Why You Should Make Homemade Bread - It's Not Nearly As Hard As You Think

When I hear people talking about others who go to extremes with homemade foods, I often hear them roll their eyes while saying, "Well, it's not like I make my own bread or anything." 

I usually try to stay quiet or let out a muttered, "Yea, those people are such weirdos," and change the subject. Because yes - I am that weirdo that makes all our bread and - for lack of a better term - dough products, homemade. I used to think people who made their own pizza dough, or cinnamon roll dough were crazy-town, let alone those that made their own sandwich bread or pita bread, I mean, we have modern day conveniences for a reason, right? 

But along the way in my whole foods journey, I stumbled across the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day (AB5) and it literally rocked my flour-sifting, dough-rising, bread-baking world. First, let it be known, this is not a sponsored post in anyway way at all, I just really love the book and want to share how it's turned my idea of making homemade breads upside down and influenced the way we eat. 


As I've talked about over and over again, Mike and I are not all about eating 100 percent clean, or using an elimination diet of any kind - we believe in all things in moderation - even moderation! Which means gluten and white bread are definitely apart of our diet. But - we also believe that we'd like to avoid processed foods/preservatives/wonky ingredients that we can't even pronounce where we can. Which lead me down the path to finding an easy, simply and FAST method for making our own bread products.

And AB5 was the answer. If I'm being honest, it's not truly "five minutes," at least for me, but their idea that's it's five minutes of hands on, active work time. Once to make the dough (Probably takes me 10 minutes in reality - from set up to clean up. Plus, you're making one batch of dough that will result in four, one pound loaves - saving you more time.) and another five minutes (10 for me) of active time to shape and put the dough in the oven to bake. But all in all, 20 minutes of true active time (and I'm including clean up!) isn't much - and homemade bread is definitely worth it.  The first time I ever made their master recipe, Boule, Mike and I ate the entire thing standing at the kitchen counter while dipping it in EVOO. It was amazing. These days, a typically summer dinner for Mike and I will often be a couple of baguettes, homemade pesto and bruschetta from the garden.

When I first started, it sometimes took me up to 20-30 minutes, but I've gotten a lot faster, particularly since I've made some of the recipes so many times I have them memorized. I will say, that just like anything, it takes a few tries to get the hang of it, and I've definitely undercooked some loaves or had some really weird, misshapen ones. (But at least those ones taste amazing still!) If you get the book, I'd encourage you to check out their website/blog where they answer lots of questions. That's how I learned to shape and bake hamburger buns and hot dog buns, and where I got the braided chocolate bread recipe pictured below. They post a lot of variations of their recipes, and offer video tutorials (so helpful for shaping the dough and turning out pretty loaves!) and other tips.

Without sounding too much like an advertisement (and I know this totally does!) here are some of the reasons I love the book and how I've adapted it to our life.
  1. The recipes are super forgiving. The type of yeast doesn't matter, the water temp doesn't matter, and the length of rising time is flexible. They make recommendations, but really "it's anything will work," and I love that mentality for a non-perfectionist like me.
  2. Not a lot of dishes. I make mine in a huge glass bowl with a wooden spoon. Besides a few measuring cups, I hardly have any dirty dishes. Plus, they recommend reusing the same bowl (without washing) for your next batch, if you're looking for a more sourdough-type dough. Love not having to wash dishes.
  3. The learning curve is small. As I mentioned above, there is a bit of one, but that's really just to perfect your technique and the "look" of the loaf. Overall, the recipes are very simple and you can use a variety of doughs for different types of bread. For example, I make the Olive Oil Dough for pizza dough, pita bread, flatbreads and focaccia. One dough recipe to learn and store, just shaped and baked differently.
  4. No kneading! Truly, no kneading at all. I feel like that's an area I always screw up with other recipes, I love not having to worry about it with AB5.
  5. It's not time-consuming. Most of their doughs take about two hours to rise - which isn't very long if you know much about baking bread! So I make mine in the morning while Eli's eating or right after breakfast then later throw it in the fridge until that evening/afternoon when I'm ready to bake it. The great part is you can let it rise longer and it won't be a big deal. I've even forgotten about it and let it rise about five hours too long and it was still great. Plus, the dough last for up to two weeks in the fridge, so you can make one loaf that afternoon, and save the rest for another day(s). I often make a double batch of EVOO dough, then divide it into one pound loaves and freeze them for later. Then when I need them for say, pizza, I can pull out a few loaves the night before to thaw in the fridge depending on how many people I'm feeding. 
(Pictured below, braided challah flatbread - anything made with the challah dough will blow your mind. Mike and I eat it plain for dessert. Gah!)



