Bread Essentials

© Katherine Stetson

These are the simplest, easiest breads you will ever make and the most divine breads you will ever eat!

Conveniently, there are two methods you can employ with only a slight modification to a single ingredient.  The first method is made and baked in the same day and the second rises overnight for baking the next morning.

As easy as 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5

  1. Pick a flavor
  2. Pick a shape
  3. Pick a glaze, wash and crunchy adornment
  4. Mix and proof the dough
  5. Shape, bake and eat


No expensive equipment or mixers are necessary.


  • For proofing the dough, a 2 quart glass or ceramic bowl, preferably tall rather than wide.  Anchor makes a 2 quart measuring bowl with both handle and lid, which is my favorite.
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Small whisk, although a fork also works
  • Instant-read meat thermometer, essential
  • Non-stick 9×5 bread pan, for sandwich loaves
  • Non-stick perforated French Bread pan (optional)
  • Non-tick perforated Italian Bread pan (optional)
  • Baking stone, for freestyle shapes
  • An inverted or edge-free cookie sheet or pizza peel, for freestyle shapes
  • Parchment paper, for freestyle shapes
  • Pastry brush
  • Bench scraper, for dividing dough
  • Cotton tea towels, for covering finished dough


The quality of the ingredients is paramount to a quality end product.


  • Flours – unbleached, unbromated flours are best.  King Arthur, Hodgson Mill and Bob’s Red Mill are highly recommended millers.
  • Water – tap water includes combinations of chlorine, fluoride, microorganisms, toxic minerals or metals and too many other unmentionables.  Good bread likes good water, so use spring water or filtered water for best flavor and results.
  • Salt – sea salt, sea salt, sea salt!  No iodides, no additives.  End of story.
  • Yeast – when you finally cut the cord from store-bought dependence, yeast is most economical when bought in 16-ounce bags and keeps indefinitely in an airtight container or bag in the refrigerator.  Always use active dry yeast – never instant yeast.

Glazes, Washes and Crunchy Adornments

Egg Glaze

This glaze produces a shiny golden crust and is an excellent ‘glue’ for crunchy adornments.  Whisk together 1 egg and 1 tablespoon of water. Note:  rest a tent of aluminum foil atop the loaf if the crust is browning too quickly.

Milk Wash

For a golden crust, lightly brush the dough with cold milk just prior to baking.  Note:  rest a tent of aluminum foil atop the loaf if the crust is browning too quickly.

Water Wash

This wash works in conjunction with hot steam to create a very crispy crust.  Lightly brush finished dough with cold spring water just prior to baking.

Cornstarch Glaze

This glaze is especially effective with Rye and Pumpernickel breads and rolls. For a chewy crust, brush the dough with a mixture of cornstarch and water that has been cooked until translucent and then cooled.

Crunchy Adornments

You’ll need a glaze or wash to ‘glue’ these adornments to the crust.  Mix, match and experiment!

  • Course Sea Salt
  • Freshly Cracked Pepper
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Poppy Seeds
  • Dill Seeds
  • Caraway Seeds
  • Cumin Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Dried Onion Flakes
  • Finely Chopped Nuts
  • Dried Herbs
  • Cheese

Pick a Bread Shape

  • Boule
  • Sandwich Loaf
  • French Baguettes
  • Demi-baguettes
  • Italian Loaves
  • Dinner Rolls
  • Sandwich Rolls
  • English Muffins
  • Bagels


© Katherine Stetson

Important note:  Never open the oven door while popovers are baking or they will deflate or never inflate.

For eight popovers:

  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups unbleached flour
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • additional melted butter for coating popover cups or pan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Liberally paint insides of eight custard cups or a non-stick popover pan with melted butter.  Set aside.

Beat eggs until frothy.  Mix in milk and butter.  Add flour and salt and blend until combined.  Pour batter into prepared cups or pan, about 5/8’s full.  Place in oven and bake for 50 minutes.  Remove from oven and slide a small sharp knife into the crown of each popover to let steam escape.  Return to oven for an additional ten minutes.

Herbed Garlic Bread

© Katherine Stetson

My Mother’s recipe, slightly updated.

  • 1 loaf French bread, hopefully homemade
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • several grindings of black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Slice French bread in ½ inch slices, or to desired thickness.

Mix butter with remaining ingredients until well combined.  Spread the mixture generously on one side of each bread slice.  Reassemble loaf and wrap tightly in foil with the fold at the top of the loaf.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Loosen foil and continue baking another 5 – 10 minutes until top is crusty.  Serve immediately.

Grilled Pita Bread

© Katherine Stetson

Great for Souvlaki or sandwiches or torn and tossed into salads.

  • Pita bread
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt

Brush both sides of the pita bread with olive oil.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and grill over charcoal until browned on each side.  Serve immediately.

Melba Toast

© Katherine Stetson

A superb vehicle for spreads and relishes!

  • 1 French Baguette, sliced evenly to 3/8 inch thickness

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Place baguette discs on a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet.  Bake for 4-7 minutes.  Watch carefully and remove thinner melbas that come to color early.

Allow melbas to cool completely.  Store in an airtight container.

Copyright © Katherine Stetson, all rights reserved.