Super Easy Bread Recipe for Beginners

Homemade bread along with a jar of berry preserve

The Spruce / Cara Cormack

  • Total: 65 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 45 mins
  • Rising: 90 mins
  • Yield: 1 loaf (serves 12)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
136 Calories
2g Fat
26g Carbs
4g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 1 loaf (serves 12)
Amount per serving
Calories 136
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g 2%
Saturated Fat 1g 3%
Cholesterol 1mg 0%
Sodium 182mg 8%
Total Carbohydrate 26g 10%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 4g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 18mg 1%
Iron 1mg 8%
Potassium 56mg 1%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This is an easy recipe for your first loaf of homemade yeast bread. Using basic ingredients that can be found in most kitchens, it produces a delicious white bread with a soft crust and moist center. With no preservatives and a great taste, you'll quickly find out why baking your own bread is so much better than buying it at the store.

Beginners will find this to be the perfect introduction to baking great bread. You can use it to learn about the essential ingredients that go into bread, practice kneading and other techniques, and discover the perfect baking time in your oven. There are lots of tips and tricks to help you along the way. Start with one loaf to see how it turns out. If needed, you can make slight adjustments the next time.

Experienced bakers will also find that this recipe is a great base for experimentation. If you're adventurous, feel free to alter and play with it to create your own bread recipes.

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Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup warm water (95 F to 110 F)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (approximately)

Steps to Make It

Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, this bread is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparation and baking.

Mix the Bread Dough

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for bread dough
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  2. Pour the warm water into a large bowl.

    Warm water in bowl
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  3. Slowly stir in the yeast until it is dissolved.

    Yeast in a bowl
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  4. Add the salt, sugar, and milk to the bowl. Stir until everything is thoroughly combined.

    Mixing yeast and water with a wooden spoon
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  5. Mix in the shortening and the first 2 cups of flour. The shortening will continue to integrate into the dough while kneading, so it may be small lumps at this stage.

    Mixing in the shortening with a wooden spoon
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  6. If needed, begin adding more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough chases the spoon around the bowl.

    Adding flour and mixing it with a wooden spoon
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack 

Prepare and Bake the Bread Dough

Once you have mixed the bread dough, it is time to work it and let it rise (called proofing). This is often the stage that turns many bakers away from homemade bread because it takes time for the bread to rise as well as practice learning how to knead the dough. After making a few loaves though, you'll be a natural.

  1. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for about 10 minutes. Add small spoonfuls of flour as necessary, until the dough is soft and smooth (not sticky to the touch). You may not need all of the flour, or you may need a little more. Keep the surface floured to prevent the dough from sticking to the board and your hands.

    Working with the dough on a floured board
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  2. Put the dough in a greased or buttered bowl and turn the dough over so the other side is also greased.

    The dough in a greased bowl
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  3. Cover and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free spot, such as an oven with the light on, for about 1 hour, or until doubled.

    The dough risen in a glass bowl
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  4. Punching the down dough
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  5. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for 5 minutes.

    Working with the dough on a floured board
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  6. Form the dough into a loaf (here are some helpful tips) and set it gently into a greased bread pan.

    The dough in a metal bread pan
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack 
  7. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes, or until doubled. If your kitchen is chilly or drafty, place the pan in a cool oven with the light on for this step, or you may not get a proper rise.

    The risen dough in a metal bread pan
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack
  8. Heat the oven to 375 F.

  9. Score the risen dough by cutting three slashes across the top with a sharp knife. While not essential, this step controls the direction in which the bread expands as it bakes. (If you forget to do it, the bread will taste the same.)

  10. Place the bread in the oven and bake for about 45 minutes or until golden brown.

  11. Turn out the loaf of bread and let it cool completely on a rack or clean dish towel before slicing.

  12. Serve and enjoy.

    Sliced homemade bread with a jar of berry preserve
    The Spruce / Cara Cormack

Tips

  • The exact amount of flour you need will vary, so have a little extra on hand. The amount depends on many factors, including weather, which is why most bread recipes only give an approximate measure.
  • Contrary to popular belief, salt does not kill the yeast. Salt is essential, not only for flavor but also because it "retards" the yeast and slows down its growth.
  • Use bottled, filtered, or distilled water instead of tap water to make bread. Water softeners and chlorinated public water can sometimes kill the yeast needed to make your bread dough rise.
  • To heat the water to the ideal temperature range that activates the yeast, start with room temperature water. Heat it gently in the microwave or in a glass placed in a bowl with steaming hot tap water until the bread water reaches 95 F to 110 F. Use a thermometer to monitor it and don't let it get hotter than 115 F as that can kill the yeast.
  • Proofing in the oven keeps the time consistent because kitchen temperatures vary with the seasons. Bread rises faster in a hot kitchen and much slower in a drafty one. Just make sure you don't turn on the oven and that you remove the bread before preheating.

Recipe Variations

  • Brush loaves with milk before baking to produce a dark, shiny crust.
  • Brush loaves with egg white before baking to produce a shiny crust.
  • Spraying loaves with water while they bake will produce a crispy crust.
  • Brush loaves with butter immediately after baking to produce a soft crust.
  • Add flavor with herbs and spices, such as caraway, garlic, rosemary, and sesame seeds. Use about 3 tablespoons total and mix them in with the flour and shortening.
  • If you'd like to include dried fruit or nuts, stir them in with the initial flour as well. To avoid overwhelming a loaf, start with 1 cup total and increase that on the next loaf if desired.

Why Didn't My Bread Rise?

There are many variables in baking bread. The most likely culprit for a loaf that doesn't rise is bad yeast. It can even happen before the package's expiration date, especially if it's open and not refrigerated. If you're not buying yeast frequently, you can test yeast by proofing it with water and sugar.

Which Flour Is the Best for Bread?

This recipe uses all-purpose flour because it's the most common type stocked in the average kitchen. However, if you enjoy baking bread, you'll want to switch to bread flour. It has more gluten and creates a better tasting bread that rises just a little more. The two types of flour can be substituted in equal measurements in most bread recipes.

Can Butter Be Used as a Substitute for Vegetable Shortening?

Butter is used in many bread recipes and can be used in this one. The general recommendation for substituting butter for shortening is to add a little more butter for each cup of shortening. However, since this bread only requires 1 tablespoon, your butter substitute should be just fine with that amount. If you want to be safe, cut the butter stick a tiny bit bigger than indicated.

How Do I Store Bread to Keep it Fresh?

Homemade bread does not have the preservatives of store-bought bread. Generally, a loaf will stay fresh when stored at room temperature for 2 to 3 days. The refrigerator will dry the bread out and should be avoided. The better option is to freeze loaves that you won't use right away. The bread will thaw perfectly at room temperature in a couple of hours.