Bread Baking 101

We’re going old school today. Originally, I had it on my mind to attempt some sort of intricate apple tart in my new mini tart pan or some spice cupcakes, but after writing my previous post I got inspired to get my hands dirty and get back to the basics.

Let me reintroduce an old favorite of mine—beginner’s rolls.

This was one of the very first recipes that I ever posted on Eat, Live, Run, back in the winter of 2008. When I posted this recipe I was in the middle of meat fabrication class and had no idea what I was doing in terms of bread baking.

Somehow, they still turned out. (And let it be known that I still don’t really know what I’m doing.)

These rolls are perfect for someone who has never tried their hand at baking bread before. They’re made with half whole wheat flour and half regular flour because usually, one hundred percent whole wheat bread is as hard as a rock because there’s not enough gluten in the flour to make the bread fluffy and soft.  Plus, I don’t hate on white flour. I actually rather like it and so do my baked goods.

Baking bread is the most therapeutic thing I know of—it’s literally like yoga in the kitchen for me. There’s just something so satisfying about baking your own bread from scratch. Try it! It’s perfect for tempeh & jam sandwiches (which I’m currently enjoying as I type) or just plain snackin’ with a little peanut butter.

Here’s what you need for success:

Another reason I love baking bread? Short and simple ingredient lists!

Start by heating up one cup of milk. You don’t want the milk so hot that it boils, but it should be about one hundred degrees—so think of the temperature of a nice warm bath….that’s how you want the milk.

I’m using whole milk here because that’s the type that I personally prefer to bake with. You could use skim, too. I just have found that whole milk makes baked goods a little extra delicious…but what do I know?

When the milk is warm, take it off the stove and add one packet of dry yeast.

And a pinch of sugar. The sugar feeds the yeast!

And now let the milk/sugar/yeast combo sit for about five minutes so the yeast can dissolve. Meanwhile, measure out your flours. You’ll need one and one fourth cup of each (whole wheat and white), plus a half teaspoon of salt.

Add the flours and salt to the milk mixture and then stir to combine. Form a shaggy ball of dough but don’t actually knead it yet.

Cover the shaggy ball with plastic wrap and let it rest for thirty minutes. After thirty minutes, it should be about double in size and really light and spongy. Now is the time to knead!

No need to a KitchenAid or fancy mixer here—think of it as an upper body workout and you’ll be just fine. Also, there’s no one right way to knead. I just simply throw my hands in there and work it, pushing the dough against the counter and folding it over itself about ten times or until it has a smooth elastic feel. Maybe a video how-to post will be in the works?

You want the end result to be really, really smooth. When you press your finger in it, the dough should instantly bounce back. That’s when you know it’s done! Now, divide the big dough ball into four equal parts:

And divide those four parts in half to form eight little balls.

Roll each ball under your palm to smooth it out and then place each on a lined baking sheet.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot for another thirty minutes. This is the exciting part!

The rolls will double in size again and that’s how you know they are ready for the oven!

And then—voila!

Right when these bad boys came out from the oven, I just couldn’t help myself. I had to make sure the recipe was okay for you all, you know?

Okay, yeah. You can eat them!

Read the full recipe here.


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  • Tina
    September 21, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Beginner recipes + bread are just what I need. These look great!

  • Maria
    September 21, 2010 at 11:44 am

    The rolls look perfect. I have homemade jam to go with! I can’t wait to make them!

  • Heather (Heather's Dish)
    September 21, 2010 at 11:46 am

    do you know what would need to be done to make these turn out perfectly at altitude? i would love to start doing homemade bread but it always turns out flat!

    • jenna
      September 21, 2010 at 11:54 am

      oh gosh–I don’t know because I never have done that and don’t want to give you wrong advice. I would google it!

      • eatmovelove
        September 21, 2010 at 3:50 pm

        LOL – is there anything Google can’t do? 😉

  • Michelle (The Runner's Plate)
    September 21, 2010 at 11:47 am

    I love making my own bread from scratch!

  • Estela @ Weekly Bite
    September 21, 2010 at 11:48 am

    I’m so intimidated by yeast bread. I’m made them once before… but its packet of yeast that scares me. Yours do seem super easy though 🙂

  • Rocio
    September 21, 2010 at 11:51 am

    You made it look so easy! I’ve never made bread before… a “how to” video would be very appreciated!

