Daily Bread - My Simple Bread Recipe

I make a simple wheat bread a couple times a week.  This is a versatile recipe and becomes the base for sandwiches, an accompaniment to soups and a side for curries.  Or I just put some butter on it to hold me over until dinner!  Depending on what I want I make round rustic loaves, traditional pan loaves, hamburger buns, bread bowls or dinner rolls. 

I didn't really get into bread making until we did Peace Corps and lived in the middle of nowhere without electricity or a grocery store.  One of our splurges was an oven that ran off a propane tank. 

I had a simple soft pretzel recipe that I learned in eighth grade home-economics that became the basis for my bread.  Lots of trial and error and four years later, making bread is a natural part of making dinner.  I wish I hadn't been so isolated when I was starting out.  A post like this would have really sped up my learning curve!

I've been tweeting with @ChrisKamprath trying to help him trouble shoot his bread making.  This post was inspired by him.  It takes way more than 140 characters to explain bread.  Although I think the best way would be to teach someone in person.  Here's my attempt to blog about it!

I should warn you all that this bread does not keep particularly well, once cut it gets dry over night. But it is perfect fresh out of the oven. The two of us, I have a very hungry husband, we can usually eat most of a loaf by ourselves.  I use any left over bread for eggy-in-a-basket, peanut butter toast or to make bread crumbs in the next day or two. 

This bread recipe is easy. The last time I bought bread it was because I had stitches in my hand and couldn't do the kneading for a couple weeks.  It does take some time to do two rises, but if you plan it right, it is perfectly practical for daily dinners even if you hold a full time job.  Plus it is cheaper and healthier than anything you can buy at the grocery store.  Here's how you do it. 

Simple Daily Bread Recipe
1 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus or minus a bit)

  1. Start by proofing the yeast.  Proofing means to make sure the yeast is growing before you start making the bread.  First warm a cup of water.  You want the water as warm as you can stand to touch it.  Yeast loves water about 115 degrees F.  If it is too hot the yeast will die and if it is too cold the yeast won't bloom quickly. 

    Pour the warmed water into a large bowl and mix in the sugar.  Sprinkle the yeast over the top.  The sugar is the food the yeast will consume to start growing.  Cover the bowl with a towel and let it set a couple minutes.  The yeast will bloom becoming fuzz over the water that's how you know it is alive and growing.

  2. I usually wait until the fuzz covers the water before adding the salt and oil.  Depending on the day I use olive or canola oil or if I have any chicken or bacon fat on hand I use that.  You could also use butter, really any fat will do as long as it is in a liquid form.

    Next, mix in the wheat flour with a wooden spoon.  I find wooden spoons are excellent for mixing dough.

    Then cover the bowl again with a towel and let it sit another five minutes.  This allows the wheat flour a chance to hydrate before adding in the white flour.  If you skip this step it is easy to wind up with a dry, dense loaf.
  3. Next add in the all purpose flour slowly mixing it in until you can't mix with a wooden spoon anymore. 

    Then, use clean, dry hands to kneed.  Start by kneading in the bowl to incorporate all the loose flour. 

    If the dough is sticking to your hands, add a little more flour.  Then turn the dough out on to the table and kneed for five minutes.  (I've got some tips at the end of this post for how to know when you've reached the right consistency and troubleshooting if you have dry, dense, flat or other issues.)

  4. Lightly cover the dough with oil and let rest in a bowl covered with a towel.  Put the dough in a warm place and let rise until double.  I don't usually keep very close track to how much time this takes.  This time I used a stop watch and I let it rise 40 minutes. 

  5. Then punch down the dough and shape into your final form.  I often just make a ball for a round loaf.  Today I wanted bread bowls for chowder so I cut the dough into quarters and shaped it into rounds.

    The most important thing to remember when shaping is to get all the air out so you don't have any air pockets in your bread.  When I bake bread on cookie sheets I put down corn meal underneath to keep it from sticking to the sheet.  For a loaf I roll it out with a rolling pin into a rectangle, roll it up into a log and then tuck the ends under.  Then I put it into a well greased loaf pan.
  6. Let the dough rise again until double. I let it rise for 50 minutes which was actually longer than my first rise, but I was working on making the chowder and time got away from me.  Bread making is not an exact science if you go over or under with raising time, it's usually not a big deal.
  7. Bake the bread in a 350 degree oven.  For my four bread bowls it took 28 minutes to get a nice even golden brown all the way around.  The larger your loaf the longer it will need to bake.  I can usually tell when my bread is done by smell.

