How to Make a Basic Bread Dough that Works Every Time

hands kneading basic bread dough recipe

Tired of buying expensive bread – or wish you could make your own, delicious bread at home?

After making lots of bread at home – and researching better ways to make it, there are a few tricks that, once learned, help you make a basic bread dough that works every time. And with that basic recipe, you can change and customize it to make fancier bread for any and every palate.

So if you have been thinking about making your own bread but worried it was too hard, here is some good news. You can make it – and any of my recipes. Because baking should be fun, easy, and fearless. And you shouldn’t have to stress about having the right equipment – in fact, for this basic bread dough recipe you only need a few basic things that you’ve probably already got on hand.

hands kneading dough: how to make a basic bread dough that works every time

How to Make a Basic Bread Dough

Thankfully, making bread isn’t too hard. The two big keys to making good bread are:

  • let the yeast do its job – good bread is fluffy. And those fluffy holes are caused by the yeast!
  • good bread uses gluten to hold its structure – so make sure you develop the gluten properly. Use the window test to check if it’s properly developed.

Ready to make your own bread? Here’s what tools you’ll actually need to make a loaf of basic bread at home:

  • One or two large mixing bowls (depending on how many you want to wash!)
  • A spoon
  • One measuring cup – either a ¼ cup or ½ cup
  • A 1 tsp measuring spoon
  • One bread pan
  • A single dishtowel – preferably cotton, but any will do

See? Easy peasy list of required tools. And if you don’t have any of those, you can either snag them on Amazon – or grab them at a local dollar store.

Yield: 1 loaf

Quick, Easy, and Basic Bread

This delicious, easy, and quick bread is the foundation for most breads - master this and you'll soon be able to alter this recipe for lots of other fun variations!

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup milk
  • 5 tsp sugar (this is the equivalent of 1 ½ tablespoons)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 tsp (1 ½ tbsp.) butter
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 ½ to 3 ½ cups unbleached white flour
  • Cornstarch or non-stick cooking spray which will keep the bread from sticking to the pan

Instructions

    1. Pour some hot water in the bowl - and then dump it out. This is to warm the bowl so that the yeast activates better. Mix the yeast according to package instructions.
    2. Melt the butter. Then add it, the milk, sugar, and salt to the yeast. Stir together.
    3. Add 2 cups of the flour to the mix. Stir. Continue adding flour (¼ cup at a time) and stirring until dough is slightly sticky - but doesn’t stick to your hands any more.
    4. Now it’s time to knead the dough! Put it on a lightly floured surface and knead vigorously until it passes the window test.
    5. The window test: pull the dough and see what happens. If the dough sticks together while forming a nearly-transparent patch (where pulled apart), it's made a bread window - and the gluten is formed enough to create a delicious bread. Congratulations: you're done kneading.
    6. Shape the dough into a ball. Spray the bowl with a non-stick cooking spray or cornstarch. Put the dough in the bowl. Cover the bowl with the dish towel. Set the bowl in a warm area for about an hour to prove or rise. It should rise to about double the size.
    7. Once doubled in size, punch the dough down or just pour it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Shape it out to about the size of your loaf pan.
    8. Roll this rectangle up. Fold the ends down and add it into a lightly greased loaf pan seam side down.
    9. Cover again with the dish towel and allow to rise for another hour or so, until the dough will have risen above the top of the loaf pan.
    10. Put the loaf in a preheated, 400 degree oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
    11. Remove from pan immediately and allow to cool.
    12. Enjoy with butter or fresh, homemade jam.

Notes

The best part of this recipe is that it is basic - and can be changed into so many other things!

For example, for a whole wheat bread use whole wheat flour instead of bread flour. Note: you’ll need less wheat flour, so just remember to add slowly.

For an Italian bread use a garlic salt instead of plain salt. You can also add in some Italian seasoning mix - or some fresh ground oregano and basil!

Nutrition Information

Yield

24 slices

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 195 Total Fat 1g Saturated Fat 0g Trans Fat 0g Unsaturated Fat 0g Cholesterol 0mg Sodium 106mg Carbohydrates 41g Fiber 1g Sugar 1g Protein 5g
This nutrition data was automatically calculated and they most definitely didn't show me their work.

Enjoy your basic, homemade bread – or enjoy it customized!

This is a very basic bread recipe. And the nice thing about that is this: you can add spices, herbs, or whatever else to dress it up into a different kind of bread!

For example, if you’d rather have a whole wheat bread, swap out the bread flour for whole wheat flour. If you do that, remember this fact: with whole wheat flour, you need less of it. So add it slower so that you get the right texture and consistency.

Want an Italian loaf? Swap out the plain salt for some garlic salt – and then add in some fresh or dried Italian seasonings.

Look – I know how easy it is to go grab a loaf of bread from the store when things are crazy busy. But the taste of homemade bread? Worth it. And getting to smell it while it bakes? Double worth it.

So try it -you may just fall in love with baking like I did.

sliced bread with text want an easy-to-alter bread recipe? this one is easy and versatile!

Enhance and Finish your Bread with:

Need that bread for a dinner rather than breakfast? Awesome. It’s perfect as a side for any of the most delicious soups and stews – here are some of my favorite soup recipes:

  • Irish lamb stew that’s so tender and delicious you’ll totally claim being a leprechaun.
  • hearty slow cooker chicken soup that’s so easy to make that you’ll probably wonder why you haven’t added it to your recipe lineup before.
  • Scottish beef stew that’s so flavorful and delicious that you’ll start wanting to binge-watch shows like Outlander all over again.
  • Deliciously simple pumpkin curry soup that’s got a perfect balance of pumpkin, spice, and curry. It’ll have you actually enjoying pumpkin!

My Must-Have Resources:

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Kimberly C. Starr

I'm a ginger who loves reading, eating, being a nurse, spending time with my family, and writing about it all.

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