Yeast Bread

Traditional Yeast Bread Recipe
Elaine Lemm
  • Total: 50 mins
  • Prep: 20 mins
  • Cook: 30 mins
  • Proofing Time: 2 hrs
  • Yield: 1 loaf (8 slices)

There are recipes for so many different styles of bread out there, but sometimes it is wonderful to go back to basics. This traditional yeast bread is as simple and plain as it gets with a straightforward combination of flour, water, yeast, a little sugar, and butter. Thanks to the baking magic of yeast, the ingredients all come together into a lovely, soft loaf that's perfect for sandwiches, toast, or simply slathered with lots of delicious butter.

Making yeast bread from scratch is a lovely process and in reality, only takes a few minutes of hands-on time. Most of the time the yeast is doing the work sitting somewhere warm to rise.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 ounce dried yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 pound strong bread flour, plus 1/2 cup for sprinkling
  • 1 1/2 ounces soft butter
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (for greasing)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. You can make the bread by hand or use a stand mixer with a dough hook to speed up the process.

  2. Place the dried yeast in a small jug, add the sugar, and 1/4 cup of the lukewarm water. Stir and put to one side. Keep checking the jug and within 10 minutes, it should be bubbling and foamy. If it is not, leave a little longer, the speed is often dependent on the ambient air temperature; on a cold day, it can take longer.

  3. Put the flour and butter into a large baking bowl. Add the salt and once the yeast is foaming, add this to the bowl and gently stir with a spoon until everything is combined.

  4. Add half the remaining lukewarm water and mix with your fingers, then gradually add more water a little at a time until you have a soft but not sticky dough. The precise amount of water you will need depends on several things, including the flour you are using, sometimes even the weather. The most important thing is to stop once the dough once it is as described above.

  5. Now is the time to knead the dough. You can use a stand mixer for 6 to 8 minutes or knead on the work surface as follows. Gather the dough into a ball and fold it in half towards you. Press down and away from you firmly, but lightly with the heels of your hands. Turn dough 1/4 turn and repeat process. Do this for about 4 or 5 minutes, working quickly until the dough is smooth and stretchy. It is ready when it is soft and pliable without any stickiness.

  6. Using a little olive oil, lightly grease a clean mixing bowl and put the dough in. Cover the bowl with a towel and set in a warm spot to proof, this will take about an hour. Once doubled, press fingers gently into the dough and the indentation will remain when you remove your fingers.

  7. Line a baking sheet with either a silicone mat or paper. Scrape the dough from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knock out the air by quickly kneading for a few turns. Once flattened, roll up the dough, turn 45 degrees, and roll up again. Do this twice more the gently smooth the dough into a loaf shape.  

  8. Put the loaf onto the baking tray, cover again with a damp towel, and leave to prove for another hour.

  9. Preheat the oven to 425 F.

  10. Remove the cloth, sprinkle a little flour over the surface of the bread, and ever so gently rub it in with losing any air or height from the loaf. With a thin, sharp knife, slash the surface, no more than a quarter-inch deep, 3 or 4 times, then criss-cross the opposite creating a diamond pattern.

  11. Bake in the center of the hot oven for 30 minutes until beautifully risen and golden brown. You will know the bread is cooked when it makes a hollow sound when tapped on the bottom. Note: If you want a crustier loaf, read the notes below on adding steam to your oven.

  12. Remove from the oven and leave to go cold on a cooling rack. Eats with lots of butter and enjoy. The bread is best eaten fresh the day it is made, though it does make delicious toast. The loaf also freezes well, defrost slowly overnight in the fridge when you want to eat it.  

Tips

  • If you prefer a crustier crust on your loaf, then tip 2 cups of ice cubes into a roasting tin and place it in the bottom of the preheated oven before you put the bread in to bake; this creates lovely gentle steam.