Baking Your First Loaf of Bread

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For many amateur bakers and home cooks, bread seems super intimidating. The good news is that you can learn to bake a hearty, rustic loaf without too much trouble. No kneading, no weird ingredients–all delicious!

Check out the recipe below, along with our best troubleshooting tips for a delicious, fresh-baked loaf!

Recipe for a Simple, Rustic Loaf of Bread (No Kneading!)

  • 3 cups warm water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 6 1/2 cups (or 30 ounces) of all-purpose flour

Combine the yeast, water, and salt in a large bowl. Gradually add the flour, stirring as you go with a wooden spoon or spatula. The dough will start to thicken up, and you’ll need to switch to using your hands to mix in the last of the flour.

Cover the bowl with a towel and let it rise for at least 2 hours at room temperature. (Aim for about 70-75 degrees.) The dough should grow until it is roughly doubled in size.

Separate the dough in half and form a round, tucking the edges under so that the top is nice and smooth. Repeat for the second half of the dough and place both loaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Slash the tops with a sharp knife and then let them rise for another 30-40 minutes. Then dust lightly with a sprinkle of flour.

30 minutes before you want to put your bread in the oven, preheat to 450 degrees. Place a broiler pan on the lowest rack, and as soon as you put the bread in the oven, toss a couple of ice cubes in the pan and shut (not slam) the door. The ice cubes create steam, which gives the bread an amazing crust.

Bake 25-30 minutes. The bread is done when it sounds “hollow” if you knock on the bottom of the loaf. Place the loaves on a rack to cool, then dig in!

Troubleshooting Tips for the Perfect Loaf

First rule of baking: weigh your ingredients instead of using a measuring cup alone. A simple kitchen scale costs less than $20 and will save you many wasted ingredients in the long run. If you don’t have a scale and want to bake bread today, then avoid scooping dry ingredients. Always spoon flour into your measuring cup; otherwise, it becomes too compacted and will result in a dry, dense loaf.

Frustratingly, learning to bake bread is a process. Your first attempts will probably not be great as you learn what works and what doesn’t. As weird as it sounds, you should consider keeping a journal about your baking journey. You might discover that your oven needs to be 10 degrees hotter to get a good crust, or that you need to add an extra tablespoon of water. If you write these things down, eventually you can develop a recipe that’s a winner for you every single time.

Don’t rush it! Baking bread at home is a slow process. You need to give the yeast time to work its magic in every stage of the bake. Relearning patience in our busy world is a skill in itself, but you’ll need to be patient to get a good loaf of bread out of your kitchen.