My family loves bread. I love making bread for them. I make sometimes 4 loaves a week depending on what our meals are and who is here all day. I buy my flour and yeast in bulk at a local Amish whole foods store.
It has taken me about two years of baking and reading James Beard's Beard on Bread book to get my recipe exactly the way I like it and to really learn how to make bread. I never kneaded it long enough. I've found that if I've kneaded it long enough and had my water the correct temperature when adding to my yeast that it doesn't really matter what the temperature is, it will rise.
I've used several different recipes and tweaked them to my own and am very happy with the results. Our bread doesn't typically last long here but in the rare case that it does, it will keep up to a week on the counter in a large ziploc bag.
Homemade White Loaf Bread
1 tbs yeast
1 cup of warm water (110*)
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
3 tbsp olive oil
2 1/2-3 cups of all purpose flour ( I use King Arthur Special)
Add the warm water to the yeast and let sit for about 5 minutes until bubbly. Add in the salt, sugar, and olive oil and give a good stir before adding the flour one cup at a time. It depends on the moisture in the air as to how much I have to add, sometimes I've added almost one more cup than it calls for. Once its mixed together and forming a sticky ball you can turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is soft and sticky but doesn't stick to your hands, you may also notice some pockets of air bubbles which is also a good sign that you've kneaded it well. This usually takes me about 5-10 minutes. You can do all of this in a stand mixer if you want to eliminate all of the kneading by hand. You will come out with the same result but miss the arm workout!
I place the ball of dough back into the same bowl and let rise until doubled with a kitchen towel covering to block the draft.
Once it has risen, punch it down and knead it back into a ball. Oil your hands and a loaf pan with olive oil. Form the dough into a loaf and place in the pan and let rise to the top of the pan.
Place in a cold oven. Turn oven on at 375* and bake for 25-30 minutes. When finished baking let cool in the pan for about 5 minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack. It slices best when completely cooled, but if you're impatient like me and have to slice into it right away just slice really slow with a serrated bread knife so that you don't tear the loaf.
This recipe is easily doubled. If you do use a stand mixer be careful about doubling the recipe as there may not be enough room in the mixer bowl to knead the dough. You don't have to use a loaf pan, you can free form the dough into a round shape or a french loaf shape and cut slits in the top, I do this quite a bit as well.
I find this to be a very easy recipe. A lot of people tend to be afraid of using yeast and therefore don't make their own bread. I think what the problem is, is they really aren't kneading the dough long enough or hard enough. Once you get the hang of it you can tell the exact second that it's kneaded enough just by the softness of the dough.
Go make a loaf and let me know what you think!