Bread making might just seem like a silly fad people are using to take up some time.
Even if you’re in that camp, you might still be curious what it is that’s got everyone aiming for that perfect crusty loaf on Instagram.
There really is something incredibly satisfying about combining foaming yeast and flour and getting delicious bread in return.
Plus, making your own bread at home is a great way to save money and get more out of your pantry.
Better yet, there are simple breads that are beginner-friendly all the way through to complicated bread recipes even experienced chefs can struggle with.
This is one affordable hobby that can give you hours of fun and relaxation, and a lot of delicious meals.
I don’t know about you, but there’s something about eating something I made myself and worked really hard for that’s just super rewarding.
Now, I know that not every kitchen is set up for bread making. Don’t worry. I’ll talk about the basic supplies you’ll want to get started. I’ll also cover some gadgets and upgrades that will help you make even better bread.
Ready to jump on the pandemic’s best bandwagon? Let’s go!
In this guide you’ll learn:
- What you need to start baking
- Good breads to try for your first experiments
- Some bread making tips and tricks
- And Much More!
What's in this Guide?
Bread Making 101 – Supplies
Bread making is actually surprisingly simple when you get down to basics. You don’t need a ton of tools or tricks to make a good loaf of bread. As long as your kitchen has a full-size oven you probably have everything else you need to make bread.
All I’m going to cover in this section are the baking supplies you need to start making bread. If you’ve already started making bread and know what you need, or aren’t interested in supplies recommendations, go ahead and skip to the next section. I won’t mind.
To get you started, I’m going to go over the basic tools you need to make bread. Then I’ll cover some upgrades and additional tools that can help make break making easier.
- Measuring Cups
- Measuring Spoons
- 1 Large Mixing Bowl
- 1-2 Small Mixing Bowls
- A Spatula
- A Baking Sheet
Pretty simple, right?
Well, here are some upgrades that can make working with bread a lot easier.
Glass Mixing Bowls:
Upgrading to a set of stackable glass mixing bowls will give you a significantly better bowl to make bread in, along with bowls for other ingredients and making toppings without needing to wash your bowl.
These bowls are also easy to clean and maintain, and are big enough to let you proof your bread in the same bowl you mixed the dough.
Working with bread dough can occasionally be a tricky process. You can get by with just a spatula and your hands, but a good dough cutter can make maneuvering and separating your dough much easier.
I really recommend getting a dough cutter before attempting a braided loaf, or any separated breads. Hamburger buns, rolls, and other hand-held breads are much easier to make and measure if you have a dough cutter that can help separate your dough without tearing it.
Better Bread Pans:
You can make bread on a simple baking sheet, but it won’t be the familiar shape of a store-bought loaf. Shaped breads, like French baguettes, are also difficult on a baking sheet.
Having a good, non-stick loaf pan like this silicone set, will make it much easier to make sandwich bread just like you’d get from the store.
Shaped bread pans, like this baguette pan, can make it easier to make more specialized varieties of bread.
There are lot of specialty bread pans you can get, so I highly recommend prioritizing only the kinds of bread you eat most often.
Hand Knead or Use a Machine?
One of the most common debates among bread makers is whether or not hand-kneading your bread is an essential part of the process, or if you can get away with using a bread machine or kitchen mixer to make your dough.
Personally, I think both options are great. If I’m making a simple bread like an herb focaccia, I like to knead by hand. But, there are definitely some breads that I’ll break out a kitchen mixer or bread machine to save myself some work.
In case you’re looking to add a new appliance to your kitchen, I think that the Cuisinart Convection Bread Maker is a good choice. It’s bulky, but reasonably priced, and flexible enough to use with a ton of breads.
I don’t tend to bake my bread in a bread maker, even if I do use the mixing and proofing cycles, but you can do whatever works best for you.
Kitchen mixers are slightly less specialized, but just as useful when it comes to bread making. Kitchen Aid is still one of the best brands when it comes to standing kitchen mixers, and I think that this model is a great option for most families.
It’s a little less expensive than their premium models, but offers a few more features and better construction than the cheapest Kitchen Aid options.
Easy Bread to Get Started
Most bread is really easy to make. Most breads are made with a base of flour and water + a leavener. (something that creates air bubbles in the bread). Yeast, baking soda, and eggs are all basic leaveners.
Even with simple ingredient lists, the technique for making bread can vary a lot. Some breads need more attention, while other breads practically seem to make themselves.
If you want to jump on the bread making bandwagon, here are some simple breads you can make without a sourdough starter or a complicated process.
