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An Introduction to Bread Making

Many letters I've received over the years are from people who want to bake with sourdough, which I approve of, but who have no baking experience. Like "Bob", played by Bill Murray in the wonderful movie "What about Bob?, I strongly feel that it is best to start with "Baby Steps," taking things one small step at a time.

The place to start in baking is with simple yeast based baking, so, I've put this page together to get people used to the mechanics of yeast based baking with as little hassle and pain as possible. All three of the recipes in this section of the web page use yeast.

Once you get these techniques down, then we have the Fast Track to Sourdough and Sourdough Starter Primer pages that will help you build on your newly honed baking skills and enter the seemingly mysterious world of sourdough. Please don't skip ahead. The yeasted introductory pages will help you develop important skills that will serve you in good stead in sourdough baking.

Really, yeast isn't evil. It is more reliable than sourdough, at least in inexperienced hands, and it can be used to make very good bread.

I have included three recipes. The first one is Myrtle Allen's Brown Bread. It's a 100% whole wheat bread that doesn't need to be kneaded. Its a rather rustic, but very tasty, bread. This recipe will introduce you to yeast, rising and measurement.

The next bread is an English Muffin Bread. James Beard felt this wasn't a very interesting bread, though he said it makes excellent toast. We disagree. I hadn't made this bread in many moons and had forgotten how good it is. There is a version, not posted here, that you can rise and bake in a microwave oven, as well as versions for bread machines. The hand made, slow risen version is MUCH, MUCH better. As I always say, haste is the enemy of good bread. How good is it? Beth, my long-suffering wife, fell in love with this bread toasted or un-toasted and insisted we make it in my bakery. However, this bread is somewhat of a paradox - it's easy to make a few loaves at home, but hard to make in production, so we didn't make it for very long. In any case, I think you'll enjoy it, and this recipe will introduce you to gluten development and the rule of 240.

The last bread will be James Beard's Basic White Bread Basic White Bread. Actually, all of these recipes are from James Beard's "Beard on Bread," which is one of my favorite bread cookbooks. This bread is a very nice bread, and the first recipe where you'll need to knead the dough.

Once you've made these three breads, you'll have a pretty good grasp of how to bake good bread with yeast, as well as the mechanics of bread making. You can make these one after the other and then move on to sourdough, you can make these breads a number of times - either to build your confidence or to enjoy the breads again and again - or you can use these as a starting point to making other yeasted breads. Whatever you do, I hope you enjoy this introduction to bread making.

If you have any problems with these recipes, please drop me a note through our "Contact Us" web page. I want you to succeed!