Back To Basics: Simple Breads To Make

To kick off the “Back to Basics” week here at An Oregon Cottage, we’re going to be making bread. Why bread? Shouldn’t we start with something simpler?

My answer is this: bread is the staff of life. There’s something so elemental about baking bread to serve your family that it is…well, for lack of another word, basic. The ingredients are simple and usually few. Most of the time it takes to make is just waiting. And the result? When you bite into bread you have made for the first time, you will feel like you can do anything!

A perfect springboard for the rest of the week, I say.

That being said, I know that the thought of making bread scares many people and I feel your pain. I used to be scared, too. I’ve also read a lot of recipes that involve more time, effort, and know-how than I ever want to put in the kitchen.

Remember our cottage mentality motto: simple, frugal, and fun. So the following bread recipes have to adhere to these three principles or they don’t make the cut.

Start with:

Basic Baking Powder Biscuits (find my favorite recipe and pictures at the end of this post) for a quick bread to go with soups and stews or to serve as a base for breakfast sausage-and-egg sandwiches, or ham or turkey “slider” sandwiches for lunches.

Bottom line: Control of ingredients at a cost of less than a dollar for the whole batch.

Dip your toes into the world of yeast with:

Updated Easy Artisan Bread made in an enameled cast iron dutch oven to replicate that famous artisan-type crust. This is hands-down the easiest yeast recipe I’ve ever made and it turns out wonderful every time with no kneading and hardly any hands-on time. Your family and friends will think you are a bread maker extraordinaire when you serve them this. Shhh…I’ll keep your secret.

Bottom line: feeling of super-hero power with the first bite at a cost of less than .50 versus $4 to $5 bought at a store.

Finally, make the soft sandwich bread you thought you never could with:

An Oregon Cottage’s Easy Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread– A Tutorial. This is it guys, when you make this you need never buy a loaf of bread from the store again (if you choose not to…). What a feeling! If someone had told me a few years ago that I wouldn’t be buying bread I would’ve laughed at them (with visions of some of my previous “leaden” loaf attempts running through my head…). And it’s doable. Really. So make it your goal to try it and see if you like it.

Bottom line: Ma Ingalls feeding her family at a cost of about .60 cents a loaf.

Here are the step-by-step instructions to make your own tender, flaky biscuits using my favorite recipe (tweaked by me, of course!) with the full recipe at the end.
I start in a food processor because I don’t like to cut butter into the dry ingredients by hand. The machine takes less than a minute. I use to use it for the wet ingredients, too, so I didn’t dirty another bowl, but the biscuits weren’t tender and flaky like before.
Guess that’s what they mean by “overworking the dough.”
Cut the butter into pieces and add to the dry ingredients. Pulse until the the butter is incorporated, resembling coarse cornmeal but with a few larger pieces of butter (that’s what we want for the flakiness we’re after).
See the larger butter pieces? That’s good.
Notice the bowl I transferred the flour mixture into? I know, I know…one more thing to wash, but that’s the trade-off we have to make so that we don’t end up with tough biscuits.
Mix together a cup of milk (I always use buttermilk) and an egg in a glass measuring cup.
Add it all at once to the dry ingredients and mix just until most of the flour is incorporated. This is important- I always used to mix until it looked like regular dough, but that was “overworking” the dough I came to find out (they always just throw these terms around like you automatically know what that means…) and my biscuits were not tender, no sireee.
So here’s a picture to help you avoid the same mistake – see loose flour still on the board when I turned it out of the bowl? Yeah, that’s good. They’ll be dry looking places still, but we’re going to knead it a bit to shape and finish the dough at the same time.
Prepare to get your hands very dough-y. Flour your hands and start gently bringing all the pieces together into a sort of ball shape, then continue kneading a couple more times, adding more flour as the pieces of butter stick to the board, until it holds together.

And looks like this. Remember, just a light hand, we’re not kneading a yeast dough.
Now I fold it on itself a couple of times to help create some of those great layers. Then flatten out (it’s OK to use a rolling pin) in a rectangle shape about an inch to 1-1/4 inch thick and cut with a biscuit cutter.
Don’t have a biscuit cutter? No worries- just use a knife and cut into squares. There’s no law that says biscuits have to be circles and in fact, sometimes I like squares if I’m going to be using them for sandwiches or breakfast sandwiches.
I should tell you that when all the sides are cut (like when using a biscuit cutter), the dough is able to rise better, so you’ll get higher biscuits than those cut with a knife and some edges left uncut. A bonus of cutting into squares is no re-rolling and no waste, so there you have it- the pros and cons.
Don’t say I never told ya.
I like to brush the tops with buttermilk (or milk) to create a nice brown, shiny top, but this is purely optional.
Bake in a 425 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the pan if needed, until evenly browned. Cool a little on a wire rack and serve warm.

