Quick breads are the easiest types of homemade breads to make. These breads are generally sweet; some well-known quick breads are banana bread, zucchini bread and cornbread. Quick breads rely on baking powder or baking soda instead of yeast to make them rise. They can be prepared and baked immediately, without lengthy kneading and rising times.
Yeast breads are the most common type of bread served in homes, restaurants and bakeries. It relies on yeast, a microorganism sold in packets in its dried form, to make the bread rise. This type of bread takes a little more time and effort to make than the quick breads, but the improvement in taste and texture is worth the effort. Yeast breads come in many forms, such as dinner rolls, English muffins, pita bread, pizza crust and French and Italian breads.
Sourdough bread takes the longest to make of all the types of bread. It is made from a culture that is stirred into the other ingredients and allowed to rise for many hours. The sourdough culture consists of different types of yeast; there are slight differences in flavor with different sourdough cultures. Each time you bake bread, you must reserve some of the culture for the next batch of bread. There are sourdough cultures that are hundreds of years old, having been passed down through generations of bakers.
The simplest breads are some of the tastiest. The only truly necessary ingredients to make bread are water, flour, leavening, such as yeast or baking soda, and salt. The quality of the bread will only be as good as the quality of the ingredients used, so buy the best you can afford. Some other foods that are commonly added to breads include milk, eggs, sweeteners, oil, nuts, fruits, cheese, herbs and vegetables.
The process of making bread consists of mixing the ingredients, kneading the dough, shaping the dough into loaves or other forms, allowing the dough to rise and baking the bread. Kneading the dough is the most demanding part of the process. Some recipes call for letting the dough rise two or more times, with kneading in between times; other recipes only require one short rising period. Be sure to preheat the oven before baking the bread, or your bread may not rise properly.
Homemade breads don’t need the preservatives and artificial ingredients that are commonly used in store-bought breads. You can use whole grain flours, nuts, and pureed or grated vegetables in your bread to add extra nutrition. Making bread at home will save money, because the ingredients are much less expensive than commercial breads. Perhaps the greatest benefit is that fresh, homemade bread tastes better than the mass-produced bread you buy at a store.