Now that low carb lifestyles seem to have subsided, there has been a resurgence in the popularity of bread, and as a result, the diversity of loaves available even at regular grocery stores has skyrocketed.
If you’re in a rush, you shouldn’t feel badly about grabbing that crusty olive boule on the way home, but bread is actually easy to make once you learn the basics (and some loaves don’t even need yeast, meaning that success is almost assured.) It is achievable if you have the time.
For any type of bread, you need flour, leavening, salt and liquid. A basic loaf can be made with these ingredients and in stunning varieties.
Yeast: Yeast is the most common form of leavening in breads, raising it with a nice crumb, and that iconic “bready” smell. It’s also the ingredient in bread that causes the most strife, due to it being a bit finicky and sometimes it can fail. Luckily, new formulations of yeast suck as quick rise and rapid rise yeasts mean that you can be relatively sure it will rise if you test your yeast ahead of time, by placing some yeast in a small container of warm water for 15 minutes. If you see foam on the surface, your yeast is alive and ready to go to work.
Non Yeast Leaveners: These can include beer, baking soda, baking powder (or a combination of the two.) The beauty of non yeast leaveners is they work as advertised as long as the leavener is fresh, and a loaf can be turned out without the waiting time required to prove yeast leavened doughs.
Flour types: If you’re just starting out, you should stick to all purpose flour or bread flour. Bread flour has more gluten availability so it builds that bread consistency without as much kneading as all purpose flour.
Water: Tap water is fine, but it needs to be warm to the touch to be able to coax yeast to bloom. Don’t let your water get too hot, lest it kill your yeast.
If you don’t want to try yeast your first time out, try making Irish Soda Bread. If you can make pancakes or muffins from scratch, you can make this dough which essentially comes together from adding wet ingredients to dry, turning the dough out into a pan, and baking. The leavening for this type of bread comes from buttermilk and baking powder.
[corbin’s recipe here]
Once you’ve mastered this recipe, you can move on to leavened doughs.