It's easier than you think to make fluffy loaves of whole grain bread and impressive artisanal baguettes. Once you learn how to bake bread, you can experiment with a wide variety of homemade bread recipes ranging from nut-filled quick breads to crusty sourdough breads. With our easy bread recipes and tips for baking bread, you can pull professional-looking loaves out of the oven in no time.
Many factors are vital to learning how to bake bread, including choosing the right oven temperature, pan, and bread recipe. Here are some starter tips:
Choose the right bread pan
The bread pan you use will depend on the type of bread you are baking. For instance, dinner rolls, French bread, and round loaves can usually be made on a baking sheet. But for standard loaves, you'll want to use a loaf pan. A loaf pan helps to shape the bread and encourage even browning, a crispy crust, and a tender interior.
Common loaf-pan sizes are 9x5x3 inches and 8x4x2 inches. Nonstick pans make it easier to remove bread and require less fat for greasing. Heavy-duty, well-made pans (of aluminum or another sturdy material) will last longer and perform better. Glass pans can get too hot and overcook the bottom of your loaf. If using an inexpensive or glass pan, lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees F.
Set the oven temperature correctly
If the oven is too hot or too cool when the bread goes in, you'll end up with a dense loaf. To avoid errors, preheat your oven to the temperature given in your recipe. Use an oven thermometer to make sure your oven temperature is accurate. If needed, adjust the temperature until it's correct.
Find the best bread recipe
The technique you use to bake bread will differ depending on the recipe you choose, but no matter what route you take, we have plenty of homemade bread recipes to guide you. Read on and get helpful tips for baking delicious quick bread, yeast bread, and artisanal bread.
Step 1: Grease the pan
Whether using a nonstick pan or not, greasing the pan is recommended to ensure the quick bread dough doesn't stick and it bakes evenly. Use a clean pastry brush to lightly spread vegetable shortening over the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of the loaf pan.
Bread Baking Tip: Do not grease all the way up the sides, because the batter needs to cling to the ungreased pan sides as it rises.
Step 2: Prepare your recipe
Combine the ingredients necessary to make your chosen quick bread or breakfast bread.
For inspiration, check out our best quick bread recipes.
Step 3: Check for doneness
Take a quick look at your loaf 10-15 minutes before the minimum baking time. If it is browning too quickly, cover it loosely with foil. Remove the foil once you have placed the baked loaf on a cooling rack.
Bread Baking Tip: The center is the last part of a quick bread to cook. Insert a wooden toothpick near the center; if it comes out clean, your loaf is done. The very center will firm up while the bread is cooling on a cooling rack.
Step 3: Cool bread
Let the loaf rest for 10 minutes on a cooling rack in order for the bread to set up before removing it from the pan. Run a spatula or butter knife between the pan sides and the loaf to loosen the loaf. Invert the pan to remove the baked bread. Allow quick bread to cool completely before storing in an airtight container or bag.
Step 1: Grease the pan
Lightly grease the whole pan, even if it's a nonstick pan. Some breads are baked on a baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal, which helps to keep the bread from sticking.
Step 2: Prep the bread dough
While some loaves go into the oven with no embellishment, others get an egg wash or a butter brush and a sprinkling of seeds or herbs.
Step 3: Bake the bread
The key to yeast bread is "oven spring," which is the final burst of expansion or fermentation of the yeast. Once this occurs, the loaf sets up and starts to brown, creating the crust.
Bread Baking Tip: If you bake several loaves at once, use one extra-large baking sheet instead of two smaller ones. Or bake one pan at a time, placing the second sheet in the refrigerator until 15 minutes before baking time. If you bake two smaller pans at once, not enough air will circulate around the bread, causing uneven baking.
Step 4: Check for doneness
Tap yeast bread lightly with your fingers to test for doneness. It will sound hollow when it is done. If the loaf is browning too fast but doesn't sound hollow, create a tent out of foil, loosely cover the loaf, and continue baking. Yeast breads containing butter and/or sugar often need this step to prevent overbrowning or burning.
To get the crisp, chewy-brown crust desired in these old-world-style breads, replicate a wood-fired oven in your own oven. Here's how:
Step 1: Select a bread recipe
When choosing a bread recipe, consider what complements the rest of your menu, or use ingredients you have on hand to inspire your bread choice.
See our best artisanal bread recipes.
Step 2. Make oven adjustments
Adjust two oven racks so that one is in the lowest position and the other is in the middle of the oven.
Bread Baking Tip: Place a broiler pan on the bottom rack while the oven preheats. When the pan is hot, carefully pour about 1 cup hot tap water into the pan in the oven. The steam helps create a crisp, crackly crust.
Step 3. Bake the bread
You can bake the bread on a baking sheet, pizza pan, or directly on a bread stone. If using a bread stone, place the stone on the middle rack and preheat it for 30 minutes. Use parchment paper to transfer the dough to the bread stone (leave it on the parchment). Once the bread is in the oven, if desired, use a spray bottle of water to mist the inside of the oven and the loaves. This also helps to give your bread a nice, crisp crust.
Bread Baking Tip: A bread stone replicates a hearth, especially when used with steam. Artisanal breads are usually formed into freestyle rounds or loaves, so no loaf pan is used.