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Basic white bread

Sat, 18 March, 2023

One loaf recipe for basic white bread is all you need to find out what this home baking is all about. And you might never go back to Hovis.

basic white bread

A bit basic

What is THIS doing here? you might ask. Is THIS the appropriate company for the San Francisco style sourdough or for Borodinsky rye bread? Why, after feeding starters and perfecting the stretch and fold for years, am I turning towards the general direction of Hovis sliced?

And my answer is: why not?

Joking aside, this is a fabulous starting point for those not awfully well versed into the secrets of dough hydration and oven springs. That’s one reason: this is an easy and relatively quick bread and it might encourage someone shy to embrace bread making.

The other reason, closely entwined with the first, is that this is still miles and eons better than any commercially produced bread: in the sense of taste and nutritional value both.

There’s a third, tiny reason which I’m not embarrassed to bring forth: some people are not that fond of sourdough, wholemeal, seeds and chewy crumb. They like it plain and basic. And that’s absolutely fair enough in my books: each to their own.

one loaf white bread recipe

My bread bible

So all of the above made me reach for my very first bread bible, Andrew Whitley’s Bread Matters.

It is a fantastically educational and useful book, a precursor to all the sourdough gurus from YouTube and elsewhere.

I have to say there is little I have learned about bread making since I first dove into Bread Matters, apart from a variety of specific recipes. The principles, the ‘all you need to know’ is all there.

Because, obviously, Andrew tells you how to start and how to make a plain, basic, white loaf. Which this pretty much is.

bread ingredients

The plain white dough

There is nothing more to a loaf of bread than flour, water, salt and yeast – be it baker’s or naturally occurring.

Anything more than that on the label, apart from enhancements such as seeds, malt, whole grains etc., tells you that it’s a fake industrial bread, fermented in about 30 seconds and with a nutritional value of probably -10.

It will be laden with salt, sugar and all kinds of preservatives and additives. Stay well clear of it.

This dough has a teaspoon of sugar added but that’s just a tiny token of yeast-encouragement. Other than that it’s flour, water, salt and yeast, and not a lot of the last.

If you have a standing mixer, mix the dough in it but it is perfectly easy to knead by hand. Even when I use a mixer, I still turn the dough out when it has come together, and give it five minutes of hand work. Handling dough is just enormously satisfying.

So after the mixing and kneading, all by hand or with some assistance from the appliance, cover the bowl and leave the dough for a couple of hours in a warm place to proof. It won’t be spectacular as there is very little yeast in it but the longer fermentation always equals better flavour.

proving dough

Next time, old dough

After proofing, turn it out onto a work surface with barely a dusting of flour on it. At this point you can decide to cut off a piece of the dough and reserve it for the next loaf, thus making a wonderful cycle of ‘old dough’ bread making.

Old dough is usually referred to in sourdough baking, but it also works in the simplest, yeast breads. It adds excellent flavour to an otherwise unexceptional loaf, because this small chunk has had time to ferment and develop a more mature taste.

For this, cut off about 150g of the dough, place it in a small tub and keep it in the fridge for up to 10 days and in the freezer for longer than that, defrosting completely before using.

And for your next old dough loaf, the ingredients will be:

500g flour

4g salt

330g water

3g yeast

150g old dough

Here you will mix the ingredients for 5 minutes without the old dough, then knead it in and continue as below.

plain simple white loaf

Shaping and baking

The point of shaping is to tighten the outside surface so it creates a sort of shell for the air expansion inside. In simple terms: the lovely bubbles in the crumb and a smooth, crusty crust.

In order to do that, you have to keep folding it.

shaping basic loaf

Because it is going to be a sandwich loaf, we’re working with a rolled up log which needs to be flattened and folded lengthwise.

Then repeat the exercise in the opposite direction to form a thicker log with taut outside surface. Roll it in some seeds if you like and drop into a buttered tin, seam side down.

proving bread

The rise will last about an hour this time, before the loaf goes into very hot oven for thirty or forty minutes, reducing the temperature after the first ten minutes.

When it’s browned and crusty to your liking, remove it from the oven and the tin, and wait anxiously for it to cool down a little, before sampling.

easy homemade bread

More easy bread recipes

Flash loaf - quick bread ready in two hours. Quick and easy wholemeal bread recipe, and the bread keeps well thanks to grated raw potatoes in its contents.

Lazy bread recipe - the easiest bread, next to no effort involved. This lazy bread ferments over 18 hours for flavour but it’s a no-knead, no-shape lazy loaf.

No knead bread recipe based on Jim Lahey's original concept. A very easy bread recipe, unfailingly successful especially if you have a Dutch oven (a cast iron casserole dish).

starter homemade bread

Basic white bread

Servings: makes 1 sandwich loafTime: 4 hours


  • 600g stoneground white bread flour
  • 3g (1 tsp) instant yeast
  • 5g (1 ½ tsp) fine sea salt
  • 3g (1 tsp caster sugar)
  • 400g water at room temperature
  • poppy seeds, for sprinkling (optional)


1. Place the flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer. Pour in water and mix with your hand or the dough hook of the standing mixer to a shaggy dough.

2. If making dough by hand, scrape it out onto a work surface and knead for 10-15 minutes until the dough is smooth, springy and elastic and stops sticking to your fingers. If using the mixer, keep it running at medium speed for 5-7 minutes, then turn the dough out onto the work surface and give it a few kneads by hand.

3. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place to prove and about double in volume. In the meantime lightly butter a 500g (1 pound) loaf tin.

4. When the dough has risen, turn it out onto a very lightly dusted surface. If you’re planning on baking again soon, cut off about 150g of the dough and store in a plastic tub in the fridge.

5. Roll the dough into a long sausage, twice as long as the length of your tin. Flatten it with your fingers and fold in three. Flatten it again into a flat rectangle smaller than the length of the tin. Fold it along the long edge as tightly as you can without tearing the dough. Roll it in some poppy seeds if you like, then drop into the tin seam side down. Cover the tin loosely with cling film and place in a warm place for 1 hour, until risen to about 1cm off the rim.

6. Preheat the oven to 230C fan if available/450F/gas 9.

7. Transfer the tin to the oven and bake for 30 minutes, turning the heat down to 200C/400F/gas 6 after the first 10 minutes.

8. Remove the bread from the oven and turn it out onto a wire rack. Let it cool down at least 15 minutes before slicing.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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