Make Bread from Scratch

Making bread is an easy, enjoyable, and inexpensive way to putter around the kitchen. The following recipe will allow you to make bread that doesn’t taste like supermarket bread-aisle sandwich fodder. Moreover, many of the tips and suggestions can be used in future baking experiments.


First Leavening

  • 1/4 tsp instant rapid-rise yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 2 teaspoons honey (or sugar)
  • 5 oz bread flour

Second Leavening

  • 11 oz bread flour
  • 3/4 tsp rapid-rise yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Functional Ingredients

  • 2 quarts hot water (to keep the oven moist)
  • Vegetable oil or shortening (to grease the rising container)
  • 2 tablespoons cornmeal (to keep the dough from sticking)

Optional Crusting Glaze

  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/3 cup water


  1. Combine honey, water, flour, and yeast in a straight-sided container. This mixture is the first half of what will be used to leaven the bread. If you took the yeast from a yeast packet, be sure to save the rest for the second batch of leavening ingredients.
  2. Cover loosely and refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours (overnight is best). By putting the yeasty mixture into the refrigerator, you slow down the fermentation process. This gives the dough extra time to absorb some of the gasses let off by the yeast (yielding a softer dough later on) and gives the bread an aged flavor. (You may think that "aged" doesn't sound good for bread, but it is.) Moreover, the extra time and hydration help to form the gluten strands that are so very important for bread dough.
    • To leaven, yeast needs to reproduce quickly (to produce the gasses inside the bread); for the best flavor/texture, however, it needs to reproduce slowly. By making half of the pre-ferment in a cool place, you can get the best of both worlds.
  3. When first yeast mixtures is done, combine flour, yeast, and salt in a bowl and then add the pre-ferment from the refrigerator. This is the fast stage two of the fermentation process.
    • If you plan to knead the dough with an electric mixer, add this mix to a mixing container.
  4. Mix the dough just enough to come together. If you’re using the mixer, knead on low for 2 to 3 minutes using the dough hook attachment.
  5. Cover the dough in the bowl with a kitchen towel and let sit for 20 minutes.
  6. Knead the dough until you are able to gently pull it into a thin sheet that light will pass through. The dough should be sticky, but not so sticky that you can't handle it. With a mixer, this should take 5 to 10 minutes on medium speed.
    • The thin sheet of dough is also known as the “bakers window.” This lets you know if the gluten is properly dispersed.
  7. While the dough is kneading, pour half of the hot water into a shallow pan and place on the bottom rack of your oven. A glass baking dish works well.
    • The hot water will do two things: warm the dough to let it rise faster and it keep the air inside the oven moist, preventing the dough from forming a dry skin on top.
  8. Grease the inside of a large straight-sided container with the vegetable oil, place the dough ball into the container, and set on the oven rack above the pan of water. Allow to rise until doubled in size, approximately 1 to 2 hours.
  9. Once the dough has doubled in size, knead it into the proper texture. (This would be a good time to fold in any additions you may want, such as nuts or herbs.) Be sure to knead it using the proper technique:
    • Place it on a counter top or other working space.
    • Lightly dust your hands with flour, then press the dough out with your knuckles. Don’t squash or flatten it; simply spread it comfortably outwards.
    • First fold one side of the dough inwards toward the middle of the mass, then fold the other, (as if you were folding a tri-fold wallet). Repeat a second time.
    • Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let sit for another 10 minutes.
    • Flatten the dough again with your knuckles, then it in onto itself like you’re shaping it into a jellyfish.
    • Turn the dough over and squeeze the bottom together so that the top surface of the dough is smooth.
    • Place the dough back onto the counter and roll it gently between your hands. Do not grab the dough but allow it to move gently back and forth between your hands, moving in a circular motion. The point of this is to tighten up the skin of the dough ball as much as possible.
  10. Place an unglazed terra cotta dish upside-down into the oven and heat the oven to {{safesubst:#invoke:convert|convert}}. Be sure to put the dish into the cold oven; terra cotta needs to heat and cool slowly and evenly or else it will crack.
  11. Move the dough ball to a sheet pan that has been sprinkled with the cornmeal. The cornmeal will help the dough slide off later. (A pizza peel will also work if you have one.)
    • Cover with a kitchen towel and allow to rise for 1 hour (or until you poke the dough and it quickly fills back in where you poked it). This is called “bench proofing” and is the final rising stage before dough is baked.
  12. Mix water and cornstarch in a small bowl and use it to brush the surface of the dough. This is optional but will ensure a nice, crispy crust.
  13. Gently slash the top surface of the dough ball in several places, approximately 1/3 to 1/2-inch deep. The standard shape is a square on top of the loaf, but you can do an X on top, slash lines, etc.
    • While it bakes, the bread will simultaneously expand and form a crust. If the crust forms a shell, the bread won’t be able to expand properly and will become dense. The slashes let the bread rise one last time in a situation where it can't expand in all directions.
  14. Add more of the hot water to the shallow pan if necessary, then slide the bread onto the terra cotta dish and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. (This can vary depending on your oven.) Once the bread has reached an internal temperature of {{safesubst:#invoke:convert|convert}}, remove to a cooling rack and allow to sit for 30 minutes before slicing.
  15. Finished.


  • Make sure to weigh your flour; volume is a very inaccurate way of determining how much you have.
  • If your bread isn't fluffy enough, you can add some more yeast the next time you bake homemade bread.
  • Use bottled water if possible. Tap water usually contains chlorine, which will inhibit the yeast. Boiling tap water to evaporate the chlorine will also work, but be sure to let it cool.
  • This page goes well in combination with How to Make Bread.
  • The recipe uses 1 pound of bread flour and bread flour usually comes in 5-pound bags. When you get the hang of it, go for a quintuple recipe all at once. Since you're investing so much time in the rising and kneading and gluten resting, you may as well get enough bread to last you.
  • The rest periods are important: they let the gluten relax and keep you from overworking your dough. If you are impatient, pass the time by smelling the dough while it rises -- a quite enjoyable experience.
  • Use bread flour if you can. Bread flour has a higher protein content and therefore forms more gluten in the bread dough, and gluten is good. Bleached flour rises higher than most.


  • When punching down, be aware that this is not like wedging clay: you are not trying to force air out of the dough while working it. Instead, it’s perfectly ok to trap air inside the dough while manipulating. Yeast needs to breathe.
  • Don't skip the final 30 minute cool down. Cutting too early can squash your bread, and it would be tragic to spend all that time on bread just to mess it up in the last moments.
  • Don't skip the salt. Not only does salt regulate the fermentation of the dough to keep it from growing out of control, it enhances the flavour of the ingredients.

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