“I only have XX hours before dinner, what kind of bread can I make??” It’s a question most home cooks end up facing (for me, pretty frequently), and I’d often poke through different bread recipes, find one that sounded great, and then realize it would take twice the time I had.
So I’ve spent some time collecting my different bread recipes and grouping them based on the amount of time they take from start to finish. This way if you’re wondering what bread to make, you can decide what amount of time you have, what type of recipe you’re looking for, and choose accordingly.
I’ve grouped them into breads that can be ready in less than an hour (or a bit more), in 1-2 hours, in 3-5 hours, and ones that need an overnight rise. These are more “normal” or savory breads, ones you might eat with a meal rather than more dessert-y bread options (you can browse all of those here if you’re looking for them).
Tools that can help make great bread
Bread is strange in that, like baking in general, it can want a lot of precision. But yeast is sometimes unpredictable and requires some adaptability and going with your gut. And there are some good (not expensive) tools that can help make your bread better and more consistent.
- A thermometer is super helpful for knowing when bread is done (usually above 200 F, and you want it to cool to less than 80 F before cutting into it).
- A good kitchen scale is cheap but critical, as there’s an insane difference in the outcome when you weigh your ingredients vs. just measuring cups…particularly for bread.
- When it comes to kneading and shaping dough, I love this multi-purpose scraper tool and these French-style rolling pins.
- I also use giant plastic wrap to seal dough as it’s doing its first rise, and then a giant plastic bag for doing the final rise before baking.
- These silicone pastry brushes are a cinch to clean and are great for doing an egg wash. A lame is a bit more of an indulgence but it’s made a world of difference in how deep and clean I can slice dough prior to baking.
Bread that can be ready in less than an hour
Don’t let that last-minute panic win! There are lots of great bread recipe options that can be ready in an hour or less, so here are some of my favorites.
What kind of bread can be ready in an hour, you ask? Well as you’d guess, these are basically all “quick” breads, not yeast-based breads (there is one yeast option, it’s definitely better with a longer rise but doable with an hour).
With a very limited time, I recommend sticking to things like baking soda- or baking powder-based loaves, beer breads, unleavened breads, homemade crackers, or all manner of biscuits. Biscuits are definitely one of the best and fastest options!
Easy drop biscuits from Outlander Kitchen – These use melted butter (and lots of it!) so no tedious process of cutting in cold butter
Food processor biscuits – If you can’t tell, I hate cutting butter into flour! These are great and can be either plain or have flavorings like fresh herbs.
Whole wheat biscuits – Make sure to have the dough pretty thick when you cut the biscuits or they’ll be a bit dry and hard. Soooo good with melted butter and honey.
Simple rosemary unleavened bread – Ready in under half an hour, nothing fancy but hearty and satisfying.
Gluten-free rosemary cheddar biscuits – If you need a gluten-free option.
Fluffy cream biscuits – Indulgent and delightful, and you can leave out the sugar for a more savory option.
Crusty French baguettes in 30-60 minutes – This is the yeast-based option I mention above. The steam in the oven is critical to getting a crust on it, so don’t skip that step. With cooling time I’d assume a bit over an hour, but you can be flexible.
Easy basic beer bread (and a garlic cheddar version) – These are so satisfying and absolutely delicious. I love a loaf like this (note, with stirring, baking, and cooling time this probably starts to tip over into the next section of just over an hour).
What bread to make: just over an hour to around 2 hours
We’re still pretty focused on quick breads at this stage, but there are a few yeasted options here. Lots of great flavor options too.
Flatbreads (which can be cooked on the stove) are a good choice in this time range, because they don’t require the cooling time that large loaves will. As always, try and wait until loaves of bread get down to 80 F inside before cutting into them if possible.
Flaky, buttery no-yeast flatbreads (using yogurt) – These are absolutely delicious, one of my favorite bread recipes! And they’re ready in just over an hour…bonus, they’re made on the stovetop so no need to heat up the oven.
Quick 1-hour French bread – This is quite easy, definitely one of my go-tos, and a very satisfying loaf for a crowd. It can be done in just over an hour, but I’d give it a little longer rise if you can spare the time.
