Spending a lot more time at home makes now a great time to learn to bake bread! Bread has been around for thousands of years, and while it may seem complex, it turns out that making it can be incredibly easy. If you’ve never tried, it’s easy to mix together a few ingredients, let it rise, bake it, then slather your freshly sliced pieces with your favorite vegan toppings.
What Do I Need?
The process of making bread is simple, whether you’re making a simple sandwich loaf or a fancy shaped and flavored freeform loaf to go with your favorite soup. Pros have some fancy equipment and techniques, but all you need to get started is a bowl, an oven, and four basic ingredients. If you’re still having a hard time finding everything you need on your regular shopping trips, the good news is that bread requires very few. All you usually need is flour, a rising agent, water, and salt. It really is that simple!
What Kind of Flour Can I Use?
Most bread is made from wheat flour because it has a high gluten content. Gluten is a protein, and in bread, it’s what binds the flour together so that the dough holds all the air bubbles formed by the yeast. Gluten-free breads need another type of binder, otherwise they end up dense and crumbly.
Both white and whole wheat flour are made from the same wheat; the only difference is that wheat flour still contains the bran of the wheat berry, which includes many of the nutrients whole wheat products are known for. The bran makes it a bit harder for the gluten to bind everything together, so a 100% whole wheat loaf may end up a bit denser than a loaf made with white flour.
If you’re looking for white flour, you may see regular, pastry, and bread flours at the store. None have the bran. Regular flour has the natural gluten content of wheat, pastry flour has a lower gluten content and isn’t ideal for bread, and bread flour (sometimes called strong flour) has a higher gluten content than normal for optimal fluffiness. You can use any combination of whole wheat, regular white, and bread flour to get an excellent result without any additional binders.
If you’re sensitive to gluten or just can’t find wheat flour, you can use a gluten-free flour as long as you add a binder to help the dough molecules bind together. Some common binding agents include:
- Xanthum gum
- Psyllium husks
- Ground flax or chia seeds
Yeast is the rising agent used in most bread recipes since it produces consistent, airy bubbles. Many recipes will also call for a bit of a sweetener to help activate the yeast. If you want a sugar-free loaf, just make sure you’re using a recipe that purposely leaves out sugar, since it may use a different mixing method and time that still allows the yeast to produce enough air bubbles.
If you can’t find yeast at the grocery store, though, you can make a quick bread, soda bread, or no-yeast bread. These typically use baking powder or a combination of baking soda and an acid (like vinegar or lemon juice). You won’t get results that are quite as fluffy as you’d get with other rising agents, but it will still taste amazing!
Some recipes may call for other ingredients to help improve taste or texture, but you don’t need any of them to get started. Once you’ve gotten the hang of things, it’s easy to add whatever additions you want and tweak your loaves for any occasion.
The internet is flooded with easy vegan bread recipes, so look at a few and pick one you can find all the ingredients for. If it seems too simple to be doable, it’s definitely not! Your next loaf of delicious, homemade bread may be just a few hours away.
We love to hear from you. What’s your favorite method of baking homemade bread? Let us know in the comments!