Here's a highly achievable New Year's resolution for 2020: Bake a loaf of bread. Because the only thing more satisfying than smelling freshly baked bread is smelling freshly baked bread in your own kitchen. There's a reason baking bread is its own kind of ritual. A from-scratch loaf is a mix between science and magic, where simple flour, salt, and water transform into crusty-edged, fluffy-centered (and hopefully butter-slathered) goodness. It's delicious, yes, but it's also empowering — a project that warms your home and satisfies deeply.
Whether you love pillowy focaccia, craggy soda bread, or a tangy sourdough, there's a bread recipe waiting for you. And to prove it (eh?), we've combed through Food52's decade-old recipe box for our favorite bread recipes, ever.
It wasn't easy — we focused on savory loaves and rolls (so sorry, Cinnamon sugar breakfast puffs! You are still loved!). But we narrowed it down to the upper crust, the breadwinners, if you will. Give them a look, below, then break out the flour and get kneading.
We promise that with Rivka's instructions, you're up for the challenge of challah braiding. The first time our test kitchen made it in 2010, it emerged from the oven grand and poofed with an airy crumb, begging to be buttered and devoured.
This naan is not only simple to bake, but adaptable — make it in the oven, on a pizza stone (or baking steel), in a cast iron skillet, or your stovetop. No matter what, it still cooks up beautifully. Try serving with Archana Mundhe's Instant pot butter chicken, or Meera Sodha's New potato & chickpea chaat.
If yeast intimidates you, look no further than this blistered flatbread that's just as good on a weeknight as it is on a holiday. Baking soda and powder provide oomph, while lots of seeds (recipe developer Sarah Jampel likes a mix of toasted sunflower seeds, nigella seeds, sesame seeds, mustard seeds, and coriander seeds) add crunch.
If you're looking for a starter bread (sans starter), here's your loaf. "This recipe is the aggressive, no-more-excuses shove that you need to start baking your own bread," says Kristen Miglore. "It will only take you 4 hours of intermittent attention, and won't require a starter nor any equipment you don't already own — and it will rival your favorite bakery's."
Lauded as the most addictive bread you'll ever eat, Kindred's milk bread can do it all. "It can be used as sandwich bread, French toast, burger buns, doughnuts, and more," writes Catherine Margaret O'Donnell. "This is a bread that merges utility and taste, seamlessly." Once you master the dough, you can play around with the form — say, dinner rolls or a free-form loaf.
Hearty, healthful, moist, with just a touch of sweetness, this loaf was inspired by a recipe in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. One very important note from recipe author Marian Bull: "Let the bread cool before you slice it. Yes, I'm serious." (For what it's worth: Just about any bread recipe benefits from the same advice! Once your bread comes out of the oven, it's still "baking" in its own way; give it at least an hour to get its bearings and become its best self.)
If you're a baking novice, let us introduce to your new best friend: focaccia. It's baking-sheet friendly, needs no kneading, and goes from oven to table like a star. We love tearing it into hunks with our hands instead of using a knife. It's also perfect for a party-ready, large-format sandwich (like, say, this slab muffuletta).
Another focaccia, this time with a smart, scrappy ingredient: potato peels. These not only add heartiness, but a delightful chewiness we can't get enough of. Plus, if you're already peeling spuds for something like mashed potatoes (hi, hello, Sunday night supper), this is a much better fate than the compost bin.
So you want a homemade loaf with a deeply golden crust and wide-open interior crumb, but you aren't that familiar with bread recipes. Start here. This loaf uses instant yeast, which means you don't have to wait days for your reward, and once you get a hang of the method, you can adapt it to no end.
Did we mention it's gluten-free? It is. This dense, seedy, wholesome loaf is full of good stuff like rolled oats, flax seeds, and hazelnuts (or almonds or walnuts or insert your favorite nut here). We love it with lots of butter and flaky salt, or turned into an open-faced sandwich with cream cheese and smoked fish.
This crusty, whole-grain loaf doesn't need yeast to be a showstopper (thanks, baking soda!). A Dutch oven ensures an extra-crusty crust, oats add chewiness, and a smidgen of brown sugar adds just enough sweetness. You could serve it with butter and jam for breakfast, but it's just as great alongside whatever you're serving for dinner tonight.
Have you ever seen a more autumnal bread recipe in your life? The answer is: of course not! These butternut rolls won our "Best Recipe With Brown Butter" recipe contest — and you'll only need to try one to see why. Okay, go on and have another. We will, too.
These rolls are sugary and milky and buttery, yes, but that won't stop us from serving them with a super-savory spread (think roast chicken, turkey, or beef, and lots of gravy). "The recipe serves a crowd," Emily Nunn writes. "Because that's what Aunt Mariah would do with them." Do as Aunt Mariah would do.
Monkeymom's supple, rich rolls have just a hint of sweetness to them — they're chewy and tender and full of deep flavor from the molasses, but versatile enough to complement (rather than overwhelm) a variety of main dishes.
Repeat after us: No more dry biscuits. The trick here is to make a biscuit dough that seems waaay too wet. As food scientist Shirley Corriher discovered, that's actually just right. Using a low-protein, self-rising flour like White Lily makes these utterly foolproof. If you're serving them with dinner, you could stir a little black pepper into the dough and sprinkle flaky salt on top before baking.
And by never-fail we mean: never fail. These recipe has — wait for it — two ingredients: self-rising flour (leavening agents included) and heavy cream (which both enriches and moistens the dough). Of course, you can off-road this template to no end. Fresh herbs, like chopped dill or chives. Crispy, meaty bits, like bacon or pancetta. Or cheese. Lots of cheese.
17. Best cornbread
Meet our test kitchen's best cornbread. It's got a crackly brown butter-scented crust and a never dry, cheerfully tangy center (thanks to both buttermilk and melted butter). If you don't have a cast-iron skillet, consider this a convenient excuse to buy one (once you start using it, we have a feeling you won't be able to stop). Like all cornbread, this is best the day it's made. Feel free to re-warm it in the oven before serving and don't skip the butter alongside.
18. Popcorn bread
What happens when you grind popped popcorn into a pseudo-cornmeal? Chef Edward Lee wanted to find out. "It makes a crumbly bread that feels like cornbread but it is lighter and fluffier on the inside," he writes in his book Buttermilk Graffiti. Serve with lots of salty butter (but you knew that already).
Our co-founder Merrill Stubbs swore by this foolproof loaf when she was in college. While most quick breads are sweet (think banana bread or pumpkin bread or zucchini bread), this one is savory. It has olives, olive oil, and rosemary, plus some whole-wheat flour for nuttiness. Wrap well and keep at room temperature for a few days — as Merrill notes, "it makes excellent toast."