How to Make & Bake Yeast Breads

By into the rustic - 1:10 PM

Learn how yeast works, how to knead dough, how to form a loaf, and recipes to use!

Yeast For Dummies

Getting Yeast

Most yeast is bought in the store in single foil envelopes. Make sure that you double check the expiration date on the back. Yeast is a living thing, and so it too only lasts for so long.

Bread yeast is not the same as beer yeast so don’t hatch any plans on starting your own homebrewery extravaganza. You will instead make something truly disgusting and lose a considerable amount of friends.
If you are feeling adventurous, you can grow your own yeast for baking with a sourdough starter. (See Chapter on sourdough breads for starter recipe)

Storing Yeast

For long-term storage, keep your yeast in the freezer. For short-term, the refrigerator is best.

Testing Your Yeast Beforehand

Before you waste your entire afternoon getting elbow deep in gooey dough that won't rise , test your yeast before you start.
Take the yeast packet and mix it with warm water and a little sugar (yeast beasties food) and wait a few seconds. If you see that it starts bubbling, then eureka! It’s alive! If nothing happens, then toss out the yeast, and start with a fresh batch.

Proper Temperature for Yeast

When using yeast, do not exceed water temps of 110-115 degrees F. Yeast as I mentioned before, is alive, and boiling water or too hot of water will kill it and your dough will not rise.

The Way of the Yeast

As yeast grows in your bread bowl, it is consuming sugar and producing alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. The alcohol bakes off in the oven, while the carbon dioxide gas leaves your bread loaf porous and light. Do not let the yeast sit for too long while you wait for your dough to rise, as in hours and hours and hours, or wild yeast will take over and start to work in your bowl. This will give the dough a sour taste.

Tips for Making Great Yeast Breads

1.Warm up all your ingredients before combining- *Do Not Overheat Yeast*

2. Dissolve the dry yeast in water only, do not substitute for any other liquid. Stir the yeast in the water thoroughly until dissolved, and then add some sweetener- this will activate the yeast. Now you can add your remaining ingredients.

3. Before you start baking, make sure the kitchen is nice and warm so the dough rises nicely. Do not place your bread bowl to rise on top of the hot oven or any place with too much heat or the yeast will die and the dough will not rise.

Cold Kitchen Cheats: You can boil water in a tea kettle or large pot on your stove. When finished boiling, the steam vapors will warm up the air in the room, place your bread bowl close to the kettle and its steam to help your dough rise quickly in cold temps. Also, preheating your oven early will warm up the kitchen air and make your dough rise well.

4. More sugar equals better yeast activity.

5. Whole wheat breads will take longer to rise because they are more dense.

6. Knead your dough until it is smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky to the touch. Then test to see if it is ready by imprinting a finger in the dough. If the dough snaps back quickly it is in the proper state for the first rising. Cover your dough in a greased bowl. Place it in a warm but not hot place and let rise. Punch down dough after it has doubled in bulk. The reason for punching down is that on the first rising, the dough is full of air and will make your loaf have large air pockets when baked. Punching down and allowing a second rising makes the dough more uniform and better in quality.

7. Shape your dough into rolls or bread size and place in well greased pans. Cover with a light cloth. Now it is ready for the second rising to double bulk in the pans. When risen, place in preheated oven to appropriate temperature for your recipe and bake for the allotted time.

Need to Knead

Most people never try to bake their own bread because they are too intimidated with the kneading process. I remember watching my mom knead bread dough every couple of weeks to make her famous home-made bread that we all craved fresh out of the oven.

I was always watching and trying to memorize her movements- she made it look so fluid and easy. My own learning method happened years later when I first tried to bake a loaf in my Brooklyn loft. It was awful- I added too much flour so it was dry, tasteless, and could have doubled as a weapon.

The best way to learn is through trial and lots of error. But we all encounter it, so do not be discouraged. Try, try and try again if necessary. Just don't be a sucker and buy a bread machine. It takes all the fun out of baking, and you look like you are 4 years old using an easy bake oven.

To get started, take your well mixed bread dough and place it on a floured counter top or bread board. The dough will be sticky so coat your hands well with flour too to prevent gumming up. Now take the left side of the dough with your left hand and the right side of the dough with your right hand. Fold the sides in with one sweep simultaneously, and press them into the middle of the dough while pushing the dough away from you. This constant motion of squishing the outside of the dough edge into its middle is the kneading process. What you are doing is removing all the large air bubbles in the dough. If left in, your dough will expand, and the large air bubbles will pop and your lovely bread loaf will collapse into a pile.

The key is that as you are kneading, only add just enough flour as needed, very, very gradually. This should be only added when the dough gets sticky and sticks to your hands or too much to the counter top or board. Do not over flour or your dough will get too dry. This is a common mistake that novices make. The goal is to add the least amount of flour that you can to make a loaf.

Once you feel the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticky it is ready. Press a couple fingertips lightly into the dough to make a depression. The dough should snap back up into place like a rubber ball. Your dough is now ready for the first rising.

How to Shape a Loaf

1. Flatten your dough out into a rectangle shape on the counter.

2. Carefully fold the dough into thirds while simultaneously pressing out any air bubbles. Seal the seams well.

3. Fold up starting on the long side. Estimate the loaf size you require by comparing it to your pans.

4. Pinch the long seam together and also the ends of the loaf.

5. Put your loaves in greased pans and let rise covered with a towel for its 2nd rising. (The second rising is always the fastest.)