While you can find a lot of their recipes online, I'd encourage you to get the book to learn more about the why and how behind their methods, and there are still a lot of recipes that you can't find elsewhere. I think they have up to four books now, and are coming out with a gluten free one in the near future - so watch for it if that's something you need. If you're looking to purchase one to get started, I'd recommend The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes A Day - it's their original book (which is what I have) just updated. 

Okay, I promise, I won't leave you without at least one recipe, and today I'm going to share their 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread. One of the big things I wanted to stop purchasing was sandwich bread. It's expensive, has tons of preservatives and/or weird ingredients, and usually has a lot of added sugar. I've experimented with a few of their whole wheat loaves to see what Mike and I like best, and this is the clear winner time and time again - and now, we both prefer this over any store-bought sandwich bread. 

100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

I use the recipe on page 76 of AB5 and the baking method one of the author's share here. 
Makes three 1.5 lb loaves (I usually just split the risen dough in half to form two loaves ~ 2 lbs if you're using a scale.)

1 1/2 c lukewarm water
1 1/2 c lukewarm milk
1 1/2 Tbsp granulated yeast (1 1/2 packets)
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 c honey
5 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil 
6 2/3 c whole wheat flour

1. Mix the yeast salt, honey, and oil with the lukewarm water and milk in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded, not airtight food container.
2. Mix in the whole wheat flour without kneading. You can use a spoon, 14-cup food processor, heavy duty stand mixer, or I tend to use a wooden spoon right in the bowl. 
3. Cover, allow to rest at room temperature until the dough rises and collapses (or flatten on top); approximately 2 to 3 hours.
4. The dough can be used right after rising, but if it's your first time, I recommend popping it in the fridge because cold dough is easier to handle. Refrigerate in a lidded but not airtight container and use within the next five days or freeze for up to a month. 
5. On baking day, lightly grease a 9x4x3-inch nonstick loaf pan. Using wet hands, scoop out a 1 1/2-pound (cantaloupe-size) handful of dough. With wet hands, quickly shape the dough into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go. (They have videos of this online, might be worth watching!)
6. Drop the loaf into the prepared pan - it should be a little more than half full. 
7. Let the dough rest for 1 hour and 40 minutes. 
8. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
9. After the rest, place the loaf on a rack near the center of the oven. Bake the loaf for 60 minutes or until deeply browned.

10. Flip the bread on to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before slicing to cut into sandwich slices.

Once we settled on a typical recipe for our sandwich bread, the next quandary we had to figure out was how to store it since we don't eat it fast enough before it spoils (fresh bread = short shelf life). Well, don't worry - I found the answer in the AB5 comments section. I now just bake the loaf as directed, then once totally cool (usually I leave it overnight on the cooling rack) I slice it into individual pieces. It has a soft crust, so it's easy to to with a serrated knife, but I could see an electric knife come in pretty handy here. 


Once it's all cut, I store it in a freezer safe plastic bag in the freezer. Then when we need a slice, I either 1) toast it or 2) microwave it for about 20 seconds. Or, say I'm making Mike a sandwich for his lunch the next day, I just make the sandwich with still-frozen bread the night before and it's defrosted and delicious by lunch the next day.


There is seriously nothing like fresh-baked homemade bread. It smells amazing, tastes amazing and is still good for you. If you've never done it, try it - I think you'll find it's much easier than you think.

ps. The authors, Jeff and Zoe are from Minnesota and they talk about "Minnesotan stuff" in their books. Fun fact if you're local!

pssst. And thank you so much for all your sweet comments on the blog and other forms of social media yesterday on our second pregnancy! All three of us are thrilled to expand our family and we appreciate your kind words!

Like this post? Here's the others in this series.
Food For Thought: Misunderstandings & Baby Steps
Food For Thought: My Transformation
Food for Thought: Finding & Making Great Recipes
Food for Thought: Meal Planning Made Easy

3 comments:

  1. Okay, you have inspired me. I am always so impressed with your ease of bread making so I think I need to give it a shot!

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  2. We tried it! 60 minutes was too long for us so the next batch will be shorter as the crust is harder than desired. Now to figure out how to cut nice slices that don't crumble or aren't too thick. Thanks for the recipe!

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  3. I'm so glad it worked! Yep, your oven it likely hotter than mine. Hopefully shortening it will give you a softer crust. I think bread has to bake to 190 so if you have a meat thermometer you could always check it too!

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