Easy Homemade Bread Recipes

With an aroma to please any soul, freshly baked bread is the hallmark of a country kitchen.

Fresh baked bread is the perfect antidote for a cold winter day.

Fresh baked bread is the perfect antidote for a cold winter day.

Lori Dunn

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Nothing says “home” like the aroma of fresh baked bread wafting from the oven, and nothing pleases guests or family members like the taste of that bread when it hits the table. Oven fresh bread is difficult to resist and doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming to create.

Although bread making involves several steps, the timing doesn’t need to be precise. It can be accomplished at your convenience, with steps in the recipe fitting between other activities. And some no-knead recipes require less than an hour of your time.

While experienced bakers may not need quite as many details, our instructions will enable even novice bread bakers to turn out old-fashioned white sandwich bread, tender dinner rolls, zesty Italian flatbread and a round artisanal loaf of incomparable texture.  

Though I sometimes use whole-grain flours, the only white flour I ever use is unbleached all-purpose flour. Also, for the sake of simplicity, all these recipes call for instant yeast, sometimes called rapid rise or bread machine yeast.

Bakers measure flour several different ways; the most accurate way is by weight, not volume. The weights of a given volume of packed versus scooped versus sifted flower varies substantially. A packed and leveled cup, the most consistent measure, of unbleached all-purpose flour weighs about 5 ounces. The following recipes are based on that measurement method.  

AUTHOR BIO: Jean Picard comes from a long line of farmers and delights in country living, even in town. A recipe developer and food writer, she enjoys cooking, eating and writing about comfort food and keeping traditions alive.

72-Hour No-Knead Sourdough Bread

Inspired by the famous no-knead bread of 2006 that was baked in a cast-iron Dutch oven (but had some messy steps I’ve eliminated), and craving a sourdough without the bother of maintaining a sourdough starter, I developed this easy recipe. Don’t let the “72-Hour” bit scare you off; it’s really just a few minutes of work and 72 hours of waiting. That’s a lot easier than keeping a sourdough starter going, which I have done in the past only to conclude that keeping a cat is less trouble!

Starter, Day One:

1/2 packed cup (2 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, room temperature

Starter, Day Two:

1/2 packed cup (2 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, room temperature

Final dough, Day Three:

2 1/2 packed cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup water, room temperature

Prepare starter 72 hours before you plan to serve the bread. In 1-quart bowl, stir together flour, yeast and water. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.

After 24 hours, stir in additional flour and water. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.

Start final dough 24 hours before you plan to serve the bread. In medium bowl (I use a 2-quart glass measure so I can easily tell when the dough has doubled), whisk together flour, salt and yeast. Add starter and water to flour and stir with dough whisk or large spoon until dough just comes together into wet, sticky dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 19 hours on countertop.

Stir down dough (just a couple of strokes), cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 3 1/2 hours. When you have about a half hour left, put your pot (without its lid) into the oven and heat to 450 degrees F. I use a 5-quart, round, enameled cast-iron Dutch oven with 9-inch bottom interior diameter.

When ready, dough will be more than double in size. Remove hot pot from oven. Put a round of parchment in bottom to prevent sticking. Scrape dough into heated pot. Cover and place in oven. Reduce temperature to 425 degrees. Bake 30 minutes. Uncover; bake another 30 minutes, or until crust is beautifully golden and middle of loaf is 210 degrees. Remove and let cool on wire rack for 1 1/2 hours. If not eating right away, you can recrisp crust at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. It's best the day it is baked; the loaf can be kept, wrapped in foil, at room temperature for up to 2 days (makes great toast). Yields 1 loaf.

48-Hour No-Knead Ciabatta

Many recipes exist for Italian “slipper” bread (so called for its resemblance to a slipper). The flattened oval shape makes it the perfect loaf to split horizontally for a large sandwich to serve several people. Crunchy on the outside and chewy and filled with holes on the inside, it is ideal for dipping in olive oil.  

Starter, Day One:

1 packed cup (5 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 cup water, room temperature

Final dough, Day Two:

2 1/2 packed cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, room temperature
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil  

Prepare starter 48 hours before you plan to serve the bread. In 1-quart bowl, stir together flour, yeast and water. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.

Start final dough 24 hours before you plan to serve the bread. In 2-quart glass measure, whisk together flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Add starter and water to flour, and stir with dough whisk or large spoon until dough just comes together into wet, sticky dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 19 hours on countertop.

Stir down dough (just a couple of strokes), cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 2 hours.

Lightly spray half-sheet pan or large baking sheet (mine is 17-by-11-by-1-inch) with baking spray. Place 17-inch length of parchment on baking sheet and lightly flour (about 1 teaspoon) paper in spots where loaves will go.

Turn dough out onto floured countertop and sprinkle with lots of flour as you shape it into a log. Cut log in half and transfer to parchment-lined pan. Set halves parallel with short end of pan and press dough out to 10-by-4-inch rectangles. Dimple surface with floured fingertips. Sprinkle each rectangle lightly with flour and cover with floured, smooth kitchen towel or oil-sprayed plastic wrap. Let rise for 2 hours. About 20 minutes before you put the bread in, heat oven to 450 degrees.

Uncover pan and place in oven. Reduce heat to 425 degrees, and bake about 30 minutes or until crust is golden. Remove and let cool on wire rack for 1 hour. If not eating right away, you can recrisp crust in 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. It's best the day it is baked; the bread can be kept, wrapped in foil, at room temperature for up to 2 days. Yields two 15-ounce loaves.