Yeast Bread Recipes

Best White Bread
1 c. Milk
6 Tbl. Sugar
2 tsp. Salt
6 Tbl. Butter/Marg.
3 c. lukewarm water
2 pkg. dried yeast
5 c. flour, plus extra for kneading


Scald milk until just boiling lightly. Add butter to the milk and stir until melted completely. Let this cool until lukewarm. In a large bread bowl add 3 c. lukewarm water and dissolve the yeast in it. Now add in the milk mixture. Gradually stir in the flour and mix in thoroughly. Add more flour gradually as needed until you have a workable dough to knead with. Turn the dough onto a floured board and start kneading. Keep gradually adding more flour as you need it until dough is elastic and not sticky.

Wash out the mixing bowl and grease with veggie oil. Put dough back in bowl, cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place to double bulk. Punch dough down. Grease four bread pans with shortening. Cut dough into four sections. Fold each over, seal, and shape the four loaves. Place the loaves in the pans, cover again with a towel and let rise for the final time to double bulk. Bake in 400 degree F oven for 30 min.

Whole Wheat Bread
3/4 c. Milk
1/3 c. Butter
1/4 c. Sugar
1 Tbl. Salt
1/3 c. Molasses
2 Tbl. Dry yeast (or 2 pkgs)
1 1/2 c. Lukewarm water
5 c. Whole Wheat Flour
White Flour


Scald milk until just boiling. Add butter to the hot milk-let melt down completely. Add to this the sugar, salt and molasses. In your bread bowl, dissolve the yeast with the lukewarm water. Once milk mixture has cooled, add this to your bread bowl. Now add the whole wheat flour and stir until smooth. Next add gradually some white flour until the dough reaches a kneadable state. Turn the dough onto a floured board. Knead and gradually add more white flour as needed until the dough is no longer sticky and it is smooth and elastic. Grease two bread pans. Let dough rise in a greased bowl until double bulk. Punch down. Divide dough in half, shape into loaves, and place in bread pans. Cover with cloth and let rise second time to double bulk. Bake in oven at 400 degrees F for 30 min.

Oatmeal Bread

2 Tbl. Yeast
1/2 c. Lukewarm Water
1 1/2 c. Boiling Water
1 c. Oatmeal
1/2 c. Molasses
1/3 c. shortening
2 tsp. Salt
6 c. White Flour
2 Beaten Eggs


Mix yeast in lukewarm water till dissolved, set aside. Mix boiling water with shorteing to dissolve. Then to this add oatmeal, molasses, and salt. Let this shortening mixture cool to lukewarm. Add yeast mix to it. Now stir in 2 c. flour and the beaten eggs. Beat together until smooth. Add remaining flour gradually. Grease top of the mixed dough still in bowl and cover and refrigerate overnight. Next day shape dough into 2 loaves and put in greased pans. Let rise to double bulk. Bake at 375 degrees F for 45 min.

Baked Doughnuts
2 pkg. Yeast
1/4 c. Warm Water
1/2 c. Milk
1/2 c. Sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp. Salt
1/3 c. Shortening
1 tsp. Nutmeg
4 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon


Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Scald milk, add sugar, salt, and shortening to milk. Add 2 beaten eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon and flour. Knead dough, adding more flour as needed. Let dough rise in greased bowl bout an hour until it is double in bulk. Turn dough onto a floured board. Roll out with rolling pin until 1/2” thick. Cut with a doughnut cutter and lift onto a greased cookie sheet. Brush each doughnut with melted butter. Let the doughnuts rise to double bulk again. Bake at 425 degrees F for 8-10 min. Brush with more butter and then dust with cinnamon and sugar.

English Muffins

1 pkg. Yeast
1 1/2 c. Lukewarm Water
3 Tbl. Sugar
1/2 c. Powdered Milk
1 tsp. Salt
1 Beaten Egg
3 Tbl. Butter
4 c. Flour


Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water in a bread bowl. To this add sugar, powdered milk, salt and the beaten egg. Melt the butter in a small pan on the stove. Let cool and add to yeast mixture. Add flour gradually stirring until smooth. Oil a griddle and test temperature by sprinkling with water. If droplets skitter around it’s ready. Scatter lightly some cornmeal on the griddle, form the dough into patty shapes and fry like a pancake. Turn each patty over to cook the other side.

8 c. Flour
1 Tbl. Salt
1 Tbl. Sugar
2 pkg. Yeast
2 c. Lukewarm Potato Water


Dissolve yeast in potato water. (Potato water is the starchy water left after boiling potatoes). Add remaining ingredients and stir until smooth. Knead dough on floured board about 10 minutes. Place the dough in a greased bowl and let rise to double bulk. Punch dough down. Pinch off sections of dough to make ropes 6” long and 3/4” wide. Dampen the ends of each rope and press lightly together to make a bagel shape. Take 1/2 gallon of water and set to boil on stove. At a rolling boil add 2 Tbl. Sugar to water. Drop bagels into the water one at a time. After they rise, turn them over for 1 minute. Take the bagels out and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 450 degrees F for 10-15 min or until golden brown.

Pizza Dough
1 pkg. Yeast
2 Tbl. Warm Water
1 c. Boiling Water
2 Tbl. Shortening
3 c. Flour


Dissolved yeast in warm water. Pour boiling water over shortening in a bread bowl. Let cool. Pour yeast solution in the bread bowl and add to this 1 1/2 c. flour. Mix till smooth. Add remaining flour. Grease 2 pizza pans. Divide dough in half and spread on pans. Cover with light cloths and let rise for 2-3 hours. Bake until just about done in oven. Take pizza dough out and spread sauce and favorite toppings, put back in oven and finish baking.

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