Bread is a food fueled by emotion. It's a food that you feel as you make. The emotion it's fueled by, of course, is spite. If you want to make really good bread, you've gotta muster up a bit of tzalachas (clean up), think about someone you really hate and set aside a few days of your life, because bread is a lot of time and effort for little reward.

Let's get cooking!

For the record, what I'll be laying out instructions here is your garden variety French boule (round loaf), a good start to a long life of misery and baking (they come as a package).


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First thing you'll need to bake your very own staff of life is some flour. I won't endorse any particular brands, but let's just say there's a certain kind that's fit for a king. Yes it's overpriced. No, it's not negotiable.

Oh, and because we're making bread, use all-purpose instead of bread flour. No it doesn't make sense, but trust me on this one. You'll want to keep some white flour and a bit of whole wheat or medium rye on hand. White flour is pretty weird if you think about it. Humans have managed to increase the gluten content of flour by a factor of something like three.

The problem with agriculture, though, is that it tends to reduce the amount of genetic diversity in a species, making things like wheat more susceptible to disease. Know what wheat rust is? It can destroy entire crops of wheat from a single spore. Yeah, our food security is an illusion. I give humanity 200 years at most.

Next, you'll need some liquid. Use water. Some people will say to use fancy filtered water or something like that. Don't bother. Anything will do. Got a couple gallons of Voss to dedicate to your bread adventures? Great! Filled a bong with sewer water and not sure what to do with it now? That's fine too, just another opportunity for additional flavor as far as I'm concerned.

Now for salt. Table salt simply will not do. And none of that iodized garbage either! The best thing would be Hawaiian red salt or Indian black salt, but just some nice sea salt will do if you suck and don't want exceptional bread.

Now, if you want to season your bread with human tears (I find this to be the best in terms of taste), keep in mind that tears have a 0.9% salt content (this is nearly perfect for baking, but a tiny bit on the low side).

There really is no good way to accumulate large quantities of tears, but I tend to try to replace a couple of tablespoons of salt water with tears whenever possible. If you don't cry regularly, you can store your tears in a ziplock bag and accumulate them for bread purposes.

#SpooTip: Need tears fast? Ask around at your campus library during finals week.

Finally, you'll want some yeast. Now, you can grow your own by throwing some fruit in a jar of water and waiting a couple of days. That yields some very tasty bread.

Or don't do that, because store-bought is just fine.


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A lot of fancy bread recipes call for mixing a portion of your flour, water and yeast the day before baking. This adds flavor to the final product and can help it keep longer. Good bread takes time and time is money, which is why they call money dough. Not really, but (as a general rule) the longer your bread takes to make, the better it is. Just look at these 3-day bagels.

French breads call for a preferment with equal parts flour and water, called a poolish. Italian breads call for a preferment called a biga, which is more dense than its French counterpart. You may also hear this technique referred to as a "sponge." Don't be confused. It's all the same thing.

1. Kneading

Don't knead your bread. Or do. If it's the kind of bread that needs kneading, then by all means knead your bread. Lean, French breads with high hydration levels, however, are almost impossible to knead. Instead, we turn to the stretch and fold method.

How do we stretch and fold? Once your dough is reasonably well-mixed, ball it up as well as you can and shove it into a greased bowl. Wait half an hour.

What do you do during that half hour? Perhaps it isn't my place, but I suggest you spend it reading more Spoon articles about bread.

Once you've waited for half an hour, stretch your doughy mess out on the counter as thinly as it'll go into a sort of rectangle, fold it into thirds, and shove it back into the bowl. I demonstrate this in the gif above.

Now, you'll wanna do that four times, in half hour intervals. So, that'll take two hours. You get to read a lot of Spoon articles. Or study like the good college student you are. Once done, plop the dough back in the bowl and you're ready for the...

2. First Rise

Bread-baking, as previously stated, is a loud, pained cry for help. That being said, let's discuss our first rise. Keep in mind that with bread, as with most things, you get out what you put in. Bread relies far more on technique than on ingredient quality. So, make sure to give your lovely loaf all the affection you sometimes feel your upbringing cheated you out of.

The first rise is a "bulk rise." So you'll leave your stretched dough in the bowl for another hour or so, even if you plan to divide the dough up later. You'll notice that the stretching has built strength in the dough and that it's no longer so awful and sticky and bad. After the dough spends its hour in a warm, draft-free environment, you're ready for the next phase.

But wait... Is there perhaps something else you can do with your first rise?

Of course! You can let it rise overnight in the fridge instead. Doing so will create very delicate flavor in your bread and make it brown better. You can do this with almost any recipe (if you can't both prepare the dough and bake on the same day). Refrigerated dough is good for three to five days.

If you (theoretically) bake compulsively to stave off your crippling depression, then you could (theoretically) keep a big portion of dough in the fridge and rip pieces off to make bread with whenever the urge struck. Just let it reach room temperature before proceeding with the next steps.

3. Pre-Shape

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This is a pretty short step, but a good one. Say you have a big pile of dough, but you want to make a bunch of little rolls. What you'll want to do is divide the dough and pre-shape it. What does this step do, you ask? It relaxes the gluten, allowing you to shape the final product nicely.

Just roll your dough into a little ball, stretching it and tucking under to form a "gluten sheath" around your bread. Let that sit on the counter for 10 or so minutes.

4. Shape

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Eli Udler

The fun part. There are lots of breads that come in lots of shapes. But because you're not good at this yet, you'll probably want to make a round loaf of bread. The way to do this is to gently tuck the dough under itself. This helps the loaf keep its shape and rise better.

Once you've baked a basic loaf, you'll be ready to get fancy with braiding. Maybe you could try making challah?

5. Second Rise

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Eli Udler

If you were to bake your bread now, it would be as hard as a puck. Go ahead. Try it. Bake that disgusting puck bread. All done? Ok, now you'll trust me when I say that you need to let your bread rise again.

If the dough is fairly wet, you'll want to let the dough rise in a proofing basket to let it keep its shape. If I didn't already mention this: proofing = rising. I think it's called that because letting the dough rise "proves" that the yeast is alive. If you don't have a special proofing basket, use a bowl lined with a floured kitchen towel. Or don't. I don't control you. Let your dough be flat and misshapen. See if I care.

Anyway, give that maybe half an hour or put it in the fridge overnight, covered.

6. Baking

Eli Udler

Finally, you get to bake your loaf, right? Not so fast! How well does the surface you're baking on retain heat? Exactly. To get the maximum rise out of your bread, you'll want to bake on a heat-retentive surface, like a baking stone.

If you're near a hardware store, get some unglazed quarry tile. If you like spending a lot of money, however, then you'll want to seek out a pizza stone. Another thing that works great is a Dutch oven, or heavy cast iron pot.

You can bake your bread covered, then leave uncovered for 10 or so minutes to create a crust. Giving your surface a solid hour to preheat will ensure a perfectly risen loaf. Oh, and spray the sides of your oven with water for extra steam. More steam means more time for your bread to expand. Consider preheating a dish of water with your oven as another method to create steam.

How long should you bake your bread? If baking in a covered dish, a regular size loaf should take about half an hour with the lid on, followed by 15 without the lid. If baking uncovered, try 40 minutes for a loaf of 500 grams of flour. Hearth breads are usually baked at 450F to 500F degrees, whereas brioche and challah and cinnamon rolls and all those other breads that think they're pastries tend to bake at around 350F.

7. Cooling

Eli Udler

This is actually the most important step. Well, the eighth most important step, but still important! After removing your bread from the oven and turning it off, keep the oven door slightly ajar and place the bread in there to cool off for a little while. 10 minutes maybe. Let it cool further on a cooling rack to help air circulate and keep the crust crispy.

8. Eating

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Luna Zhang

Don't bother. Look, bread is pure carbs and barely any flavor. You may as well eat a piece of sugar the size of a loaf of bread and it'll do your body exactly as much good. Whole grains up the nutrients slightly, but doesn't diminish the carb count. Bread is the worst. Don't eat it. Eat a vegetable or some meat or something that isn't awful. Honestly, just bake enough bread to keep your inner demons at bay (about a loaf or two a week, in my case) and give it away to people who haven't yet figured out that bread is terrible. (Just kidding.)

Remember, no matter who you love, what you believe or what holidays you celebrate, you can always bake bread.

Wait, that's completely untrue. You can maybe sometimes bake bread, unless you have a gluten allergy or something. Happy baking!

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Eli Udler