Rise to the Challenge: 7 Yeasted Bread Recipes Anyone Can Bake
Bread baking is all about perspective. You could go in being completely daunted by using yeast or lamenting the lengthy process of rising, resting, kneading, and baking. Or, you could look at it as a challenge worth conquering, as well as a task that gives you plenty of time to accomplish other little chores you’ve been putting off. Bread baking doesn’t have to be hard — you just need to know a few things going in.
Always read the directions carefully before starting, and don’t be put off by how wordy those directions are! It often comes down to techniques for kneading, tips on how to get the bread to rise, or directions stating to let the dough proof overnight. Second, acquaint yourself with a few tricks about using yeast. Joy of Baking has a good tutorial, and King Arthur Flour has a helpful lesson to prepare you for bread baking. Read enough so you feel comfortable, but don’t let all the information overwhelm you — it really is easier than it looks! Try one of these seven recipes to see that there is no need to fear kneading.
1. Hearth Bread
Starting off on the easy end is King Arthur Flour’s hearth bread. It’s a simple bread, with great step-by-step instructions that will encourage any bread-baking beginner to keep going. To add a little whole-wheat goodness into your bread, you can substitutes 2 cups of all-purpose for whole-wheat flour.
- 1 tablespoon (1 packet) active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 cups warm water (not over 110 degrees Fahrenheit)
- 5½ to 6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- boiling water
Directions: Mix together the first four ingredients. Let this stand until the yeast, sugar, and salt are dissolved. Gradually add the flour to the liquid and mix thoroughly, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface to knead. (This may be a little messy, but don’t give up!)
Knead it by folding the far edge of the dough back over on itself toward you. Press into the dough with the heels of your hands and push away. After each push, rotate the dough 90 degrees. Repeat this process in a rhythmic, rocking motion for 5 minutes, sprinkling only enough flour on your kneading surface to prevent sticking. Let the dough rest while you scrape out and grease the mixing bowl. Knead the dough again for 2 to 3 minutes.
Let it rise. Return the dough to the bowl and turn it over once to grease the top. Cover with a damp towel and keep warm until the dough doubles in bulk, about 1 to 2 hours.
Shape it by punching down the dough with your fist and briefly knead out any air bubbles. Cut the dough in half and shape into two Italian- or French-style loaves. Place the loaves on a cookie sheet generously sprinkled with cornmeal. Let the loaves rest for 5 minutes.
Bake it; lightly slash the tops of the loaves 3 or more times diagonally and brush them with cold water. Place on rack in a cold oven with a roasting pan full of boiling water on the oven bottom. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 35 to 45 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and sounds hollow to the touch.
For a lighter, crustier bread, let your shaped loaves rise for 45 minutes. Preheat the oven and roasting pan with water to 500 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. Brush the loaves with cold water, place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Lower the temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 10 more minutes. Remove from the oven, let cool, and devour!