Are you about to bake your first loaf of bread at home? This is the perfect time to give some new baking a go and get experimenting with making homemade bread. From flatbreads and focaccia, to breads without yeast and even without flour, plus all the queries that come up during baking, we’ve got all the answers to your bread questions here.
If you have never made bread before, why not start with the classics. Follow our step-by-step recipe to make a white loaf of bread, using just four ingredients and no complicated equipment required. This will talk you through the basic steps of mixing a dough, kneading it to become elastic, leaving the dough to rise and prove, then knocking back and baking. Next, why not try shaping dough into bread rolls for sandwiches or use different flours to plait a homemade wholemeal loaf.
Yes! Yeast is used to make bread rise, feeding on the sugars in your bread dough to produce carbon dioxide and create air bubbles. The yeast works slowly which is why you leave bread doughs to rise until they have doubled in size. However, there are alternatives if you can’t find yeast in the shop – quick breads like soda bread, naan breads, pizza dough and scones all rely on baking powder, self-raising flour or bicarbonate of soda to rise instead. Read on for recipes for soda bread, flatbreads and gluten-free cloud bread that can all be made without yeast (the cloud bread doesn’t even need flour!).
Soda bread is a classic Irish bread that doesn’t require yeast, kneading or leaving to rise. Instead of yeast, soda bread uses bicarbonate of soda to rise. Soda bread also traditionally uses buttermilk as the liquid – if you don’t have this, add a squeeze of lemon juice or teaspoon of vinegar to regular milk to replace the acidic tang. Our classic soda bread recipe is the perfect no-yeast bread to start baking and have a fresh loaf on the table in under an hour. If you’ve got leftover bananas and don’t want to bake banana bread, try this banana soda bread instead for something different.
Flatbread recipes are another great way to make bread without yeast. Use for sandwiches, wraps or serving with dips, curries and soups. Customise these 3-ingredient spiced flatbreads by topping with any dried herbs, seeds or spices you have – the simple dough doesn’t need kneading or leaving to rise and is made with just self-raising flour, oil and water before being quickly fried. If you’ve got the barbecue out, try grilling quick coriander flatbreads to have with dips or wrap around kebabs.
Absolutely! You don’t have to have a mixer, breadmaker or any fancy tins to make bread at home. Lots of bread recipe simply require a bowl to mix and a baking tray. Stand mixers often come with a dough hook that can be used to knead bread mixtures, but this process is easily done by hand – it just requires a brief 10 min workout! If you don’t want to knead by hand, try this easy no-knead bread recipe which just requires a bowl and a large lidded pot.
Kneading bread dough ensures all ingredients are fully mixed and strengthens the gluten which gives bread its structure and texture. Bread dough will start sticky and shaggy, but should be kneaded until smooth and elastic – watch our video to see how to knead by hand.
Craving crunchy, hot garlic bread? If you can’t find it at the shops we’ve got two ways you can make garlic bread at home. For a super quick shortcut, try this easy garlic bread recipe using a shop-bought baguette filled with homemade garlic butter and pesto, that can be cooked in the oven or even on the barbecue. If you want a kitchen project, follow our step-by-step cheesy garlic monkey bread recipe – garlic dough balls are stuffed with Cheddar and mozzarella and baked together into a tear-and-share loaf.
If you are gluten-free, you can still make bread at home. Gluten classically gives bread elasticity and structure, but the good thing is without gluten, bread mixtures do not need kneading! It is best not to directly swap gluten-free flour in classic bread recipes as the structure will not be the same and will require extra binding ingredients. Instead, try this gluten-free white bread recipe using gluten-free flour for a classic white loaf, or make cloud bread using just three ingredients for an alternative to a lunchtime sandwich roll.
Baking is a great way to keep the kids occupied whilst they’re at home, and bread is a forgiving place to start with novice bakers! Get them involved with stirring the dough, kneading and shaping the loaf, as well as measuring out ingredients. Make it fun with different shapes and flavours – try these sweet bunny twist rolls or a giant tear and share flower bread.
How long to bake bread will depend on the specific recipe you are making, but there are a few ways to tell when your bread is cooked. The bread should have formed a golden crust all the way round, look crisp and dry (rather than any sticky batter) and will sound hollow when it is tapped on the bottom. If the bread is baked in a pot or loaf tin, it should be pulling away from the edges. Wholemeal bread or bakes such as these spelt and poppy seed rolls will go a darker colour due to the different flour, but should still sound hollow when baked and rolls will feel light (instead of heavy, dense raw dough).
Lots of bread recipes call for white or wholemeal ‘strong flour’ or bread flour. Bread flour has a higher gluten content, and gluten is important for the distinctive firm, chewy texture of bread (different to a soft cake mixture, for example). Plain flour can be used instead of bread flour but will require extra kneading to build up the gluten. If you do have bread flour, why not try baking this swirled fig and shallot bread.
If you want to try something different to a basic white loaf, why not make a focaccia bread. Focaccia is a flat, Italian bread usually baked in a deep baking tray with a golden crust and airy, spongy centre. It is usually made with olive oil in the dough to keep it moist and add extra flavour, and is perfect for sharing or slicing up as a snack. Follow our step-by-step focaccia recipe topped with caramelised onions or make a juicy roasted garlic and tomato focaccia.
Experiment with flavours and try adding some vegetables to your loaf. With basic bread recipes, be cautious of the ingredients you add in – too much liquid will disrupt the balance of the recipe and make your loaf soggy. This cheesy courgette and feta bread is gluten-free and doesn’t need yeast or baking powder, or bake a loaf of courgette and carrot bread for a double hit of veg. For something adventurous, follow our step-by-step green veggie bread recipe with a swirled filling of cheese, olives, courgette and asparagus.
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