24-Hour Sun-Dried Tomato Focaccia

Plain focaccia is delicious, but in the middle of winter, with tomatoes from the garden a distant memory, the tang of sun-dried tomatoes is refreshing. The improved flavor of the made-ahead dough is worth waiting at least a day for.   

3 1/4 packed cups (16 1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1/3 cup finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1 1/2 cups water, room temperature
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3/4 teaspoon dried basil
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Start focaccia dough one to three days ahead. Lightly oil 2-quart glass measure. In large bowl, whisk together 2 cups flour, salt, sugar, instant yeast and sun-dried tomatoes. Add water and 2 tablespoons olive oil, and stir until thoroughly combined. Continue stirring slowly for 2 minutes. Stir in remaining flour a quarter cup at a time, reserving final quarter cup for shaping the soft and slightly sticky dough into smooth ball.

Place dough in lightly oiled 2-quart glass measure; turn to oil surface. Cover with loose lid, tea towel or plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for at least 24 hours or up to three days.

Remove dough from refrigerator 4 or 5 hours before serving time (depending on the temperature of your kitchen; a cool kitchen makes for a longer rising time than a warm kitchen). Oil a 17-by-11-by-1-inch baking sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Punch down dough (by pressing down in center and folding in edges), turn out on prepared baking sheet. With oiled hands, press out dough a bit just to flatten; don’t try to fill pan. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap; let rest for 2 hours.

Uncover and, with oiled hands, stretch and press out dough to fit pan. If it’s too springy, cover and let relax for 15 minutes before patting it out. Repeat if necessary. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until very puffy, which can take anywhere from 1 to 2 1/2 hours.

During last 20 minutes, heat oven to 450 degrees F. Just before placing dough in oven, dimple (gently poke) dough with oiled fingers and sprinkle with herbs. Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden. Loosen focaccia from pan with spatula and slide onto rack to cool slightly, about 20 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.

Old-Fashioned White Sandwich Bread

My grandmother made this bread, though she made more than two loaves at a time in her earlier years on the farm. And, of course, she used fresh yeast rather than the instant I’ve come to love. When she was making bread frequently, she would just keep back a small piece of dough from one batch to leaven the next, which also added flavor. In this updated version, I’ve added flavor by mixing the dough the day before.  

5 packed cups (25 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 cups water, room temperature, or 2 cups milk, scalded, then cooled to room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil or melted unsalted butter

In large bowl (a straight-sided 4-quart bowl makes it easy to tell when dough has doubled), whisk together 2 cups flour, sugar, salt and instant yeast. With dough whisk or large wooden spoon, stir in liquid and oil until thoroughly mixed. Stir for 2 minutes, then stir in 2 1/2 cups flour a half cup at a time. Finished dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 1 hour at room temperature, then refrigerate for 24 hours.

Remove dough from refrigerator and let rest for 1 hour to warm up a bit. Scrape dough out onto lightly floured (using remaining 1/2 cup) surface. Knead for about 5 or 6 minutes, adding more of remaining flour as needed to keep dough from sticking. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rest a few minutes while you clean out and oil bowl for second rise.

Flatten out dough and continue kneading for another 5 or 6 minutes, or until dough is soft and smooth. Place dough in oiled bowl, turning dough to oil surface and pressing it flat. Cover with plastic wrap and set in warm (82 degrees is ideal) place to rise until doubled, about 1 hour. If house is cool, heat oven to 200 degrees, allow to heat for 2 minutes, turn off oven and put dough in to rise.

Lightly oil two 8 1/2-by-4 1/2-by-2 1/2-inch loaf pans. Turn risen dough out onto lightly floured (from remaining 1/2 cup) surface, flattening gently to break up any large bubbles. Divide dough into two equal pieces. Press each piece into a 9-by-12-inch rectangle. Fold in short ends of dough until piece is about 6 inches long. Roll from one rough edge, pinch seam to seal and roll gently to form a tight log the length of pan. Place seam-side down in prepared pans and press dough into pans so that it reaches sides, ends and corners. Cover loaves with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until dough rises just above top of pans and springs back just a little when lightly poked with a floured finger. (I put the pans and a mug of hot water under an 11-by-17-inch baking sheet held up by a 1-pound can in each corner and covered with a towel.)

During the last 20 minutes, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put loaves in oven and reduce heat to 375 degrees. Bake at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes or until loaves are golden brown, shrink from sides of pans, and bottoms of loaves sound hollow if tapped. Remove immediately from pans and let cool on wire rack for 1 hour. Wrap well as soon as bread has cooled thoroughly. Store at room temperature or freeze in zipper freezer bags. Yields 2 loaves.

Quick and Easy Spoon Rolls

Even if you have just an hour and a half or so until dinner, it’s not too late to make old-fashioned spoon rolls. Since they require no kneading or shaping, you can get on with other things during the two quick rises. Such an easy, foolproof recipe makes a perfect introduction to yeast baking.

3 3/4 packed cups (18 2/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 cups water
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 large egg, lightly beaten

In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, yeast and salt. On stove or in microwave, heat water and butter together until butter is melted and mixture is 120 degrees to 130 degrees. With dough whisk or large wooden spoon, stir water, melted butter and beaten egg into flour mixture until blended. The dough will be very sticky. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 35 to 45 minutes.

Stir down dough (just a few strokes). With a 1/4-cup measure, scoop dough into well-greased or cooking-sprayed muffin tins, filling two-thirds full (scant 1/4 cup). Let rise, uncovered, 20 to 30 minutes, or until dough has risen to the top of the cups. During last 15 minutes, heat oven to 400 degrees.

Bake 20 minutes, or until rolls are golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before removing from tins. Yields 24 rolls.