There are two main ways to make yeast bread: by proofing the yeast then adding other ingredients, and a one-bowl mixing method which combines the yeast with flour. And then there are batter breads, the simplest of all. You can also use a bread machine to make a complete loaf, or make the dough you shape into rolls, coffeecake, or pizza crust.
These instructions will teach you how to make yeast bread the traditional way, by proofing the yeast first, then adding remaining ingredients, kneading the dough, proofing it, shaping it into loaves or rolls, then baking to perfection.
One-Bowl Mixing Method
This method is easier than the traditional method, but you still must be careful with the water temperature and make sure you follow instructions carefully.
- Measure and heat liquids to 120 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is higher than traditional proofing methods because the yeast is combined with other ingredients. Liquid temperature is important, because if the environment for the yeast is too hot, the cells will be killed. If the environment is too cold, the yeast will not become active and the bread won't rise. Since the yeast is surrounded and protected by the flour, liquid temperature isn't as critical, but it still needs to be in the proper range.
- Combine part of the flour, yeast, and other dry ingredients.
- Add liquid to flour and yeast mixture and beat with electric mixer or by hand until a smooth batter forms.
- Gradually add remaining flour, using a dough hook or by hand, until the dough becomes too stiff to stir.
- Sprinkle a clean working surface with flour and turn the dough onto the surface. Begin kneading. Gather the dough into a ball and fold it in half towards you. Press down and away from you firmly but lightly with the heels of your hands. Turn dough 1/4 turn and repeat process. Knead as long as the recipe calls for, until the dough is smooth and feels springy and elastic.
- Grease a clean mixing bowl with shortening. Place the kneaded dough in the bowl and turn it so all surfaces are greased. Cover the bowl with a towel and set in a warm spot to rise according to the recipe. For my warm spot, an oven with a pilot light is perfect. If you have an electric oven, turn on the oven light and let the dough rise there. When dough is doubled, press fingers into the dough and the indentation will remain when you remove your fingers.
- Punch down dough and let it sit for 10 minutes before proceeding if the recipe calls for it. If the recipe calls for a second rise, put the dough back in the bowl, cover it, and let rise.
- Punch down again if necessary.
- Divide dough into pieces as called for in recipe. Flatten dough pieces and roll up tightly, jelly roll fashion. Pinch edges to seal. Place in greased loaf pans so the short sides touch the pan. Cover and let rise again until the dough fills the pan and rises 1" over the top.
- Bake as directed in recipe. Remove from oven when golden brown and loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from pans and let cool. Enjoy your fresh bread!
Batter breads are usually made in the same way as the one-bowl method, except less flour is used so the dough remains too sticky to handle. After beating in the required amount of flour, the dough is either ready to be put into greased pans, rise, and bake, or rises once before it's put into the pans. Batter breads are considered easier to make simply because you don't have to knead them. The new method for No Knead Breads uses the batter bread method.
Most yeast breads are done when they look done. They should be golden brown, firm, and sound hollow when lightly tapped with your fingers. If, after the specified baking time, the breads aren't quite done, return to the oven and remember to set your timer for 5 more minutes.