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A Beginners Guide to Baking a Loaf of Bread

Are you ready to try baking a loaf of bread but don’t know where to start? Don’t let the fear of baking with yeast hold you back from experiencing the satisfaction (and uh…mazing smell) of a warm home-baked loaf of bread. This tutorial walks you through the process of baking two loaves of soft delicious Amish white bread. (Only want one loaf? No worries, there are notes in the comments for to bake only one loaf)

So what’s the secret to baking a loaf of bread?

It’s actually quite easy to bake a loaf of bread at home if you have clear and uncomplicated directions. I’ll tell you about the supplies you need, the techniques you use, and how to time things so the whole process feels effortless. Along the way, I’ll answer some frequently asked questions, like:

  1. What ingredients and equipment you need
  2. Why tyou should proof your yeast
  3. How to knead bread with your mixer
  4. When the dough is done kneading
  5. How to shape dough to form a loaf
  6. How to proof your bread
  7. Learn to know when it is ready to go in the oven
  8. How to tell when its done baking

Ingredients and equipment you need for baking a loaf of bread

You don’t need much to make bread, but here are the must-have essentials that will help you bake great bread every time.

  • Stand mixer– Using a mixer with the dough hook attachment makes short work out of kneading the dough.
  • Loaf pan-Loaf pans come in different sizes. Look for pans that hold about 1 1/2 lbs. of dough. You’ll need two if you are doing the full recipe.
  • Large bowl– You’ll use a bowl for proofing the dough, so be sure to give it plenty of extra room to rise.
  • Unbleached bread flour– Look for flour labeled “best for bread” or “bread flour” and don’t substitute all-purpose.
  • Yeast– Active dry yeast or quick-acting yeast is what this recipe calls for. Check the packet for an expiration date.
  • Vegetable Oil– Any sort of neutral-tasting vegetable oil will work well.
  • Sugar– Granulated white sugar gives this loaf a delicious and irresistible flavor.
  • Salt– Arguably, one of the most important ingredients in bread. Don’t forget to add it!

How to time your baking for effortless results

To make the recipe, you’ll need about three hours from start to finish. Most of the time required for this recipe is the passive time when the dough is resting. That means you don’t need to do much, but you should be nearby. Depending on how warm your house is, or what the weather is like it can take a little more time, or a little less. I recommend starting the recipe about 4 hours before your want to eat fresh warm bread

  • Mixing: about 20 minutes
  • First Proof: about an hour
  • Shaping: 15 minutes
  • Second Proof: about an hour
  • Baking: about 30 minutes 

Let’s bake a loaf of bread, with step by step directions

It’s time to get baking! I’ll show you how to avtivate the yeast and mix the bread dough, how to proof your dough and divide it into loaves, how to shape a loaf of bread, and finally proofing abd baking your loaves.

Step One: Activate the yeast and mix the dough

  • Proofing the yeast
  • Simple Ingredients
  • Mixing the dough

Most bread baking recipes will call for “activating the yeast”. What this means is that you dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm water and wait for it to get foamy. The water should feel warm but not hot when you test it on your wrist. It’s kind of like testing a baby bottle to make sure it’s not too hot. Once you have seen the bubbles and verified that your yeast is still active, you can move on to the next step of mixing the dough.

Mix your dough by adding the yeast mixture, oil, salt and all but 1 cup of the flour to the bowl of your mixer. Use the dough hook attachment to combine the ingredients on low until all the flour is incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough has become smooth and elastic. Since flour varies in its ability to absorb water, there isn’t an exact measurement for how much flour you will add. If the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl, add a little more flour. If it looks too thick add a small amount of water. You may not be able to tell if it needs anything until you’ve mixed for about 5 minutes. You can tell when the dough is done because it will make a slapping sound on the side of the bowl and when you touch it, it will feel smooth and elastic.