Quick 1-hour(ish) skillet focaccia – While not a *real* focaccia texture-wise, this is a great and easy option because it bakes pretty quickly vs. regular loaves. The herbs and parmesan on top really add a punch of flavor too!
Easy homemade naan bread – Naan isn’t only for Indian food! This one is really quite easy, and the trick is making sure you get it rolled thin so it’s not doughy inside.
Traditional Irish soda bread – There is something so comforting about a hearty, easy soda bread. It’s especially great with soups, or with jam for breakfast with your tea or coffee. This is a smaller-batch version but you can increase the amounts.
Oatmeal brown soda bread – This is a slightly different flavor twist on the traditional one, with a bit of brown sugar for sweetness, oats for texture, and made in a loaf pan rather than the traditional free-form.
Caramelized onion, spinach, feta, & olive oil quick bread – That’s a mouthful, but other than the (mostly hands-off) time it takes to caramelize the onions, this quick bread is SO easy and insanely full of flavor. If you skipped the caramelized onions, this could squeak into the “under an hour” category as well.
The best (easy) pizza dough – I am a huuuuge fan of this dough, and it makes the most amazing grilled pizza. But it is really versatile too, and can be used for all manner of other things…breadsticks, calzones, or whatever your heart desires. And the timing is super flexible.
What bread to make: ready in the 3- to 5-hour range
Here’s where things really get fun. There are a lot of great traditional bread options that can be accomplished in basically a half day, and most of them are pretty flexible.
These are all yeast-based, so the recipes account for the time needed for rising and usually a second rise, in addition to baking and cooling.
Rosemary olive oil bread with sea salt – This is my family’s favorite, and now a Thanksgiving staple. It’s simple, flavorful, and so soft.
Simple no-knead bread – This is a super simple recipe that takes around 5 hours to make, but the majority of that is rising time. No special tools required, you can easily mix this by hand rather than getting your stand mixer dirty. And the result is a warm, hearty, crusty loaf of bread that’s perfect for soup.
The best basic soft dinner rolls – If you’re looking for the perfect traditional dinner roll, this is it. Super soft and fluffy, these don’t take over your flavors but make a great vehicle for butter and jam or sopping up sauces and gravies.
Buttermilk dinner rolls – A little bit different take on dinner rolls, about the same amount of time.
Amish country bread – This one is probably closer to the 2-3 hour range, and has a nice moist chew and a great slight saltiness to it.
5-Minute artisan French bread – Don’t be fooled by the name, the 5 minutes is the *hands-on* time but this delicious bread will likely stretch close to the 5-hour end of our timeframe. It’s crazy easy, though, and the recipe makes three loaves so you can stash the dough in the fridge and have fresh-baked bread for days.
Breads that require (or can have) an overnight rise:
Don’t be put off by bread recipes that require an overnight (or at least 12+ hour) rise. The longer the rise, the more flavor the bread will develop.
Plus, these breads are some of the most flexible to fitting your timing…because a fridge rise is very slow, it’s very difficult to over-prove it. So you can determine when your bread needs to be ready…then back out cooling time, baking time, re-rising time, and then 45 minutes or so for the dough to come to room temp.
Amazing brioche (for babka and other stuff) – Usually you think of brioche with sweet flavors, but a basic brioche dough is soft, buttery goodness. It’s amazing! You can have it plain or add in savory fillings.
Artisan bread with lemon, rosemary, & Irish cheddar – Very similar to the 5-minute artisan French bread, this adds in a delicious blend of citrus, herbs, and salty cheese. You can play around with different flavoring combos, and the overnight rise gives it plenty of time for the flavors to develop.
Whole wheat crusty artisan bread – A slight adaptation of the previous artisan bread, with simple hearty whole wheat.
Samin Nosrat’s Ligurian focaccia – This bread is golden, salty, crunchy perfection…after being soaked in a salty brine, drenched with olive oil, and studded with flaky sea salt. Don’t let the couple of extra steps deter you, this bread isn’t fussy at all. It just requires time.
One additional note, doughs like the 5-minute artisan French bread can also be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days, letting you have fresh bread every day or control when you want it.
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