Basic Dough for Bread and Pizza

Updated February 23, 2016
This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Cooking Methodbaking



Total Timeunder 4 hours

Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

One Pot MealYes

Five Ingredients or LessYes

Taste and Texturechewy

Type of Dishpizza, yeast bread


  • ¼ cup warm water
  • ¼-ounce package (1 tablespoon) active dry yeast
  • A pinch of sugar (the amount you can pinch between your thumb and forefinger) for feeding the yeast
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • Approximately 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • Vegetable shortening
  • Measuring Cups
  • Large Mixing Bowls
  • Small Saucepan
  • Large Spoon
  • Cutting Board
  • 6-by 3½-by 2-inch Bread Pan
  • Towel
  • Kitchen Timer
  • Pot Holders
  • Cooling Rack


  1. Pour ¼ cup warm water into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle ¼ ounce yeast and the pinch of sugar over the water. Stir, and then let the mixture stand for 5 minutes until the yeast grains dissolve and the liquid looks smooth. As the yeast melts, some foamy islands will form on the surface, which mean the yeast is alive and growing.

  2. Put 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan on a burner and turn the heat to low. When the butter has almost all melted add the milk and continue to heat until the butter is completely melted and the milk is warm. Take the pan off the stove and test the milk to make sure it isn’t too hot for the yeast. Stick your finger quickly into the milk; if you can hold it there and the liquid feels just warm, that’s fine, but if it feels very hot, let it cool for 5 minutes, and then add the milk-butter mixture to the yeast mixture.

  3. Add the 2 teaspoons sugar, the 1½ teaspoons salt, and 2½ cups of the flour to the yeast and milk mixture. Save the remaining ½ cup flour for the next few steps. Stir well with a large spoon to mix together the liquid and dry ingredients. Sprinkle a little flour onto a cutting board. Scoop up the dough with your hands and gently press it into a ball, if it feels too sticky to handle, put it back in the bowl, add a little more flour, and work that into the dough by squeezing and patting Don’t worry about not mixing the flour in completely: Kneading will take care of that.

  4. Put the ball of dough on the board. Sprinkle a little more flour on top of the dough and begin kneading it. Kneading dough gives it strength, so the air bubbles that the yeast create stay trapped inside the loaf and make the bread light. Press down on the dough with the heel of your palms, pushing it away from you. Fold the dough back toward yourself, give it a quarter-turn, and repeat. As you knead, add a sprinkle of flour when the dough becomes sticky, but don’t add too much; use only as much as you need to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and the board.

  5. The dough will look and feel smooth and stretchy (a little like bubble gum after you’ve chewed it a while). It will feel springy and almost alive under your fingers. Keep Kneading for 5 minutes. (Don’t cheat on this step. The dough needs to be kneaded. In fact, you can’t knead it too much.) Gather the dough into a ball. Then to test whether you have kneaded enough, poke the dough with your index finger, and if the dough springs back and the hole disappears, you’ve kneaded enough.

  6. Grease a large mixing bowl with vegetable shortening and put your dough in it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Now the dough will begin to rise. Let it rise until it is twice as big as its original size. (Some people say, “until it has doubled in bulk.”) Depending on how warm your room is, the rising will take an hour or more. Be patient.

  7. Grease the inside of a 6-by 3½-by 2-inch bread pan with vegetable shortening.

  8. When the dough in the bowl is about twice as big as when you put it into the bowl, punch it down in several places. Punching knocks the air out of the dough.

  9. Spread a small handful of flour in a big circle on a board. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto the floured board and cut it in half. Half the dough is for the loaf of bread, and the other half is for a pizza. The bread dough needs to be shaped into a loaf, which then rises one more time in its pan. You can use the other half of the dough to make a pizza while the loaf of bread is rising again, or you can wrap the pizza dough in plastic, refrigerate it, and make a pizza later. (But use the dough within a day.)

  10. Form the loaf of bread by patting the dough into a little football shape that will fit into the 6- by 3½- by 2- inch bread pan. Put it into the pan and smooth the top with your hands to make it even. The dough should come halfway up the sides of the pan. If it looks lumpy or rough, pat it with your fingers to smooth it.

  11. Cover the pan loosely with a towel and let the dough rise to the top of the pan or a little over. Depending on how warm or cold your room is, it will take this loaf anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes to rise that much. After 15 minutes turn your oven on to 350°F. So it will be ready to bake your bread Set the rack in the middle of the oven.

  12. When the dough has risen all the way to the top of the pan, you are ready to bake your bread. Remove the towel and check. (If you baked, a pizza while the bread was rising, be sure to turn the oven down to 350°F.) Put the baking pan in the oven and set the timer for 35 minutes. After 35 minutes, check your bread. If it is golden brown on top, it is done. If not, bake another 5 to 10 minutes until it is.

  13. . When the loaf is done, use pot holders to remove the pan from the oven. Then turn the loaf out of the pan onto a rack and let it cool at least 10 minutes before, you slice it.



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