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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Cooking time: 1 hour
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.
Cooking time: 55 minutes
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.
Cooking time: 20 minutes
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.
Cooking time: 40 minutes
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.
Cooking time: 1 hour
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.
Cooking time: 50 minutes
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.
Cooking time: 45 minutes
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.
Cooking time: 50 minutes
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.
Cooking time: 1 hour
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.
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Salty and crisp on the outside, warm and creamy on the inside. Finish these potatoes with a dollop of butter and your toppings of choice.
Add this fresh and colorful side dish to your next dinner. Carrots, squash, peppers, and snow peas are grilled on the Traeger, then tossed in a light and flavorful lemon herb vinaigrette.
For an easy vegetable side, just sprinkle asparagus spears with some of our veggie rub. It’s refreshingly zesty and makes Traeger-roasted asparagus taste even more delicious.
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