Side note, if you need a solid basic cookbook, The Better Homes and Garden is seriously the best cookbook I own I am sure. Plus you can customize it by buying new/different sections, and since the book is bound binder-style, you can just easily add them in.
Tip: to get the perfect water temperature for yeast, turn your hot water on, let it run until it's warmed up. Next slowly turn on the cold a little bit at a time while checking the temperature with your hand or wrist. When the water is barely noticeable as you touch it ie neither hot nor cold to your touch, it is at about your body temperature which as it turns out is a happy temperature for yeast as well.
I also usually turn my oven onto about 200°F for about 10 minutes, then turn it off. This gives me a perfect draft free place to let the bread rise.
Simple Bread Recipe
2 Cups warm water
2 Tablespoons dry active yeast
1/4 Cup sugar or honey
Liberal pinch of salt
About 6 Cups Flour
In a large bowl whisk the sugar or honey into the water until dissolved. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and lightly mix together.
Allow the yeast to proof for between 10-15 odd minutes, or until it has a nice thick creamy-foamy layer on top.
After the yeast has proofed, sift one or two cups of flour over the top and then sprinkle the pinch of salt over the flour. Use a sturdy wooden spoon or fork to mix together. Add flour 1/2 or 1 cup at a time until it is too difficult to mix. Liberally flour a work surface and turn the dough out onto it. Sift more flour over the top of the dough and begin to knead.
To knead the bread fold the lower end of the dough up towards the middle of the loaf and use the heel of your hand to push the fold in and down. Stretching the dough as you push. Turn the dough about 90 degrees and repeat kneading process, adding more flour as needed until the dough is smooth, not sticky and elastic. This can take up to 10 minutes and yes you should feel like your arms got a work out.
Use a bit of olive oil to lightly grease either the mixing bowl you were using or a clean one, as well as lightly oiling the outside of your dough ball. Place greased dough ball into greased bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. The oil on the dough will help it stretch more easily, and the grease in the bowl will help us out later when we need to turn the risen dough.
Allow dough to rise for about 1 hour.
After one hour, punch the dough down in the center. Literally, make a fist and push it into the center of the loaf and down to the bottom. This gets rid of air bubbles. After punching the dough let it recover/rest for another 10 minutes.
Next divide the dough into either two halves to make normal sized bread loaves, or if you are like me and find bread goes bad before you finish it all, you can divide it into quarters and make four mini loaves.
No matter what you choose the instructions are about the same.
After dividing the dough, roll each piece out separately into a long rectangle. Starting at the smaller end of the rectangle begin to roll the loaf up. Tucking the ends underneath, and placing the prepared loaf seam side down in a lightly greased 8X8 inch brownie pan. If doing two loaves place them side by side, if doing four place one loaf on each corner and just kind of make them all fit.
Rolling the dough out and then rolling it up helps give the bread more lift on it's second rise and makes a less dense loaf at the end. You could just shape the blobs of dough into loafs if you want to take the easy way out.
Once each loaf as been prepared, shaped and placed into the pan, cover with the tea towel again and let rise for another 20-30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F while the dough is rising.
Once loaves have risen a second time, place them into preheated oven and bake for about 30 minutes, when the tops are a nice golden brown and when tapped the loaf sounds pretty hollow.
If your bread tops are getting too dark you can brush them with a bit of milk and cover with tin foil to prevent excess browning.
Once baked, let loaves cool on a rack, cut each loaf away from the others and enjoy.
You can wrap extra loaves up in saran wrap tightly and then place loaves into freezer bags and keep in the freezer for about a month. Just make sure the loaf is completely cool before you try and freeze it.
Did you know some people believe that having a hole in your loaf of bread can be bad luck or signal death is coming, as the hole looks like a buried coffin in the bread.
Something for breakfast: