Working with Yeast Dough

A lot of people find working with yeast dough intimidating. While it does take a bit more time than picking up a loaf at the store, it’s really not all that hard. I’m going to share some tips and my favorite recipes for bread and pizza dough.

The Easiest Loaf of Bread You’ll Ever Bake
The Easiest Loaf of Bread You’ll Ever Bake – this is mine!

I was lucky – when I was young, my mother let me bake bread with her.  Now, I love the almost flesh-like feeling of dough as I knead it. But I’m far from an expert, and you definitely don’t have to be to turn out some great bread or pizza.

If you’ve never baked bread before, I have two recommendations. One is to buy yeast at Costco or Sam’s Club, where a giant 2 pound package cost me $3.87…22 times less than those puny envelopes at the grocery store! Buying a package not only saves you money, it gives you the flexibility to use a larger or smaller amount than is in the envelope, and you can experiment without feeling wasteful.

My second tip is to buy a thermometer if you don’t already have one.* To bring your dried yeast back to life, you need to create an environment in which it can thrive, which means heating the water to between 100 and 110 degrees.

The next step is having a foolproof recipe. I’ve had great results with these every time I’ve made them, and they have detailed step-by-step instructions.

King Arthur Flour has a recipe on their site called “The Easiest Loaf of Bread You’ll Ever Bake“. The name doesn’t lie.

I wrote up a modified version of the recipe which I always use. But if this is your first time, you might want to start with the original.

Pizza Dough
My favorite recipe for Basic Pizza Dough comes from the website of Italian cooking instructor Anna Maria Volpi. The detailed instructions with photos are perfect for beginners!

I make this pizza very thin – thin enough to cover 3 cookie trays. Because of this, I lower the baking time to just 10 minutes. Just use your instinct – you’ll see (and smell) when it’s ready.

*If you don’t want another kitchen gadget, borrow one and note how this temperature feels with your finger. Another alternative is to calculate how long it takes your microwave to heat the water (mine, not very powerful, takes 2 minutes), or how many parts cold and boiling water you need to mix to achieve it.

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