  8. Remove your loaf from the pan or sheet and put it on a cooling rack.  This will keep condensation from forming and making the crust soggy.  Allow the bread to cool at least 5 minutes before cutting into it.  Then enjoy your daily bread however you choose. 

    Today's daily bread was bread bowls for corn chowder.  I froze whole kernel and creamed corn this summer just so I could make this soup when sweet corn isn't in season.  It is divine in a bread bowl! Simply cut a circle out of the top of your bread and then use your fingers to pull out the soft insides being careful not to puncture the walls of your bowl. 
How to adapt bread making to a 9-5 schedule:

Make the dough in the morning and put it in the fridge to rise.  It will rise slower when it is cool. By the time you come home from work you can take it out of the fridge and do the second rise.  Putting the dough it a warm place will help the yeast get moving and raise the bread for a second time.  Bake as normal. 

Why the ratio of wheat to white flour?  I know 100% whole wheat is healthier, but in order to get a 100% whole wheat bread I have to add almost a half cup of oil.  Otherwise the bread is super dense and dry.  Through experimenting, I've found the most wheat flour I can add without increasing the oil is one cup of whole wheat.  I make sure to add it in the beginning and allowed it to hydrate before mixing in the rest of the needed white flour.  I've also found seven grain cereal to be excellent in bread instead of the wheat flour.  I usually make the seven grain cereal first so it is completely hydrated. One cup cooked cereal works well.   You can even use the leftovers from breakfast.  If you don't have wheat or don't want a wheat loaf just use all white flour. 

Crispy crust: If I'm feeling naughty I add extra oil to the loaf pan so the bread is sitting in a couple millimeters of oil.  As the bread cooks the bottom gets a crispy almost fry-bread like brown.

Why use corn meal under loaves when baking?  Cornmeal can handle higher heat than wheat flour.  I learned this trick from making pizza dough.  Think about your favorite pizza I bet it has cornmeal underneath!  Pizza is often baked at very high temperatures, think at least 500 degrees F.  Cornmeal can take it, wheat flour would burn. 

How to make this recipe into pizza dough: Simply up the oil to 1/4 cup.  After the first rise shape into crust and then only rise 15 minutes for the second rise.  Prebake in a 375 degree oven until just starting to brown.  Then pull out the crust put on the sauce, toppings and cheese and bake for another 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  The extra oil makes for a crispier crust.  Make sure to put cornmeal underneath your crust!

Why cover with a towel?  The towel allows the yeast to breath but keeps the humidity high so the dough doesn't dry out.  Some folks use plastic wrap, but I like a towel better because it is reusable. 

Options for warm places to raise dough: I like to use a sunny spot if it is to be found otherwise I'll put it in the oven with it set to "warm".  I've been told the ideal temperature for yeast growth is 82 degrees.  In Panama I would put the dough in the cold oven with a lit candle.  The warmth from the candle was enough to get a good rise.   Just make sure to keep the towel and the candle well apart.  My mom would put the bread to rise on the hot air vents in the winter.  I've also had friends tell me they put it next to the fireplace; just remember to rotate the bowl so the yeast grows evenly.  If you really want to know your bread, keep it in your lap; body heat works too. 

How to know if you have added enough flour to your dough?  There is no exact amount, it is a range.  Slightly sticky, lighter dough will rise faster, have a courser texture and tend to be taller.  If the dough is no longer sticky and hard to knead it probably has too much flour.  Add a tablespoon of oil and knead it in.  It will take a bit of work, but it should save your dough.  I tend to err on the side of sticky if I want good bread for soaking up soups or curries.  If I want sandwich bread that will hold up to juicy tomatoes and be denser I add more flour.

I hope this encourages you all to make more bread!  Good luck and happy baking! 

** I love that I am getting your tips and hard won bread knowledge in the comments!  Please share your special tricks for making bread. 

Nutritional information:


  1. This looks lovely. My mum makes something similar. Will give it a try.

  2. I love fresh homemade bread, it's the best! They look so delicious, they're perfect! And you're bread-bowl filled with corn chowder is so creative and beautiful, it's a great idea :)

  3. I love simple and I am CRAZY about baking bread! I'm not a pro like you but I do enjoy it. Thank you so much for sharing these tips! These will come in handy. Don't be surprised if I link back to you so I can share your advice...

  4. Anonymous11/03/2011

    I really enjoyed reading this actually and I think you explained bread pretty well. I know a lot more now than I did before.