  • Erin @ Travel Eat Repeat
    September 21, 2010 at 11:53 am

    I am so nervous making yeast bread but this looks so easy that maybe even *I* can do it! 😀

  • shannon (the daily balance)
    September 21, 2010 at 11:55 am

    i have been wanting to try my hand at homemade bread and this looks like the perfect recipe to start! Thanks, girl 😉

  • Jessica @ How Sweet It Is
    September 21, 2010 at 11:55 am

    I have never made my own bread, besides quick breads! This is awesome.

  • Rachel@Fit Fun and Fabulous
    September 21, 2010 at 11:57 am

    MMmmm letting things rise and yeast and all of that scares me. Maybe this is what I need to bake to get over the fear.

  • Beth @ Beth's Journey to Thin
    September 21, 2010 at 11:57 am

    Wow I feel inspired to make these and I never bake!!

  • Monique@She's Going The Distance
    September 21, 2010 at 11:59 am

    That looks so easy!! I’ve always had it in my head that I can’t make bread because I don’t have a machine. Um, lies!! 🙂 Thanks for sharing

  • Therese
    September 21, 2010 at 12:01 pm



  • Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman
    September 21, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Oh Jenna, how I love these how-to recipes. I need all the instruction I can get.

  • Stacey (The Habit of Healthy)
    September 21, 2010 at 12:10 pm

    You make it look so easy! 🙂

  • Camille
    September 21, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    I have never made bread but always wanted to! Thanks so much for the beginners recipe!

  • Heather @ Side of Sneakers
    September 21, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    I love baking bread- once you give into fear and try it, it’s really not that hard to mess up!

  • Mary (What's Cookin' with Mary
    September 21, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    This recipe had been in my ‘make me!’ pile for AGES. I really need to stop waiting and just make them 😉

    I, personally, would like/ need to see a how to video… specifically on how knead it properly. I tried making ‘simple’ WW bread once and it was a TOTAL fail. It did not rise. 🙁 And I know it was 100% operator error, just not sure what I did wrong.

  • Brittany (A Healthy Slice of Life)
    September 21, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    I really look forward to getting into bread baking this fall! & those look great! Now c’mon weather… cool off! 🙂

  • Lisa
    September 21, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Thanks for the tips! I am saving this link for future use. 🙂

  • Maria
    September 21, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Your rolls are so cute and perfect! They look like little brown eggs

  • Carolyn @ lovinlosing
    September 21, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Looks fantastic! Definitely need to try making those rolls. 🙂

  • Amber K
    September 21, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Yum!! That looks so good!

  • Tabitha (From Single to Married)
    September 21, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Old school is right! I’ve only made bread using a bread maker… I’ll have to try your way next time!

  • R @ Learning As I Chop
    September 21, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    This looks good and might be my first foray into bread

  • Kelly
    September 21, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    Baking bread intimidates me but this made it sound like something I could do!! Thanks for the tutorial!

  • Angharad
    September 21, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    I’m just getting into baking bread. My man bought me a bread baking book for christmas and we dabbled but I was recently given a sourdough starter (….what.a.nerd) and now I am all over that business! Home baked bread is like nothing else on the planet!

  • Sharon
    September 21, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    Breads have always scared me a little (the whole yeast/rising thing!) But this looks so easy and doable! Thanks for posting all these baking recipes lately-I’ve been totally into baking of late for some unknown reason-So far in the last 3 weeks or so I’ve made the “perfect” Chocolate Chip cookies and Blondies from your blog, Petite Vanilla Bean Scones (PW blog) Peach/Blueberry Crumble (Ina Garten-love her!) and I fully intend to make your Peach Pie very soon-like this week or weekend…wish me luck on that crust!

  • Rachel @Balance and Blueberries
    September 21, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    Anyone out there have any recommendations for homemade loaf bread? I’d love a good one and haven’t had much luck with what I’ve tried…

  • Ashley
    September 21, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Those look great!

  • Annie@stronghealthyfit
    September 21, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    Very cute! Great recipe. I really want to get good at bread baking. Just started a new job at a fabulous all-natural bakery so I’ve been getting bread from work and hope that doesn’t stop me from making my own!

  • Ally
    September 21, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    These rolls look great. I have never made bread from scratch before. Made scones for the first time a couple of days ago. These will be next 🙂

  • Denise (the apple hill adventurer)
    September 21, 2010 at 1:59 pm

    they look lovely. i miss that smell.

