from the (regular) oven and take off the lid. Then, use the parchment as a hammock to transfer the dough (parchment and all!) into the Dutch oven, replace the lid and bake covered for about 25 minutes.For the sandwich loaf: (no slashing) put your loaf pan with risen dough into the oven, add about 1 cup of warm water to the preheated sheet pan (it will sizzle loudly!) and close the door quickly. Bake for about 40 minutes until deeply golden brown.
- For the boulé: After 25 minutes, remove the lid and continuing baking until your loaf is a deep golden brown, an additional 15-30 minutes depending on your oven.
- Once your bread is golden brown, remove from the oven and transfer IMMEDIATELY to a cooling rack so that no moisture forms between the bottom of the loaf and the Dutch oven/loaf pan.
- Allow to cool FULLY. Wait at least 2 hours before slicing. You can do it.
Tips for delicious easy homemade bread:
- Make sure to use warm water for your dough. Between about 100-105 degrees. Too warm and it will kill the yeast, too cool and fermentation will take much much longer.
- When measuring your flour, make sure to use the ‘scoop and sweep‘ method (discussed in video) This ensures that the flour doesn’t compact in the measuring cup and result in way too much flour in your dough.
- While your hands or a wooden spoon will work perfectly well for mixing your dough, I have been amazed at the ease and efficiency of a danish dough whisk. For me, it makes sense to purchase one as I make many types of homemade doughs. If you are just getting started and not sure if bread baking, etc. is for you, start with what you’ve got a home and purchase one down the road if you find yourself hooked on bread making.
- For fermenting your big batch of dough or allowing your loaves to rise before baking- take the temperature of your kitchen into consideration. If it is generally warm, the counter is great. If it is deep winter and your kitchen is an icebox like ours, I recommend moving your dough/loaves to a warmer part of your house to ferment and rise.
- There is no need to dust your counter with flour before shaping! Working the dough, cold from the refrigerator, eliminates any sticking. This is a bonus, as you don’t need to take an extra step and your counter stays cleaner as a result!
- A lamé is a great tool for slashing loaves and they are engineered specifically for this task with ergonomics in mind. Again, I look at a lamé just like the Danish dough whisk. If you are going be baking your buns off, it’s probably a good idea to have one. If not, grab a regular old razor blade–making sure it is ultra clean and rust-free of course.
- While a preheated baking sheet is necessary to get the correct rise and shape on your sandwich loaf, I always add one to my oven when baking bread no matter what. Keeping a sheet pan on the bottom rack of your oven (underneath your baking loaves) will ensure that the bottoms of your loaves do not burn during the long bake time.
- If you find that your loaves are taking a long time to brown at the end, you can play with turning your oven temperature up to 475 for the end of your bake time.
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