I’ve been making my own bread for a year and a half now! I honestly have not bought a single loaf of sandwich bread since I got my bread machine in June 2014. This sounds like an incredible feat, but I promise it’s really not that big of a deal.
I always tell people how EASY it is to make bread at home, but I feel like they don’t believe me. So. Now I’m here to show you — with proof– how simple the whole process can be!
Here’s how to make a basic loaf of bread in your bread machine from start to finish. Note: Because this is a start-to-finish guide to the bread machine (not the oven) the final product will be tall and handsome like the loaf below (not long and skinny like the one above — I shaped that one by hand). Don’t judge a loaf by its looks, though. No matter how it’s shaped, it will still be delicious.Step 1: Line up your ingredients (5 minutes). To make the most basic loaf of bread, all you really need are the following: water, flour, salt, and yeast. I tend to go a little crazy and add in a few other ingredients, though 😉
Most recipes will also call for butter (or some type of oil) and sugar (or honey/molasses). Some recommend subbing in milk or dried milk powder as well. This gives the bread a chewier texture.
I’ve found that you can take almost any recipe and sub in whole wheat flour for white bread flour, as long as you don’t sub whole wheat for more than half of the total flour requirement. Start going too heavy on the whole wheat and you’ll have a dense, sunken loaf.
And by the way, the one investment you MUST make is to buy good flour. Store-brand flour doesn’t rise well, no matter how carefully you measure it our how humid you keep your kitchen. My favorite flour brands are King Arthur, White Lily, and Bob’s Red Mill. Most five-pound bags cost about $4, which makes them more expensive than store-brand flour but still way cheaper than buying an actual loaf of bread!
You can read about Bob’s Red Mill vs. King Arthur here. Step 2: Measure & dump your ingredients in the bread machine according to machine manual instructions (5 minutes). Your bread machine will come with a manual with recipes for basic white, wheat, rye, etc. loaves. I recommend starting with a few of your manual recipes and then moving onto more advanced recipes (I love King Arthur’s bread recipes) as you get more comfortable.
Or just start making up your own recipes, like I’m doing below! I took the basic wheat bread recipe from my manual and added in flax seeds, sesame seeds, almond meal, and barley. Plus some soy lecithin and vital wheat gluten for structure. Again, you don’t need all these fancy add-ins to make bread, but they are fun to play with It’s kind of important to put the ingredients into the bread machine in the order they are listed. Most of the time, wet ingredients go in first and dry ingredients (especially yeast and flour) go in last. I don’t know the science behind this, but I think it’s so that the yeast stays cozy and warm (but not too warm) next to the flour. I like to put my yeast right on top! Hello, yeast.Step 3. Choose your settings and press start (2 minutes). My favorite thing about having a bread maker: It does all of the work for you. No messy kneading! All you have to do is choose the appropriate settings and hit start. And another amazing thing: most bread makers come with a timer. Mine allows me to schedule bread up to 15 hours in advance!
Which means that you can throw the ingredients in before bed and wake up to a fresh loaf! Or program before you go to work and come home to a fresh loaf. That’s actually how I schedule most of my bread-making — I throw it in at 7 am or 7 pm and set the timer so it’s done when I’m awake or at home again.
For this loaf I put my machine on setting 3 for whole wheat and set the timer for 10 hours. I put the ingredients in at 7 pm on Monday and scheduled my bread to be ready at 5 am on Tuesday when I woke up. You’ll also see the little arrows that indicate the darkness of the loaf as well as the size of the loaf.Step 4: Walk away and completely forget about your bread while it bakes (3 to 15 hours). I made dinner, watched the Good Wife, talked on the phone to a friend, slept for 7 hours… and then woke up to this:It’s pretty typical for bread machine loaves to have a sort of deformed top (especially large, fluffy loaves) because humidity tends to build up and sink the top layer a bit. Don’t let the weird-looking top scare you. If you want a perfect-looking loaf, your best bet is probably to hand-shape and bake the dough in an oven, not in the bread maker. Step 5 (10 minutes): Cool, slice, and serve! Dump your bread out of the bread maker and let it cool on a wire rack. Try not to leave fresh-baked bread in the machine for more than 30 minutes or else the sides get soggy. Note that the bottom of the loaf will have a hole/tear in it from where the bread machine agitator/mixer thing is. Again, if you want to avoid this — shape your dough by hand and bake it in the oven. I personally don’t care too much!
And don’t worry about that messy top section — just slice it off!
And I recommend eating that bit, too. I toasted up a little deformed slice, topped it with butter and jam, and ate it with a cup of coffee while I checked emails and got ready for my morning run.
The rest of the loaf is nice and rectangular in shape, perfect for making sandwich-sized slices. I like to let my bread cool for at least an hour before slicing so that the loaf firms up a bit and I can make clean, thin slices. On Tuesday I cut off the wavy top part to eat right then and went for a run/took a shower/wrote a blog post before slicing up the rest.
Meanwhile the sun also came out, which is why the lighting changed in the photo below! Ha. I am crazy. And that is IT, people. Fresh bread with less than 30 minutes of actual work on your end. Go buy a bread maker (I love my t-fal) and let this magical machine transform the way you feel about carbs. The end.
- Have you ever made bread in a machine or from scratch?
- Do you have a bread maker?
- Favorite type of bread?! (I’m a big fan of cinnamon-walnut-raisin but love anything with seeds/crunch as well!)