While these breads probably won’t be featured on The Great British Baking Show, they’re still delicious and fun to make.
- No Knead Bread (has a very rustic texture)
- Garlic Herb Loaf
- Banana Bread
- White Sandwich Bread
- Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread
- Sweet Rolls
These breads are all simple, and there are a ton of variations our there. I’m not going to get into recipes here, but I do want to encourage you to play with different herbs and spices in your bread until you find a flavor combination that you love.
You can also add dried fruits to these breads for a little extra flavor. I’d recommend avoiding fresh fruits and vegetables until you’ve made a few loaves of bread.
Avoid wet ingredients like meat while you’re getting started. The extra moisture can make bread dough much trickier to bake.
Here’s a quick kneading tutorial to help you get started.
While I’m thinking about it, King Arthur Flour is a fantastic all purpose baking flour. It will help you get tons of flavor in your favorite breads, and tends to give more consistent results than many all-purpose flours.
Next Step Breads
Already mastered the basics? Looking for something to impress friends and family over the holidays?
Keep and eye out for some of these recipes when you’re ready for the next challenge.
- Sourdough Bread (the starter needs frequent tending)
- Rye Bread
- Dinner Rolls
- Bread Sticks
- Bubble Loaf
- Cheddar Loaf (or any cheese loaf)
These breads take a little more expertise and a feel for the bread. You’re probably ready to start making this kind of bread when you know what dough should feel like at every stage.
Once you’re making these kinds of breads you should be able to adjust your bread dough for weather conditions, altitude, and stubborn dough.
No, really. Stubborn dough is a thing. After a while of working with bread you’ll know what it feels like when your dough just isn’t quite right. Even if you’re using a recipe that’s worked a dozen times before.
Once you have a feel for bread making, these breads should come easily.
Challenging Breads For Special Occasions
Sometimes you need something that feels special. Something that takes a little extra effort, and tastes delicious when you’re done.
These breads are best for celebrations, but you can use them anytime.
- 8-Strand Plaited Loaf
- Soft Pretzels
- Orange Cheesecake Rolls
- Pinwheel Bread
- Star Bread
There are tons of variations on these breads, and almost any shaped bread is more advanced than a loaf bread.
You’ll also want to start experimenting with more challenging fillings like meat-fillings, marzipan, and fresh or sauteed vegetables.
Bread Making Tips
Bread making is all about developing your skills and understanding of the bread, and tips will only take you so far. If you really want to take your bread making to the next level, you’ll need to practice.
I can’t give you the experience and instincts of bread baking master.
But I can give you a few tips to help get you started.
If you want a gorgeous golden crust on your bread, use an egg wash. Egg washes are simple. Just beat an egg or two until completely blended and slightly foamy.
Use a pastry brush or a folded paper towel to brush the egg wash over your bread dough right before you put it in the oven.
The egg adds color and will help texture your crust as the dough bakes.
You don’t need an egg wash for some softer breads without a crust. Breads that will be covered in powdered sugar can also skip the egg wash.
You also don’t need an egg wash for batter breads like banana or pumpkin bread.
Oil Your Dough While It Prooves
Dough needs some time to rest and double in size before it’s ready to go in the oven. Make sure you oil the bowl your dough is resting in, or you may end up with a bunch of dough stuck to the bowl.
Stuck dough isn’t the end of the world, but it can mean that you loose some of the air bubbles and shape as you pry the dough out.
Oiling your bread dough can also help prevent it from drying out if you live in a dry climate.
Almost any fat source will work. Spray on oil works, so does olive oil and even butter or lard.
Trust Your Instincts
Sometimes your bread needs a little more water than usual. Sometimes the yeast isn’t quite acting right and needs a little extra sugar.
When I’m making bread I’m making a lot of small tweaks to adjust to the conditions in my kitchen, differences in the flour, and even adjusting for moisture levels. Most of those adjustments are automatic. I don’t have to think about them.
If you find yourself thinking that your bread needs a little something different, do it. Don’t be afraid to deviate from your recipe. Break making is an art, not a science.
As you gain more experience, you’ll do this more and more.
My Final Thoughts on Jumping on the Bread Making Bandwagon During Covid
It might be a fad but that’s okay. Bread making is downright useful. It’s satisfying. It’s a fantastic way to reduce stress and give yourself a healthier treat.
So go ahead, jump on the bread making band wagon during Covid. It’s okay if you don’t keep this hobby once the crisis is over. Anything that helps you stay a little happier, a little healthier, and a little less stressed is a great thing right now.