Step Two: Let the dough proof and divide it for shaping

  • First Proofing
  • Divide into two pieces
  • Press into a rectangle

After you have mixed your dough its time to let it rest. Place the dough in a large bowl that has been drizzled with oil. Turn the dough over a few times to coat it and cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap. Allow it to rest for about an hour. You are looking for the dough to grow about twice the size.

When the dough has doubled, Gently deflate it by turning it out onto a floured surface and using your fingers to press the air out of the dough. This helps produce a softer, spongier loaf.

Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Gently press the dough into a rectangular shape approx the width of the bread pan you are going to use.

Step Three: Lets shape a loaf of bread

  • Ready to shape
  • Firmly roll the dough
  • Seal the seam

Don’t be intimidated by shaping a loaf of bread. It takes a little practice before your loaves come out looking perfect, but even ugly loaves taste good! Here are a few tips:

  1. Gently flatten the loaf into a rectangular shape approx the same width as the loaf pan.
  2. Now firmly roll it into a log shape, making sure not to trap air in the roll.
  3. Gently pinch the seam closed from one end to the other.
  4. Place the loaf seam down in a well-oiled pan.
  5. Cover the loaves with plastic wrap or a towel while they are proofing in the pans.

Step Four: Proofing and baking your loaves

  • Press your finger into the loaf
  • If it leaves a dent, its ready
  • Brush with egg wash before baking

The best way to tell when your loaf is fully proofed is to touch it. Gently touch your fingertip to the loaf. It should give a little and leave a tiny dimple where your finger was. If it springs right back, give it a little more time. It usually takes about an hour for the bread loaf to proof.

  1. When your loaf is fully proofed, gently brush the dough with the egg wash.
  2. No need to cut the top. It will rise nicely without it.
  3. Place the bread in the center of a preheated 350-degree oven. Make sure there is not a rack above the loaves. It will need this room to rise.
  4. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the bread is a dark golden brown color.

Amish White Bread

Step by step tutorial for learning to bake a loaf of bread

  • Stand mixer with dough hook attachment
  • 1 cup Warm Water
  • 1 cup Warm Milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/3 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp Active Dry Yeast
  • 5-6 cup Unbleached Flour
  • 1 egg plus 2 tbsp water (for brushing on top)
  1. Activate the yeast by disolving it with the warm milk and water. Add the sugar and stir until well dissolved. Let this sit for about 5 minutes until the yeast is bubbly.

  2. Mix the dough by adding the yeast mixture to the bowl of your mixer along with the salt, oil and flour. Hold one cup of flour back- you'll add this later if needed. With your mixer on low begin mixing. When all of the flour is incorporated, turn the mixer up to a medium speed. Kneed for about three minutes. Watch for the dough to come together as one mass and stop sticking to the sides of the bowl. Add a little extra flour if it still looks sticky after 5 minutes of mixing.

  3. The dough is done when it is smooth and elasticy. It should not be sticking to the sides.

  4. Let the dough rest by placing in in an oiled bowl and covering it with either plastic wrap or a towel.

  5. Shape and divide the dough by inverting the dough onto a floured surface. Press the air out of the dough and divide into two equal portions. Gently press each portion into a rectangle approx the same width as the pan. Firmly roll the dough into a loaf shape. Pinch the seam to seal.

  6. Proof the loaf by placing the dough seam down into an oiled loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Allow the loaf to proof for about an hour. Use the poke test to see if the dough is ready to bake. When it is ready it will leave a small impression when touched.

  7. Bake the loaf by placing it into the center of a 350° preheated oven. Make sure there is no rack above the bread loaf. It will need room to rise. Bake for approx. 30 minutes or until the dough sounds hollow when thumped and smells aromatic like fresh bread.

Side Dish American Bread, Loaf, Yeast

Congratulations. You have just mastered baking a loaf of bread!

You can see that baking a loaf of bread isn’t that hard. When you break it down into simple steps its much easier to tackle. Having the right equipment makes the job so much easier too! Now that you have two beautiful loaves of bread, will you keep them both for yourself of give one away?

Let me know in the comments how you liked this recipe!