Your First Loaf of Bread
"I can’t make bread at home,” you scoff. Yes, you can. And spring, with its electric charge, is the time to learn how. All week we’re sharing the 101 versions of recipes for foods you thought were too hard to make but TOTALLY AREN’T. So go ahead, bake Your First Loaf.
Photo credit: Erin Kunkel
Dough. Yeasted dough. It can be scary. “For lots of people and for me, as well, baking is a very intimating thing,” says San Francisco-based Josey Baker who is, in fact, a baker. “There’s this mysterious group of processes going on. It’s alive, but you can’t tell it’s alive, and you don’t know what to look for.”
Baker, who runs The Mill in tandem with Four Barrel Coffee, attempts to soften the mystique around bread baking in his new book, Josey Baker Bread. It contains 38 core recipes with variations, the first of which is the simplest loaf of bread (below).
“I made up this recipe to be the most un-intimidating and to have the highest chance of success,” Baker told us. “You only use one type of flour, you use a loaf pan, which means there are few opportunities for failure, there’s some flexibility around timing that makes it easier to fit into the average working adult’s life, and it’s clean—you need barely any room, just a tiny amount of counter space.” Baker’s writing style is encouraging, too. He used to develop math and science curriculums at UC Berkeley, spending five years writing both children’s books and teacher’s guides, so he knows a thing or two about explaining things clearly and being supportive.
Which all leads up to: just try baking this at home. It’s time to grab the yeast by the packet’s edge, let ‘er rip, and step up your baking game. ”The most important thing that can come out of your first loaf, which is what I had, is ‘Holy s*&t! I can do this!’”
Your First Loaf of Bread
What You’ll Need:
Sea salt, fine grind
Yeast (the kind in little packets, “active dry” is just fine)
Big mixing bowl (at least 6in/15cm tall and 12in/31cm wide)
Plate or plastic wrap (to cover bowl)
Oil or nonstick spray
Loaf pan (about 8 by 4in/20 by 10cm)
Towel or pot holders
Cooling rack (optional)
All right y’all, let’s get started. Don’t be a weenie; you have everything you need to do this. You don’t need any fancy anything—just flour, water, yeast, and salt. Basically you mix ’em up, rub ’em around in the bowl, leave it for a long time, then shape it into a log and stick it in a hot oven. What do you get? Your first loaf of delicious home-baked bread, that’s what.
Be Patient, Young Baker: Read through the entire lesson before you actually do anything. Trust me—it will make the whole thing easier and better.
Plan Ahead: Good bread takes time, and there’s just no way around it. You spend 10 minutes mixing up your bread dough on day one, and then leave the dough in the fridge for a few days before doing anything else. So plan ahead, and invite someone over for dinner this weekend.
1. Gather your foodstuff and tools. Get all the stuff that’s listed in the table.