The Essential Formula for Basic Bread Dough

Mini sandwiches

To make exceptional bread, you must start with a superior basic bread dough. I have made bread and rolls from this recipe for at least 20 years. It’s rich, sweet, buttery, and very versatile. I’ve added cheese and various herbs to it, and have used it in multiple forms, such as sandwich bread, dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, calzones, etc.

Even though I bake a large variety of breads now without a bread machine, this is my absolute favorite go-to recipe. I’ve always used a bread machine to knead the dough for this recipe, but it is NOT essential to have one. You can also mix these ingredients in a mixer with a dough hook, then cover it and put it in a warm place for the first rise.

The Essential Formula for Superior Bread Dough ingredients and bread machine

My husband gave me my first bread machine back in the 90’s. I’m on my third one now. This one came from Williams Sonoma, but you can find them pretty much anywhere kitchen appliances are sold. Here are links to a few on Amazon that have received good reviews:

Pouring water into bread machine pan

The ingredients go into the pan without any special preparation. I put half of the flour in first, add the water, then the rest of the flour and other ingredients. I do it that way to avoid extra flour buildup on the bottom of the pan.

Adding remaining ingredients for The Essential Formula for Superior Bread Dough

All the rest of the ingredients can go in together. You can place them all in a large mixing bowl and mix together if you’re not using a bread machine. You can add cheese and/or herbs at this point, too. I usually add a cup of cheese and a few tablespoons of chopped, fresh herbs. Two of my favorite combinations are smoked gruyere with rosemary and sharp cheddar with dill.

Top view of bread machine with dough ingredients in pan

Most bread machines have multiple settings like mine does. Oddly enough, even though you can actually bake in it, I rarely do. I have always used mine to mix, knead, and warm my dough. Then I take it out and bake it into whatever shape I want.

Bread machine settings for The Essential Formula for Superior Bread Dough

The dough setting is what I always use and the process takes an hour and a half.

Perfectly risen dough

After the cycle is over, you can see that the dough rises beautifully.

Punching dough down for The Essential Formula for Superior Bread Dough

Punch the dough down, and remove from the pan.

Shaping dough

Place the dough on a well-floured surface.

Dividing dough into 8 portions

Divide the dough into the desired number of portions. I always use my bench scraper to make nice, clean cuts.

Weighing dough on scale

If you want your individual portions to be consistent, I highly recommend weighing them on a kitchen scale. I didn’t use one until culinary school, but now I wonder now how I ever survived in the kitchen without it. Baking is a true science, and accuracy is key.

To be the most exact, weigh your entire amount, then divide by the number of portions you want. I measure in grams most of the time because there are no decimals. Just straight numbers.

Here are a couple of links to some on Amazon. You can also find them at Target, Walmart, etc.

Dough in loaf pans covered in plastic wrap

I often make several small loaves. You can use any kind of loaf pan. Pastry Chef Central has a similar one here, but it is a non-stick version. They are great for easy release, but will brown your bread more quickly. You might want to adjust baking times and temps if that’s what you have. Once the dough is in the pans, I usually let it rise for about an hour, then brush it will an egg wash.

Here are a couple of links to pans on Amazon as well:

Baked bread in mini loaf pans

I like to bake them to a medium golden brown. These loaves make unique mini-sandwiches, chicken salad being my absolute favorite. I have also made cucumber cream cheese as well as apple strawberry sandwiches with them. Make sure you have a good serrated knife when you slice them so the edges won’t be jagged.

The Essential Formula for Superior Bread Dough made into dinner rolls

This recipe makes wonderful rolls. This is how they look when you choose eyeballing over weighing the dough.

Mini snadwiches

The mini sandwiches are really cute, and the soft, buttery bread is great with any filling.

The Essential Formula for Superior Bread Dough made into braided rolls

I like to braid them when I have extra time. An egg wash makes them pretty and shiny.

The Essential Formula for Superior Bread Dough made into cinnamon rolls

Cinnamon rolls are epic enough on their own, but this dough takes them to a new level of fabulous.

For another great bread recipe, check out this post: Easy No Knead Homemade Bread.

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The Essential Formula for Basic Bread Dough

Vickie Franks
I have made bread and rolls from this recipe for at least 20 years. It's rich, sweet, buttery, and very versatile. It is my all time favorite go-to recipe for basic bread dough. I make the dough in my bread machine, but that is optional.
Prep Time 2 hours 40 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Course Bread


  • Bread Machine (optional but helpful)
  • Bench knife
  • Scale
  • Mini or regular size loaf pans or muffin tin


  • 4 cups all purpose flour ( I love King Arthur Unbleached)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into slices
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 6 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp dry milk


  • Place 2 cups of flour in bread machine pan.
  • Add all of the water.
  • Add the remaining flour and other ingredients.
  • Run bread machine on 90 minute dough setting.
  • Punch dough down and remove from pan.
  • Divide into desired number of portions and place in well-greased bread pans or muffin tin.
  • Allow to rise for 1 hour.
  • Brush with beaten egg.
  • Bake at 350° until golden brown. Rolls take 15-20 minutes.
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