You don’t need special equipment to make homemade bread. Experiment with different recipes and types of flour to find the types of bread you like best. One option is a no-knead recipe, which typically involves mixing the dough, letting it rise and storing it in the refrigerator for baking in small batches over the course of several days or weeks.
Use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook for a hands-off approach to mixing and kneading the dough. If you don’t have a stand mixer or you prefer a lower-tech approach, mix your ingredients in a bowl and knead the dough by hand. You can also opt to use a bread machine, though critics claim they produce bread with inferior flavor. Additional helpful equipment includes measuring cups and spoons, and a loaf pan or baking sheet. For maximum accuracy, skip the measuring cups in favor of a kitchen scale.
At its most basic, bread requires only flour, yeast, water and salt. The type of flour you choose affects the texture — called the crumb — of the bread. Traditional wheat flours contain gluten, which gives breads elasticity and structure. Gluten traps carbon dioxide, which creates bubbles as the yeast ferments, forcing the dough to rise. When baking with gluten-free flour, you must include a gluten replacer such as ground flax seeds, psyllium husks or chia seeds to give the bread more elasticity and structure.
Mixing the Dough
Mix the ingredients, scraping the sides and the bottom of the bowl periodically, until all of the dry pockets of flour come together. Let active dry yeast soak in a solution of warm water with a little bit of sugar until it dissolves before you add it to the dry ingredients. Alternatively, use instant yeast or quick-rise yeast, which you can mix with your other dry ingredients without water.
Kneading the Dough
Kneading helps develop the gluten in the flour, making it more elastic. Knead the bread with a mixer set on medium-high until the dough pulls away from the sides of your mixing bowl. To knead dough by hand, turn it out onto a floured work surface and begin by folding it over itself, rotating it a quarter-turn with each fold. Then, push the dough away from you with the heel of your hand, repeating the motion until the dough becomes smooth and springy. If you’re making gluten-free bread, you don’t have to knead the dough.
Baking the Bread
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover it with a clean dishtowel. Place the bowl somewhere warm and let the dough rise until it doubles in size. Shape the bread into a loaf or loaves and place them on a baking sheet. Alternatively, put the dough in a loaf pan. After shaping the loaves, let the dough rise again for another 30 to 40 minutes, or according to your recipe’s instructions. Preheat your oven, cut a single horizontal slash or several diagonal slashes into the top of each loaf, and bake the bread until it turns golden brown. Allow the bread to cool completely.
References and ResourcesHow to Make Homemade Bread; Cathy L. Kidd
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day; Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois
The Kitchn: How to Make Basic White Sandwich Bread
Serious Eats: Breadmaking 101 -- How to Mix and Knead Bread Dough Like a Pro
The Huffington Post: Baking Yeast -- A Guide to the Different Types
Saveur: Choosing Flour for Bread Baking
Gluten Free Girl and the Chef: A Guide to Gluten-Free Baking
Fine Cooking: No Need to Knead Bread