Nothing beats the taste of fresh bread straight from the oven. But according to common wisdom, making a loaf of bread is something very complicated that is best left to professionals. There are even dedicated machines that make a single loaf of bread at a time if you coddle them properly and load them with the proper ingredients in the right order.
But with the right technique and my secret weapon, you can make a loaf of bread in less than 20 minutes of work and some rising and baking time with ingredients you should already have in your pantry and some yeast. This weapon is the baker’s best friend and will allow you to mix and knead all kinds of dough, including bread dough, pie dough, cookies and more with less effort and time. Behold, the stand mixer!
My stand mixer is a is a large KitchenAid model that I got from Costco which is similar to the one linked above. I choose to buy a KitchenAid since they’ve been making these mixers for years and they are known for their quality. There are also various attachments available that can be plugged in at the top of the mixer to make many more recipes, like pasta makers and vegetable slicers. A stand mixer is not cheap, but mine is paying for itself at a brisk pace: I’m using it at least once a week to make bread, bagels or breakfast bars for a fraction of what it would cost at the store. There are smaller models available if you’re not ready to invest that much money, but I like to cook large amount of food at once to save time.
Ideally, if you plan to bake a lot, you will also need a scale. You’ll find that most baking recipes are in weight and not in volume since weight measurements are more precise.
But really, can you make a loaf of basic homemade bread in less time it would take you to run to the store? In fact, once you’ve mastered the technique you can do better than that. For your first few time, you should only bake one loaf at the time to get used to how the dough should look, but if you want to save even more time you can make more than one loaf at once. So, let’s get started!
Mixing the dough and first rise (10 minutes + 1 hour rest time)
Gather the following ingredients and put them in the mixing bowl of the stand mixer with the flat beater attachment:
1 cup (165g) of white flour
2 cups (335g) of whole wheat bread flour
3 teaspoons of sugar
2 teaspoons (7g) of dry active yeast
1 teaspoon of salt
Dry ingredients for the bread in the mixer with the flat beater
Mix all the ingredients together at the slowest speed and pour the following ingredients slowly, still mixing with the flat beater:
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 1/4 cup of lukewarm water
Dough mixed with the flat beater, ready to switch to the dough hook
Once the water has been mixed in, switch to the dough hook and mix slowly at speed 1 or 2 to knead the bread for at least 5 minutes. The kneading process will make the dough soft and elastic: if it’s very sticky, sprinkle a bit of flour on top, and if there is still some flour remaining at the bottom add a bit of water. You will still get bread even if the proportions are not exact, so don’t worry: you can experiment to get the best texture later on.
Dough mixed with the dough hook, ready for the first rise
Once the dough has been kneaded, remove it from the mixing bowl, oil the bowl lightly and put the dough back in. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let it rise in a warm place for at least an hour.
Second rise (8 minutes + 45 minute rest time)
Dough after a good first rise, this is enough for two loaves
Remove the towel from the bowl and punch down the dough lightly with your fist to deflate it. Still using the dough hook, knead the dough in the mixer for another 5 minutes. Put the dough in bread pans, shaping it so it takes all the space at the bottom and sprinkle a bit of flour on top so the dough won’t stick to the towel. Cover the pan with the damp towel and let the dough rise again in the same place you previously used for at least 45 minutes.
Two good loaves of bread, ready for the second rise
Baking (2 minutes + 35 minutes cooking time)
The same loaves of bread after the second rise
Preheat your oven at 400F, letting it reach the right temperature before starting to cook. Once the temperature has been reached, remove the towel covering the loaves and bake them for 30-35 minutes, keeping an eye on it at the end: the bread will be a golden brown when it is well done. Remove them bread from the oven and turn the pan over to remove the bread. Put your loaves on a cooling rack if you have one and allow them to cool before cutting them. The bread is still cooking while it cools down and all the heat will escape if you cut it.
A loaf of bread, nicely done but a bit flat since my pans are too large for the amount of dough I made
Also, an extra time-saving tip: bread is easy to freeze as long as it’s sliced prior to freezing, so you can make a few loaves at the time and freeze the extra. Just pop the frozen slice in the toaster to unfreeze when you need some good bread.