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How to Make Bread

Bread has been a staple of our diet across almost all cultures for thousands of years. In fact, bread is one of the oldest prepared foods. Historians and researchers have found evidence that people have been baking bread -- and breaking bread -- for over 30,000 years.

While our ancestors made bread from scratch, today folks tend to buy it from the grocery store. But there’s something special about making bread at home. In this guide, we’ll answer questions about baking your own bread and describe how to bake bread on a Traeger wood pellet grill.

How to Make Bread

Baking bread is science. Getting that perfect loaf of bread is a matter of careful chemical reactions. You don’t need to be a food scientist to bake delicious bread, but having a general understanding of how bread works can help you bake perfect sandwich loaves, garlic bread, banana bread, and more.

The Science of Bread

At its core, bread is a simple mixture of water and milled flour. Matzo, which is a large part of Jewish culture, is literally water and flour that’s mixed and baked until crisp. It falls into the family of unleavened breads.

  • Tortillas (flour and corn)
  • Arepa
  • Roti
  • Bannock
  • Rieska
  • Chapati
  • Pancakes

Unleavened bread is one of two categories of bread. The other category is leavened bread which includes a leavening agent. The most common leavening agents are yeast, baking powder, and baking soda. Baking powder and soda are chemical agents that create carbon dioxide and causes the bread to rise.

Yeast is a living fungus that springs to life when it comes in contact with warm water. It creates carbon dioxide by eating some of the sugar and flour in the bread mixture.

The other fun chemical reaction in bread involves gluten. Of course, not everyone can eat gluten (we’ll share some tips on that soon) but when you knead flour that has gluten, the gluten stretches and forms gas bubbles. These gas bubbles work with the yeast, baking soda, or baking powder to make risen bread light and airy.

What Is Bread Made Of?

At a minimum, bread is made with water and milled flour. Those two things are the core ingredients of any bread recipe. For leavened (and quick) breads, yeast or baking powder/soda is added. Salt is typically added as well.

However, bread can have many different ingredients depending on the type of bread. Other common ingredients in bread include:

  • Fruit, juice, or sugar
  • Eggs
  • Dairy such as milk or yogurt
  • Butter, oil, and lard
  • Nuts and hearty grains
  • Herbs and spices

What Is the Difference Between Bread Flour and All-Purpose Flour?

The biggest difference between all-purpose flour and bread flour is protein. Bread flour tends to have more protein, usually 11% to 13% protein by volume. The additional protein content helps the dough produce more gluten, and results in airier bread.

How to Make Bread Flour

If you can’t find bread flour in the grocery store, you can make your own with all-purpose flour and some wheat gluten. Start with 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Then remove 1.5 teaspoons of the flour and replace it with 1.5 teaspoons of vital wheat gluten, and whisk it together.

How to Make Bread Without Yeast

If you don’t have yeast, you can still make leavened bread with a combination of baking soda and acid. Examples of acid include lemon juice, buttermilk, and vinegar. You could also simply substitute baking powder or a sourdough starter if you don’t have yeast.

How to Make Gluten-Free Bread

Gluten is a key ingredient in making bread light and airy. You can still make delicious bread without it; you’ll just need some extra ingredients. Instead of standard bread flour, gluten-free bread relies on grains that don’t have gluten: almond flour, cornstarch, rice flour, tapioca starch, and potato flour. You’ll also need xanthan gum to act as a binding agent since gluten is the binding agent in standard loaves of bread.

How Long to Bake Bread

The time it takes to bake bread depends on the size of the loaf, the temperature of the oven, and the ingredients. For example, fruit can add moisture to your bread, so it will require more baking time. Typically, bread should be baked until a wooden skewer inserted into it comes out clean and dry. See below for recipes with specifics on how long to bake bread.

How to Make Bread on Your Traeger Grill

A Traeger is more than a grill -- it can also be used as an oven. That means you can make fantastic loaves of bread on your Traeger. Plus, you’ll get some wood-fired flavor from your wood pellets, resulting in an even more flavorful loaf.

To get you started, we’ll show you how to make white bread on your Traeger. But not just any white bread, this rustic country loaf is great for sandwiches or a wonderful side.

First, you need to make your starter.

  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1¼ cups unbleached white flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour

Mix your starter ingredients together to make a thick, pudding-like dough mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rest for at least two hours -- overnight for the best possible flavor. After your starter rests, return it to a mixing bowl and mix it by hand or with the bread hook attachment on your mixer.

To make the dough, stir down your starter with a spoon and add:

  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3¼ cups unbleached white flour
  • 1¾ teaspoons salt

At first, the dough will be a loose, messy mass. That’s exactly what we’re looking for at this point. Let it rest for 12 to 15 minutes, then stir again. This time, it should become smoother and more cohesive.

