Update: I posted this simple and delicious bread recipe a year ago, and since then many happy people have written to tell me that it really is simple and delicious. I am reposting it for all my new followers…and for all of those who didn’t believe me the first time around when I said it was simple and delicious. You know who you are! 

Many of you have asked me for a simple bread recipe that doesn’t “take all day.” Ask and you shall receive!


A Very Simple Bread Recipe from The Simple Homemaker

 

We don’t buy bread.  Ever.

We make it all by hand.  We make sourdough bread for its health benefits, or grind wheat for a hearty whole grain loaf.  We make rolls, pitas, tortillas, flat breads, and hamburger buns.  One of the hands down favorite breads we make is, fortunately, also one of the simplest.  (While it is not the healthiest bread we make, it far surpasses most grocery store breads for its simple lack of “stuff.”) In fact, this simple bread recipe is the first yeast bread recipe my children follow to make bread by themselves.

Simple Bread Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups warm water, not hot or you will kill your yeasty friends
  • 2 teaspoons yeast—a packet contains 2.25 teaspoons–close enough.
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 5-ish cups flour, all-purpose is fine unless you wish to alter it for health reasons

Instructions

  1. Mix the yeast into the water.
  2. Combine the salt with two or three cups of flour.
  3. Add the flour/salt duo to the water, stirring…or enlisting younger arms to stir for you.
  4. Add more flour and continue to stir until the dough holds together and is not wet.
  5. Dump the dough onto a clean, floured surface and knead. (If you don’t know how to knead bread dough, just fake it. This is very forgiving bread.) Add more flour as needed, but don’t overdo it. A little sticky is fine—too dry is not so fine.
  6. Knead until it is as smooth as a baby’s bottom. If you have no baby’s bottom at hand to compare it to, give it the stretch test. Hold the dough up to the light and stretch a portion of it. If you can see light through it before it breaks, congrats! You’re finished. If not, give it a little more tender lovin’ care. We knead this dough about ten minutes. (Sometimes we cheat and knead less. We’ve yet to be ostracized for our occasional laissez-faire kneading attitude.)
  7. Shape the bread into two or three Italian-shaped loaves or several mini-loaves. Do this by pressing the dough flat and folding it into thirds, or by rolling it up. Put the ugly seamed side down and tuck under the ends. Place the loaves on a lightly greased pan. Optionally, shape two shorter loaves and place them in greased loaf pans for “bread-shaped bread.” Grease the top (I like butter), and cover with plastic wrap or a flour sack towel. Set in a warm place to rise—the oven is too warm for rising and will kill your yeast, but the top of the refrigerator is just fine.
  8. Let those babies rise until about doubled in size, or until you get tired of waiting, whichever comes first. We wait anywhere from 30 minutes on a hungry, summer’s day to an hour and a half on an oops-did-we-forget-about-the-bread day. Normally, 45 minutes should do it.
  9. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. (My girls bake at 450 degrees, and I bake at 425 because I like the little time cushion for when (not if) I get distracted and wander somewhere that I can’t hear the oven timer. I won’t tell you whose bread my husband likes better.) Preheat for 20 minutes if you have baking stones in your oven.
  10. Slash the top of the loaves several times diagonally for that authentic, fresh-from-a-French-bakery look. Put the dough in the oven. (If you want to use baking stones, slide the loaves off the pans and onto the stones.) Spritz the interior of the oven with water. (This is optional, but gives the out-of-the-pan loaf a more tender crust. Some people have had trouble with stones and a few oven doors cracking from spritzing a very hot oven with cold water, so you may opt for a heavy duty pan with a couple cups of water set on another rack in the oven. Or skip it. Honestly, I skip it. We’re going for simple here. Some of my girls spritz the loaf and the sides of the oven.) Set the timer for roughly 12 to 15 minutes, although it may take up to 20 minutes or more, depending on the size of your loaves and whether or not they are in pans.
  11. Because all ovens, pans, doughs, and bakers are different, use this reliable test to see if your bread is done. Traditionally, cooks tap the bread; if it sounds hollow, it’s done. It always sounds hollow to me when I’m hungry and smelling fresh bread. Therefore, I take an instant read thermometer and insert it into the ugliest part of the bread where nobody will notice a hole. If the temp reads 190 to 210, it’s done.
  12. Remove, cool briefly, slice, eat. Personally, I believe bread is a means of transporting butter to the mouth, so I say load on the butter!

