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Homemade bread, beyond sourdough

7 Recipes
Schaben, Allen J. –– – Bread: Baguette, boule, rolls.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Bread fresh from your oven. Here are seven of our best bread recipes, including rye, white and Irish soda bread, as well as a Nancy Silverton recipe for focaccia.

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James Beard said it: “Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods.” And almost no bread tastes better than a hot, crusty loaf pulled from your own oven, made by your own hands (perhaps with the help of a stand mixer). The many loaves made at home during the bread-making craze of the COVID lockdown days were mostly about sourdough — and sourdough starter. A year and a half later, it is time to broaden the homemade bread horizon.

Making white bread can be reminiscent of making sourdough, but here the starter ferments only for a few hours rather than a few days. Soft crusted, with a light acidity from the starter, it is perfect for sandwiches and also suitable for shaping into dinner rolls. Even simpler, crackly-crusted loaves of a basic, daily bread (no starter needed) can be made in most any shape and will be ready to eat in just a few hours.

Rye breads, also surprisingly easy to make, are loaded with flavor, dense and chewy. Often studded with nuts and seeds, they can hold their own paired with other strong flavors. Real Jewish rye sports caraway seeds (but feel free to leave them out). Danish rye uses sunflower and pumpkin seeds — and whatever other seeds you may choose to add.

Looking for something other than sliced bread? Nancy Silverton’s recipe for focaccia turns out dimpled and chewy, airy with a flavorful, crunchy crust — delicious plain and more so with mozzarella and onions buried and baked into the dough. Pocketed pita bread is another surprisingly simple feat — pillowy, chewy individual rounds to fill or savor as is.

For fresh bread fast — and no fussing with starters or yeast — classic Irish soda bread gets its rise from baking soda and is ready to eat in less than two hours. Here too, caraway seeds are optional.

Which will you try first?

White Bread

This white bread has a light acidity resulting from using a pre-fermented starter, which is then mixed into a fresher dough, formed into loaves and baked in the traditional manner.
Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Yields Serves 16 (2 loaves)

Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Real Jewish rye bread

This rye bread is made with a bit of rye flour, a bit of malt syrup (or honey or even table sugar), yeast, flour, salt and water. It is surprisingly easy to make at home.
Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Yields Makes 1 round loaf (8 to 12 servings)

Nancy Silverton's onion and sage focaccia

This focaccia is moist and chewy with an irregular hole structure and an oily, crunchy underside. It's like a cross between really good bread and really good pizza.
Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Yields Makes 1 focaccia; each focaccia yields 8 slices.

Pita bread

This is bread that is built with a percentage of whole grain flour and left to proof overnight. It has flavor and structure and heft and can hold up to the glories packed inside.
Time 40 minutes
Yields Makes one dozen pitas

Danish rye bread

Made primarily with rye flour, this smooth and powerful Danish bread is augmented by a mix of seeds, molasses and stout beer.
Time 2 hours
Yields Makes 2 loaves (about 3 dozen slices)

Daily bread

This is a bread you can knock together quickly and vary at will. A plain batard, rosemary baguettes, a dozen currant rolls — the possibilities are endless.
Time 4 hours
Yields Serves about 16 (makes 2 batards)

Classic buttermilk Irish soda bread

Crusty, rustic and hearty, most authentic Irish soda breads are whole wheat, but a combination of half white and half whole wheat or white whole wheat also makes for a good loaf.
Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Yields Serves 10 to 12