How to make homemade white bread from scratch using just a few simple ingredients. Includes tips on how to knead bread dough and types of flour to use.
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Bread is the staff of life, as the saying goes. It gives us something to lean on and fill us with energy and support! Humans have been making it for thousands of years and even those of us who have gluten intolerances look for gluten-free bread to fill that craving for one of our most ancient of foods. Bread is very easy to make, but it does take time. It’s a process built on the way that yeast works and lives and the kneading and proving of bread dough help these tiny organisms along. The end result is the scent of baking through the house and loaves of perfect and delicious bread.
Bread is made from just a few simple ingredients: flour, salt, water and yeast. Optional additives such as fats, seeds and fruits as well as variants of the basic ingredients and methodology can result in bread of different shapes, colours, flavours and textures. It’s fun and interesting to experiment with different ingredients. Not to mention, delicious.
Flour for Making Homemade Bread
Traditional stone-ground flour contains all parts of the original grains of wheat: the bran, the germ and the endosperm. Literally pulverised with stone wheels at room temperature this type of flour contains all the natural fibre, vitamins, proteins, antioxidants and other goodies that the body needs to stay healthy. It can also be coarse and has a relatively short shelf-life, which is one of the issues that led to the invention of modern white flour.
White flour has a longer shelf-life and creates a finer texture of bread. It’s what most of us use in breadmaking, especially strong flour. Strong bread flour is made from harder wheat varieties and includes a lot more gluten than plain flour. It’s this extra gluten that gives bread its elasticity, texture, and allows the bread to rise. When making homemade white bread, get strong white bread flour.
Homemade White Bread Recipe
- Large mixing bowl
- Measuring cups or digital kitchen scale
- Bread dough scraper optional
- Plastic bag
- Baking tin
- Cloth kitchen towel
- Measure the dry ingredients into a large bowl and stir until well incorporated.
- Pour in the water and oil and mix with a spoon and/or your hand until all the ingredients form a sticky dough.
- Turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Your kitchen countertop is ideal.
- Fill the bowl with hot water and let it stand for a few minutes. The idea is that the warmth will be absorbed by the bowl and help the yeast to get a jump-start on life when the dough is put back inside.
- Begin kneading the dough. You'll knead it for about ten minutes and if you'd like to understand how to knead bread, there's a video further below.
- After ten minutes of kneading, the dough should have changed texture and have an even and satiny elasticity. If it doesn't seem this way, keep kneading since improper kneading will result in a dense and unpalatable loaf.
- Once that even and elastic texture is achieved, form the dough into a ball.
- Empty the water from the bowl and grease the inside of the bowl with about a teaspoon of olive oil. Place the ball of dough inside.
- Drizzle a small amount of oil onto the dough and rub it on the surface with your hands. This helps stop the dough from drying out.
- Place a damp towel over the bowl and put it in a warm place to rise. Rising occurs when the yeast comes to life and begins producing gases. The dough should double in size before the next step, which will take about an hour.
- Once the dough has risen, take it out of the bowl and punch it down flat with your fingertips, form it back into a ball again, and put it back into the bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel.
- Allow the dough to rise again, doubling in size. Then again take it out and punch it down until you have all the air bubbles out.
- Cut the flattened dough down the middle – the two pieces will become separate loaves. Select one and place it on a lightly floured surface and roll it up tightly like you would a swiss roll, and pinch the seams in so it doesn't fall apart.
- Using your fingertips, press the roll down until it's fairly flat. Then fold one end to the middle of the dough and then fold the other end to the other side.
- Now press it all down flat again. The point of all this rolling and pressing is to create a structure for an unsupported loaf to rise and take a final shape. Without it, your result will be a bread puddle.
- Take one long side and roll it tightly towards the other long end. Pinch in the seam and tuck in the sides, then rub flour all over the loaf and set it on a floured board. Repeat the process with the second piece of dough.
- These formed loaves still need to rise one last time, which is called proving, so put them on a large board or cutting board and place them in a warm part of the house. Cover the loaves with a large plastic bag to keep them from drying out.
- Proving will take at least half an hour and possibly another full hour, depending on how warm the dough is. When you feel the dough has nearly doubled in size again, it's ready to be baked.
- It's now that you want to pre-heat your oven and the pan you plan on baking on to the highest setting possible. You should also place a dripping pan or jelly pan at the bottom of your oven at this time — something that can shallowly hold about a cup of water.
- Before you start moving the dough, make sure to get some boiling water prepared. Either on the stovetop or in an electric kettle. You'll need one cup of scalding hot water at the exact time you put the bread into the oven.
- When the hot water is ready, take the pre-heated pan out of the oven and gently move your loaves to it. Take a sharp knife and score the tops of the loaves around a half-inch deep. Scoring not only looks nice but allows the bread to rise even higher once it's in the oven.
- Pour the water into the pan you've placed at the bottom of the oven and quickly put the loaves into the oven. Close the oven up and allow the bread to bake at this temperature for ten minutes. The steam from the water helps to create a moist environment for the last rise the bread makes before the crust hardens.
- After ten minutes, turn the oven down to 350°F (180°C or 160°C convection oven) and allow the bread to bake for a further 35 minutes. When you take it out, the bread will be golden brown.
- Cool on a counter before cutting and eating. Homemade white bread is best consumed on the day its made, but day old white bread is perfect for making croutons and French toast.