Wasn’t that simple?  And it didn’t take all day.

Printable Version

Tips and Trouble Shooting

If you have a stand mixer or a hand-held mixer with dough hooks, feel free to knead your bread with the dough hook instead of by hand.  Give it from four to seven minutes, usually on speed two, although you should check your manufacturer’s guidelines.  Seriously, you need to check.  Don’t ask me why I know.

If you are a stickler, you may let this dough rise twice.  We do that sometimes, shaping it after the first rise.  Honestly, though, we follow this simple bread recipe when we want a fast and simple butter transporter.  If we wanted to putz around with exact kneading and double rises and the like, we’d make something healthier.

Some people like to brush the top of the loaves with egg whites, water, or another “browner” before baking.  I prefer to brush mine with butter as soon as it comes out of the oven.  (I know—the butter thing is a little out of control.)

If your bread turns out flat, you may have let it rise too long. Punch it down, reshape and do over…but this time pay attention.

If your dough is not rising, your yeast may be old. Also, your dough may not be warm enough, a common problem in the winter. If this is a repeated problem, switch to fast acting yeast.

Simple Italian Bread RecipeYou may feel like you are adding a lot of flour. We usually end up using six cups per loaf. You can always add more, but you can’t take it out, so don’t dump it all in at once.

This simple bread is perfect spread thickly with garlic butter (a recipe for another day) alongside a big ol’ sloppy slab of lasagna.  (We’ll save the healthy eating posts for another day, as well.)

One last thing: if you are afraid of making bread, relax.  My eight-year-old has been making bread independently (not including the baking) for about a year, and she uses this simple bread recipe.

Here’s the boring printable version.

Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups warm water, not hot or you will kill your yeasty friends
  • 2 teaspoons yeast—a packet contains 2.25 teaspoons--close enough.
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 5-7 cups flour, all-purpose is fine unless you wish to alter it for health reasons
Instructions
  1. Mix the yeast into the water.
  2. Combine the salt with three cups of flour.
  3. Add the flour/salt duo to the water, stirring.
  4. Add more flour and continue to stir until the dough holds together and is not wet.
  5. Dump the dough onto a clean, floured surface and knead. Add more flour as needed.
  6. Knead until smooth, about ten minutes by hand or four minutes by stand mixer.
  7. Shape the bread into two or three Italian-shaped loaves or several mini-loaves. Do this by pressing the dough flat and folding it into thirds, or by rolling it up. Put the ugly seamed side down and tuck under the ends. Place the loaves on a lightly greased pan. Optionally, shape two shorter loaves and place them in greased loaf pans for “bread-shaped bread.” Grease the top (I like butter), and cover with plastic wrap or a flour sack towel. Set in a warm place to rise.
  8. Let rise until about doubled in size, 30-60 mintues, depending on the temperature of the room.
  9. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Preheat for 20 minutes if you have baking stones in your oven.
  10. Slash the top of the loaves several times diagonally for that authentic, fresh-from-a-French-bakery look. Put the dough in the oven. (If you want to use baking stones, slide the loaves off the pans and onto the stones.) Spritz the interior of the oven with water. (This is optional, but gives the out-of-the-pan loaf a more tender crust.) Set the timer for roughly 12 to 15 minutes, although it may take up to 20 minutes or more, depending on the size of your loaves and whether or not they are in pans.
  11. Because all ovens, pans, doughs, and bakers are different, use this reliable test to see if your bread is done. Traditionally, cooks tap the bread; if it sounds hollow, it’s done. A more reliable method is to insert an instant read thermometer into the bread. If the temp reads 190 to 210, it’s done.
  12. Remove, cool briefly, slice, eat. Personally, I believe bread is a means of transporting butter to the mouth, so I say load on the butter!

 

Bread was invented as a means of transporting butter to the mouth.

~The Simple Homemaker, raised on a farm in The Dairy State

This seems like an ideal time to share this link about the health benefits of butter.

So…go make bread, and let us know right here how this simple bread recipe turned out!