  • Amanda
    September 21, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Not on the topic of the bread at all (which looks yummy, btw). But what in the world is “Meat Fabrication”? 🙂

  • Lisa (bakebikeblog)
    September 21, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    oh I bet these made your house smell divine!

  • Stacey
    September 21, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    You seem like a pro 😀 The one time I tried to bake bread, it turned out terribly, terribly wrong. The dough was sticking everywhere and my yeast did not rise. And it was a huge mess to clean up! The recipe I was following was really difficult to understand. Thank you for sharing a simple recipe 🙂 I actually feel like I can make these!

  • rebecca lustig
    September 21, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    ive never made actual rolls. yours look so perfessionally delicious, though!

  • kate
    September 21, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    these look easy enough for even a non-baker like myself to master!

  • Sarah @ BikingNBaking
    September 21, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    Yes! I’ve wanted a simple bread recipe to try for awhile! Im gonna have to make these.. tonight.

  • Natalia - a side of simple
    September 21, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    If I weren’t allergic to gluten I would probably be rolling in flour right now. Just sayin’

  • Paige @ Running Around Normal
    September 21, 2010 at 3:51 pm

    Those look good – and sound pretty easy to make! Yum 🙂

  • eatmovelove
    September 21, 2010 at 3:51 pm


    Uh, sign me up for that. TOTALLY agree with you – I just grab it randomnly and smear just jam and butter on that sucker.

    Gets dangerous though. Who am I kidding? It’s beyond that and into War Zone with me….

    I like how you put the recipe in a separate post as well. It makes the post more concise and not as long – allowing more time just for your writing and witticism 🙂

  • The Wife of a Dairyman
    September 21, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    What type of jam are you eating them with? Looks so good!

    • jenna
      September 21, 2010 at 5:09 pm

      that’s just Trader Joe’s raspberry! So good!

  • alana
    September 21, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    i was just looking at this recipe of yours today! but can you make them with non-dairy milk? i made chili earlier for tonight and was going to bake these rolls but i wasn’t sure if you could use soy/almond milk…

    • jenna
      September 21, 2010 at 5:09 pm

      I’ve never tried so I can’t promise…it should work but I’m not 100%

  • sarah k. @ the pajama chef
    September 21, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    normally i use a breadmaker…. but now i might try my hand at the real thing!

  • Kati @ Living Well
    September 21, 2010 at 5:10 pm

    Oh my gosh. This has just convinced me that I can bake bread! Will def have to try these :> Thanks for the simple step-by-step instructions!

  • Rebecca @ How the Cookies Crumble
    September 21, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    Yummy warm bread! Now I want to bake but I need to clean out my fridge because I’m going out of town!

  • Laura (Starloz)
    September 21, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    oohhh, this seems simple enough. i might even try it out.

  • Morgan @ Healthy Happy Place
    September 21, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    I’m really loving all the recipe posts!!!

  • Jil @ Peace, Love & Munchies
    September 21, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    I have to try these…that picture with the jam sealed the deal. haha

  • Nora@LifeLifeEatRight
    September 21, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    This reminds me of my Bakery days! Now–I didn’t actually bake the bread but I stocked the shelves, nibbled and learned. Is it strange that I love the smell of yeast? I can’t even comprehend the taste of fresh bread from the oven. Warm Italian was always my favorite. I loved the tender inside and the crunchy exterior. Oh man. I might need to bake this haha!

  • Jessica @ The Process of Healing
    September 21, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Those look incredible! Bread baking intimidates me but you make it look (sound?) so easy!

  • Cyndi
    September 21, 2010 at 7:10 pm

    Your blog is addictive – I never know what you will come up with next! It is 100 times better than it used to be – glad you found your way.

  • MoniMeals
    September 21, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Fantastic!! perfect for all the holidays coming up too. 🙂

  • Amanda@thegrainsofparadise
    September 21, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Simply beautiful! Just love fresh baked bread rolls! Aloha….

  • Lizz @ Leading the Good Life
    September 21, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    Yay! I’ll be carbo-loading this weekend for my upcoming marathon. I think homemade rolls would go quite nicely with my pasta dinner!

  • Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga)
    September 21, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    Nothing to do with the post, but just wanted to say your blackish or really deep nail polish shade = awesome! I love bold. I just got a half sleeve. I am all about bold 🙂

    But I am gluten free and vegan and so bread making from scratch is not gonna happen in my lifetime…

  • Sarah (Running to Slow Things Down)
    September 22, 2010 at 3:57 am

    I don’t know why, but this post made me instantly get excited for Thanksgiving. Maybe because these rolls would be oh so perfect for a turkey feast with family. 😀

    Can’t wait to try them out!