Oh my. Look at those flaky layers. That’s what we’re talking about!
An Oregon Cottage’s Favorite Whole Wheat Flaky Biscuits
  • 3 cups whole wheat pastry (or white wheat) flour (or a combination of whole wheat and unbleached)
  • 1 tsp. honey or sugar
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. cold butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c. buttermilk or milk
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor or regular bowl, combine the first six ingredients (if using honey, combine it with the liquid ingredients). Pulse (or mix) to combine.
  3. Cut up the butter into eight pieces and add to the dry ingredients. Pulse (or use a pastry blender) until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal with a few pea-sized pieces of butter remaining. If using a processor, transfer to a medium bowl.
  4. Combine the egg and milk (and honey, if using) in a glass measure; add to the dry ingredients all at once. Stir with a wooden spoon just until mixture starts to come together (it will not be completely mixed). Don’t over mix.
  5. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead 10 – 15 times until dough holds together, folding a couple of times at the end like a letter. Pat or roll into a 1 to 1-1/4 inch rectangle. Cut with a biscuit cutter or knife into about a dozen biscuits depending on the size.
  6. Place on a lined or greased cookie sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown.
Makes about 1 dozen.




  1. says

    I am obviously overworking my biscuit dough, and I was raised on biscuits my mother made! Will try the food processor. I am usually too lazy to get it out, but that would definitely be worth it!

  2. says

    When I saw the topic for today, I wanted to share this helpful tip. (even though the post is a lot about biscuits.)
    I make my own sandwich bread using the bread machine dough cycle and then bake it in the oven. I like the shape of the loaf from a pan better than the bread machine.
    But the tip is I have found it easier to cut thinner slices (and please the hubby) by cutting the loaf the next day. Then I wrap in foil put in the freezer – we wouldn’t be close to consuming the whole loaf by the time it went bad if just left out. We take out one or two slices and defrost or fully toast in the toaster.

    I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

  3. says

    This is a wonderful post–thank you! I make most of our bread, and I have to say that your 100% whole wheat dinner rolls as well as the homemade pita bread are excellent and I put them in my regular rotation of recipes. I can’t wait to try the above recipes as well!

  4. says

    Those look so good! Do you know of any resource that will explain what you’ve done wrong to your bread? Mine is consistently crummy (literally), and we like soft, chewy bread.

  5. says

    Cheryl- Me, too! Took me the longest time to figure that out…
    Sarah- love the tip, I’m going to try it as my family is always trying to saw away at a frozen loaf. :-)
    Olga- I hope you try them, glad you are on board for the week!
    Mary- so glad you are finding things that are helpful to you!
    Lexa- I hope so!!
    Minerva- Yeah- I just made the pitas last week too.
    Kristen- Good for you- you’re so right. :-)

  6. Olga says

    Making bread at home does save money. I make mine in a bread machine. But I’m kind of getting bored with it, so I was thinking that I should try baking bread in the oven. The buscits look and sound great. This is something I should try (I’ve never made them before).
    I really like the idea of Back to Basics Week! And like Sarah, I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

  7. Mary W says

    I found you relatively recently when you had a guest post over at $5 dinners. Looking through your site initially what I enjoyed most were your basic recipes (catsup, mayo, salad dressing, etc). I’m really looking forward to this week.

  8. Aagaard Farms says

    Awesome! Thanks for sharing all the great info! I think your biscuit recipe is very similar to my Grandmother’s, which I make all the time – so easy and so good!

  9. Lexa says

    Jami- Well, you just might have given me the push to try making my own bread. Thanks so much for the great information.

  10. Kristin says

    About 3 months ago I decided that If I was going to start making our daily bread then I better quit buying it! And you know what? My family is in bread heaven now! I don’t know why I waited so long! It’s the best and it’s true what they say…”Practice makes perfect!” I hope others will be inspired to make it too!

  11. says

    Jami, I made your biscuit recipe tonight to go along with my cowboy meatloaf. They were a hit! I used 2c whole wheat pastry flour and 1c unbleached all purpose flour. My husband said that these biscuits were “better than any you could go buy in a restaurant!” High praise indeed, my friend. Thanks for posting the recipes and how-tos to go along with them. That helps immensely!
    Now off to try your pita bread later in the week!

  12. Rachel says

    Hi – I rediscovered your blog again tonight and love it! Great tips for a family starting to cut out processed/store bought foods and get back to the basics! Just made the ranch dressing tonight and it tastes wonderful. We were starting to get grossed out by the chemicals and ‘who knows what’ is in so many store bought foods. On another note, I see many recipes calling for whole wheat ‘pastry’ flour. I just bought organic whole wheat flour. Do I mix some white flour in with it to make it more pastry-like? I would love your opinion on this before I attempt your bread recipes.
    thanks so much!

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