Understanding the 3 Basic Types of Bread – Comparing Quick Bread, Yeast Bread, and Sourdough

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 Want to learn about making bread from scratch? First you’ll need to understand the different bread types and how different loaves are made.

two loaves of crusty bread side by side, one with seeds (from above)

Three different bread types to try

Just a few generations ago, people would have scoffed at the idea of heading to the store to buy a loaf of bread. Baking bread at home was once the norm, but man, have we stepped far away from that simple activity! If you’re considering delving into making bread from scratch as part of your efforts toward more self-reliant lifestyle, here’s a very basic look at the different bread types that you can make at home.

Quick Bread

Quick breads are a type of bread leavened with baking soda or baking powder.

Wait! What in the world does leavened mean? Leavening is what causes baked goods to rise. Without some sort of leavening, your bread will be a dense brick. 

Because baking soda and baking powder are fast acting, when you put a loaf of quick bread in the oven, it will begin to rise almost immediately. You might even see the dough begin to bubble a bit while it’s still in the bowl.

As the name implies, quick breads don’t require a lot of time, since the leavening agents work almost immediately. Mix up the ingredients, bake, and you’re all set. Quick breads can be sweet or savory, and they’re not always shaped in a loaf. Muffins and biscuits follow the quick bread model, using baking soda or baking powder as a leavening agent. These recipes all fall under the quick bread category:

Yeast Bread

Generally speaking, yeast breads have a lower fat and sugar content than quick breads. Yeast breads take a bit more work than quick breads. This type of bread dough requires kneading (though if you have stand mixer with a dough hook, that part’s a snap). It also needs time to rise.

Wait! What in the world does rise mean? When you add yeast to your dough, it causes the process of fermentation to begin. The yeast needs a chance to “consume” the sugar and excrete carbon dioxide and alcohols, making the little air pockets you see in bread. (Go here for a very detailed description of the process.)

The good news is, you don’t need to be involved with the rising process for this type of bread. Just cover the dough and let it do its thing. Here’s the most important thing to note, though: Yeast bread is not hard to make.

Making bread from scratch with yeast is a different process than you might be familiar with, sure. But learning how to make bread from scratch is the same as most other cooking: combine ingredients and bake. These recipes all start with a yeast dough:

Want to learn how to make bread from scratch? First you'll need to understand the basics of bread making and how different types of bread are made.

Sourdough bread

Honestly, this is my favorite type of bread to eat. A crusty loaf of sourdough bread? There’s nothing that compares!

Sourdough breads are made with a natural leavening agent. You’ve probably heard the term “sourdough starter.” This is an active leavening agent that causes bread to rise. The sourdough started begins a slow fermentation process when combined with bread ingredients and the right conditions. Baking bread from scratch with a sourdough starter differs in that it generally takes longer to rise than those made with commercially-produced yeast.

That long rise causes the flours to ferment. Some people find that fermented sourdough breads are easier to digest. To get started with sourdough fermentation, you’ll need to make a sourdough starter. (A good sourdough starter can live for years if well cared for.) Then give these recipes a try:

two loaves of crusty bread side by side, one with seeds

Originally published in February 2015. 

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle.

4 comments… add one
  • Tony Bescher Mar 21, 2015, 9:54 am

    Is there a way to have yeast at home in the kitchen and not have to buy new packets of yeast…like great grandma used to do?

  • T. Jones Mar 18, 2020, 7:12 am

    Thanks! I’ve been making breakfast for years and this was super helpful!

  • Linda Apr 4, 2020, 4:52 am

    I am on day 2 of your recipe for no yeast sourdough bread and am excited to try making my first loaf of bread soon. Thank you for the recipe- I will let you know how it turns out.

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