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5 Delicious Bread Recipes

Try this versatile dough recipe for your homemade bread baking

When my daughters were young and my husband and I still had our youthful metabolism, we could polish off a batch of my homemade bread in a day. Not anymore! Now that the kids are gone and we watch what we eat, we're not going through a batch of bread as quickly. I briefly stopped making bread, but I missed the freshly baked smell and its heavenly taste.

See also: Join AARP's Online Community to swap recipes and discuss food.

What I've come to realize is that the same dough recipe that worked for my family of four still works for the two of us. Instead of baking one big loaf of bread, I now divide the dough into smaller portions. I might bake a couple of mini loaves for breakfast, a few dinner rolls for tomorrow's soup and a couple of breadsticks for salads later in the week. And while I'm at it I stretch out a few naan breads that double as personal-size pizza crusts.

Plastic-wrapped, the baked breads freeze well and stay fresh. Plus these smaller shapes are easy to pop in our toaster oven, a useful appliance now that it's just the two of us.

Bread Baking Tips:

  • Using a food processor to mix and knead dough saves time.
  • Using a small amount of yeast means you can let the dough rise overnight and shape and bake it first thing in the morning.
  • Make one big loaf if you like, but it's also possible to divide the dough and create a variety of breads for meals throughout the week. 
  • For stretched dough shapes like naan and breadsticks, don't knead the risen dough before stretching. Simply dump it onto a floured surface and cut and stretch while it's relaxed. 

Next: Soft, tender American-style dough recipe. »

Soft, Tender American-Style Bread Dough
Makes 1 large loaf, 4 mini loaves, 1 dozen rolls or bread sticks, or 8 naan flatbreads

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon yeast
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Whisk yeast into 1/4 cup tepid water in a liquid measuring cup to dissolve; let stand until yeast begins to bubble, about 5 minutes. Add an additional 3/4 cup tepid water, bringing water level to 1 cup. Add milk (no need to heat) for a total of 1 1/2 cups of liquid; whisk in butter.

Meanwhile, pulse flour, sugar and salt in a large food processor to combine. Pour yeast mixture into flour mixture; process until it forms a soft supple ball, sprinkling in a little more flour if dough is sticky or adding a little more water if ball seems tight. Continue to process until well kneaded, 20 to 30 seconds.Turn out the dough onto a floured surface; knead into a smooth ball, incorporating enough flour to prevent dough from sticking, a couple of minutes.

Turn dough into a vegetable cooking spray-coated bowl, cover with plastic and let it rise in a cool place for 8 hours or overnight.

Gently turn dough onto a floured surface. Follow shaping and baking instructions for desired shape.

Dinner Rolls
Makes 1 dozen

  • 1 recipe Soft, Tender American-Style Bread Dough
  • Cornmeal for baking sheet
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Sprinkle a large baking sheet with cornmeal. Using a large serrated knife or dough scraper, cut dough into 12 equal pieces. Working one at time, roll each piece into a round and place on prepared baking sheet. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour.

Ten minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush dough rounds with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Next: Naan and American loaf bread. »

Naan
Makes 8 flatbreads

Enjoy these flat breads with salads, stews and curries, but leftover breads make great pizzas as well. Simply top and bake as you would a store-bought pizza crust. Nigella seeds look like black sesame seeds and taste of onion and pepper. They're available by mail order and at Middle Eastern stores and spice shops.

  • 1 recipe Soft, Tender American-Style Bread Dough
  • Cornmeal for baking sheet
  • 4 tablespoons butter for brushing
  • 4 teaspoons sesame seeds or minced garlic (from the grocery store's spice section) or nigella seeds

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Sprinkle 2 large baking sheets with cornmeal. Using a knife or dough scraper, cut dough into 8 pieces. Working one at a time, stretch dough into a rough 9×7-inch oval, draping it over the back of your hands and pulling gently. Repeat with 3 more pieces of dough, brushing each one with a little melted butter and sprinkling with sesame seeds or minced garlic. Bake until breads are pale and puffed on top and golden brown on bottom, about 10 minutes. While first breads bake, repeat with remaining dough, butter and seeds or garlic. Serve warm.

American Loaf Bread
Makes 1 large loaf

  • 1 recipe Soft, Tender American-Style Bread Dough
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Spray a 9-inch loaf pan with vegetable cooking spray. Knead dough into a loaf and place in prepared pan. Cover with a damp cloth and set in a warm place until almost doubled, about 2 hours. Ten minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Brush dough top with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Turn loaf onto a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or room temperature.

Next: Bread sticks and mini bread loaves. »

Bread Sticks
Makes 1 dozen

You can make short stubby bread sticks or long thin ones — just stretch to the size and shape you want them.

  • 1 recipe Soft, Tender American-Style Bread Dough
  • Cornmeal for baking sheet
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • Your choice of one of the following: 2 tablespoons minced garlic (from the grocery store's spice section), sesame seeds or nigella seeds (see note in naan bread) or 1 tablespoon poppy seeds

Sprinkle a large baking sheet with cornmeal. Using a large serrated knife or dough scraper, cut dough into 12 equal pieces. Working one at time, roll each piece into a 6- or up to a 12-inch log and place on prepared baking sheet. (If making longer bread sticks you'll need 2 baking sheets.) Cover with damp cloth and let rise until almost doubled, about 1 hour.
Ten minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. Brush dough rounds with egg wash and sprinkle with one of the suggested flavorings. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

Mini Loaves
4 Loaves

  • 1 recipe Soft, Tender American-Style Bread Dough
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Spray four 6- by 3-inch mini loaf pans with vegetable cooking spray. Using a large serrated knife or dough scraper, cut dough into 4 equal pieces; knead each piece into a loaf shape and place in prepared pan. Cover with a damp cloth and set in a warm place until almost doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Ten minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Brush dough tops with egg wash. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Also of interest: Delicious baked donuts.

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