Now, transfer your dough to a flat surface and begin kneading and adding more flour as necessary. You should knead for 10 to 12 minutes. After kneading, put the dough in a lightly greased bowl, covering lightly with plastic wrap. Set aside and let it rise for 1 to 2 hours or until it doubles in size.

After the dough rises, deflate it gently, but try to not lose all of the air. You can make either one large loaf or two small loaves with this recipe. Form the entire dough into one large ball or two balls of equal size.

Place them on a baking sheet covered with a piece of parchment paper that has been dusted with cornmeal. Make sure to place the loaves seam side down. Cover the loaf or loaves with lightly greased plastic wrap and let sit for 45 to 90 minutes. It should grow 40% to 50% larger.

This video about baking dinner rolls has more good information about the doughmaking process.

Preheat your Traeger to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. In the meantime, vent your dough by slashing or cross-hatching with a sharp knife. This will prevent unsightly bursts in your bread as it bakes. Dust the top with flour.

Reduce the heat of your Traeger to 425 degrees and start baking. Spritz your bread with water every few minutes for the first 15 minutes of your bake. Your bread should take about 25 to 30 to bake to a rich golden-brown color, and reach an ideal internal temperature of 190 degrees.

Bread Recipes

As we mentioned before, humans have been baking bread for over 30,000 years. That’s a lot of time to develop and perfect hundreds of different recipes! Here are a few of our favorite bread recipes.

How to Make Whole Wheat Bread

This simple but hearty whole wheat bread recipe was developed by Jim Lahey of the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York's "Hell's Kitchen." It’s excellent for sandwiches, avocado toast, or on its own with a pad of butter.

Ingredients

  • Extra-virgin olive oil as needed
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1¼-ounce packet active dry yeast
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ cups water
  • Cornmeal as needed

Serves: 4

Cooking time: 1 hour

How to Make Banana Bread

Folks who can eat gluten won’t even notice that this banana bread recipe uses gluten-free flour and almond flour rather than standard flour. Your gluten-free friends will thank you.

Ingredients

  • 2 bananas
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup gluten-free flour
  • 3/4 cup almond flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chunks

Serves: 4

Cooking time: 55 minutes

How to Make Garlic Bread

Garlic bread is a famous sidekick to hearty pasta dishes like spaghetti and lasagna, but our garlic bread might steal the show. Add mozzarella for an indulgent cheesy garlic bread that the whole family will love.

Ingredients

  • 1 baguette
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • Red chile flakes
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

Serves: 4

Cooking time: 20 minutes

How to Make Monkey Bread

Monkey bread isn’t just delicious, it’s fun to eat. Our recipe is a slightly more adult take on this sleepover staple from our childhood and features a homemade butter bourbon sauce.

Ingredients

  • 3 cans Pillsbury Grands Buttermilk Biscuits
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup butter, unsalted
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon bourbon

Serves: 6

Cooking time: 40 minutes

How to Make Beer Bread

Isn’t it great when your beer can do the heavy lifting for you? This hearty loaf of beer bread is perfect for soaking up juices and stews, and it’s a breeze to bake.

Ingredients

  • 1⅔ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 12-ounce can of beer
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted

Serves: 4

Cooking time: 1 hour

How to Make Apple Bread

There are few flavor combinations more universally beloved than apple and cinnamon. Our recipe takes a traditional apple bread and turns it into an apple cinnamon coffee bread. We love it with our morning French press, and it’s a big hit at potlucks and family gatherings, too.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Serves: 6

Cooking time: 50 minutes

How to Make Irish Soda Bread

If you can’t find yeast or don’t want to wait for yeast to do its thing, try Irish soda bread. It relies on baking soda to rise, not yeast. It has a delicious, rich flavor that we love with eggs at breakfast or with a stew at dinner.

Ingredients

  • Cornmeal
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons sugar
  • 1¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • Butter to taste

Serves: 8

Cooking time: 45 minutes

How to Make Zucchini Bread

Banana bread gets a lot of glory, but zucchini bread is a surprisingly sweet-but-healthy treat. We especially love zucchini bread at breakfast warmed up with a bit of butter.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 2 large zucchini
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Serves: 6

Cooking time: 50 minutes

How to Make Pumpkin Bread

When the weather starts to get a chill, we start craving all things pumpkin. This pumpkin bread is a delicious choice for breakfast or can be served alongside your go-to Thanksgiving favorites.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pumpkin, canned
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Butter as needed

Serves: 8

Cooking time: 1 hour

How to Make Focaccia

Focaccia is most famous in Italian dishes, but it’s more versatile than some folks think. Our pro tip is to grab two slabs of this herby flatbread, pack them with barbecue, and slather with sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm water (110° F to 115° F)
  • 1/2 ounce yeast, active
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ teaspoons Italian herbs, dried
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Coarse sea salt as needed

Serves: 4

Cooking time: 40 minutes