  • Erika @ Food, Fitness, & Fun
    September 22, 2010 at 4:26 am

    Thanks for the recipe…I am a huge fan of any freshly baked bread! <3 🙂

  • MyThy as in "Mighty"
    September 22, 2010 at 4:53 am

    Those look great! I’ve had some success making a loaf of bread manually w/ no bread maker. These look a lot easier and cute! I’ll def be making these! One question though, can you add a few tbsp of vital wheat gluten to make a whole wheat bread lighter?

  • Katryn@rampantcuisine
    September 22, 2010 at 6:23 am

    Ooooh, thanks for this! You answered a lot of my bread making questions in this post!

  • Alyse
    September 22, 2010 at 6:35 am

    I’ve been making my bread for awhile now. I adore it. Nothing compares to the smell when you punch down the dough. Not to mention how great fresh baked bread smells. 🙂

  • Jenny
    September 22, 2010 at 7:17 am

    I LOVE baking bread. Nothing better than the smell of flour and yeast : ) oh, just makes my heart so happy

  • Tiffany
    September 22, 2010 at 7:36 am

    Your timing on this post is PERFECT. I’ve had a total bread FAIL recently and need to get back in the baking saddle. Thanks!

  • Betsy
    September 22, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Two things:

    1) Your blog is my favorite, by far. I absolutely love the direction you’ve taken. I’ve really gotten into baking lately and Jenna, I have you to thank for that. I’ve been very stressed recently with relationship issues/family issues/and school and I’ve turned to baking as my therapy, and honestly, it’s helped so much. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart. I know this sound so cheesy, but it needed to be said 🙂

    2) I literally was just thinking about trying my hand at baking bread and I couldn’t believe it when I came to your blog and saw this recipe! I am going to try and tackle it this weekend. Wish me luck!

  • Susan@MomSwimBikeRun
    September 22, 2010 at 9:11 am

    I’ll take old school any day. Looks easy and delicious.

  • Theresa
    September 22, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Your website is a life saver! See, my 83 yr. old neighbor is battling cancer and I asked her if she had any special food requests and to my dismay she wanted some fresh homemade rolls. I love to cook, but have always feared making bread. Your recipes are easy to follow and delicious. I always know I can count on your site for some awesome yummies.

  • Diana @ frontyardfoodie
    September 22, 2010 at 9:37 am

    My mom taught me how to make basic bread when I was probably about six or seven. I’ve been making ever since and seriously think there is NOTHING better than spreading butter on a freshly warm, thick slice of homemade bread. My mom adds sunflower seeds to her whole grain mix and it gives it a nutty, chewy texture that is to die for!

  • Exmodel
    September 22, 2010 at 10:05 am

    Does your bread ever not work out? Perhaps I just don’t have the baking gene, but I’ll follow the recipe to a T and it still will come out….wrong.

  • Becca@ Start Over From Scratch
    September 22, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Hey Jenna, I just finished baking and pastry in culinary school. Make sure you check out my first day of school where I made rolls too!

    September 22, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    i will definitely take your word for it and bake some bread. mama wants to make cinnamon buns with me, so we’ll have to do that soon 🙂 LOVE KNEADING THE DOUGH!! haha

  • Maren
    September 22, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    I’m obsessed with baking breads right now. Rolls, dessert breads, loafs oh they make me happy. I’m toning it down due to my excessive consumption of complex carbs from all the baking. Your rolls look amazing, I’m dieing to try them. I’m really intrigued by the warm milk with the yeast idea.

  • Lauri (
    October 25, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Hi Jenna!! I just baked these rolls and they turned out FABulous!! Thanks for the step-by-step instructions and instilling a renewed faith in my baking abilities!! NO more hockey pucks!!
    Here is a link to the post–>

  • Katie (Sweet Tater)
    November 21, 2010 at 7:51 am

    i’ve tried this twice and failed miserably 🙁

    bread is clearly not my thing

  • Jennifer
    February 28, 2011 at 3:30 am

    I love that you don’t hate on white flour! Neither do I! I’ve never tried bread, believe it or not, but these look so cute and easy that I might pop a batch in the oven today