  5. Wow! Thank you so much for this post! Answers all the questions I had been pestering you on twitter with :p. Your tips have already led to a much better loaf than I have ever made and I can't wait to tweak it with stuff from this post!
    I'll be making a loaf again next week (when we get back in town) and will let you know how it goes!

  6. Wow..you recipe for making bread is awesome and those loaves look like they can be had by themselves..superb. You have covered everything related to bread-making and yet in such a simple manner. I would love to try your recipe in my kitchen!

  7. Anonymous11/04/2011

    The soup inside the bread looks amazing. I've found that keeping a pizza stone in the oven helps to heat up my oven even more to cook the bread even better.

  8. Beautiful bread bowl! I like this recipe because it looks like it won't make too much.

  9. I'm inspired. You have made it look so easy, and I love the photos.

  10. This bread looks gorgeous! I always find the simple bread recipes are usually the best =)

  11. Wow this looks beautiful! How creative to make it a bread bowl too. Yum!

  12. Great post and lovely too. I've posted it on Piinterest. Heere's a link.

  13. Great recipe, great info and great little bread bowls!

  14. Another tip for crispy crust: steam. I used to use a metal roaster on the lowest rack before preheating, and after I put the dough in the oven, I would pour a cup or two of water into the hot roaster so it would steam. It makes the crust get that super crispy texture. Don't use pyrex though, as it will shatter, and sometimes steam can harm certain ovens - also pizza stones. In that case, you can also wet your hands and run them across the top of the dough. You want it to be wet without being soggy. It won't get as crispy, but it will crisp up more than without.

    Also, try making a poolish the night before. Take your yeast, some of the flour and some warm water, mix it and let it sit. You'll get a yeasty, watery gloop, which will carry a lot of flavor into the bread. I normally do equal parts water and flour, maybe a cup each depending on how much bread i'm making.

    Lovely post by the way!

  15. Beautiful bread...you have inspired me to make one.
    The last photo is awesome

  16. I make bread a lot and I'm always looking for a great recipe. I will give this a try!

  17. This looks fantastic. Amazing pics.

  18. I haven't made bread for years! But, having read your very clear and concise recipe I think I might find some time. Thank you.

  19. Cool! Great info about the cornmeal, I never knew why it was used :P

  20. Anonymous11/07/2011

    I'm thinking I need to try this! :)

  21. Thanks! This recipes was very easy...I may add a tad more sugar next time.

  22. I can almost smell and taste it! Such a beautiful presentation too!

  23. thanks for such a awesome recipe i bake very frequently and my riends always want something very healthy this time i will surprise them with this....

  24. Anonymous11/21/2011

    Thank you for the bread recipe, it does look yummay...

    I was reading in one of your old posts, about saril, I'm from Panama and I have about 4.5 years without drinking it, I was wondering where I could get some fresh saril here in the US (or will it be the same as the dry "flor de jamaica" some supermarkets have or as the "hibiscus tea" that come in boxes, this last one I don't think because my grandma used to have store brought boxed tea and it did not taste the same at all) I'd like to make some for this Christmas time if all possible. ( I currently live in a small city in Texas) Thank you in advanced. and much luck and health with the bundle of joy ;) Sincerely,


  25. Anonymous11/21/2011

    BTW, I posted as anonymous because each time I try to post with my Google Account it errors on me. - Gina

  26. Gina - I know my google accounts been acting strange for a while!

    Anyways, where to get saril. I've only found it dried in Mexican groceries here in the midwest. It's called Flor de Jamaica.

    I'm not sure if anywhere has the climate to grow saril in The States. Perhaps Florida or SoCal. Good luck finding some. I haven't had it fresh since leaving Panama!

  27. Anonymous11/22/2011

    Thank you very much Foy... I'll try the dry one if I find it :-) will let you know if it tastes at least similar hehehehe

    Happy Thanksgiving :)


  28. I was looking for a good, basic bread recipe and so glad I found yours! Great tips, especially the fat alternatives you mentioned (bacon, oh yeah!) -- never thought of that before. The candle in the oven tip was neat, as was "body heat." (Sounds like a good thing to try this winter!) Enjoyed your travel recaps and really enjoyed this post!

  29. What would I need to change to do this recipe 100% whole wheat? I am making it for my son and he needs a lot of unsaturated fat anyways so the extra oil won't hurt.

    1. I haven't made this recipe with all whole wheat. My best guess is 1/4 oil.