Preparation / Directions:
Step 1. Choose a moderate day when your kitchen is between 70 and 80 degrees. Pick a large heavy bowl (about 4 quarts) for mixing by hand or with a mixer. Pick a spot in your kitchen that is draft free and has a counter that is at a comfortable height that allows your arms to be fully exteded with your palms resting on it. You and your back will appreciate this when you get to kneading the dough. HINT: I use the kitchen table so I don't have to stand during the whole process.
Step 2: Pour 1/4 cup of warm water into your bowl. Then, add a package of yeast. Stir for a few minutes until it's completely dissolved. Use 120 to 130 degree F. liquids. Stir in the other warm liquids, butter (margarine is better) or oil, salt, sugar or honey. Keep stirring until the mixture is very evenly mixed. HINT A little extra effort to keep everything very smooth will really pay off. Note: The recipes have all the liquid included, so when you take the 1/4 cup water for the yeast above, simply subtract it from each recipe's total liquid.
STEP 3: Stir in very slowly - so it doesn't splatter - the flour(s) and other dry ingredients. Stir in about one carefully sifted cup at a time. Beat until dough is very smooth and elastic. Dough should be stiff. Mix at least 5 to 10 minutes.
STEP 4: Turn out (dump out of bowl) onto a well floured board the dough you have mixed. Flour your hands (cover them with flour) and start kneading. Kneading the dough is working it to form an even elastic consistency. This is the most important step because this is where the gluten forms its net that hold in the bubbles coming from the yeast to make your bread airy and light. Fold your dough in half. Push down and away from you. Turn it a quarter turn. Fold it in half again. Don't be afraid to push down hard. The harder you work the dough, the better texture your bread will have. And, the better it will rise. Push, turn and fold it over and over again. If your dough is sticky, add a few sprinkles of flour. The temperature of your room will affect the amount of flour and liquid needed. If your dough is dry, sprinkle on some water. HINT: Kneading isn't as complicated as it sounds. But you must really put your weight into it. And here's the secret of knowing when it's right. After 10 to 15 minutes of beating up your dough, push your clean had against it. If nothing sticks to your hand, your dough isn't too wet. Then check to see that it's elastic.
STEP 5: Put your dough into a lightly greased bowl and grease the top lightly. Cover the bowl with a clean dishcloth. Pick a warm dark place with no drafts (very important) and let the dough rise until it is double in size (about 1 1/2 hours). Hint: I use my oven (not on), as it is warm and dark and draft free.
STEP 6: Take your dough out of the bowl and punch it down. Punching it down is simply lightly kneading it for a few seconds. Divide it into two portions and shape each into a loaf shape. Put each into a greased medium loaf pan about (8 x 4 x 2 inches). Cover the loaf pans and put them back wherever you let the dough rise until it is double in size again. It should take about 45 minutes.
STEP 7: Place loaf pans into a 350 degree F. preheated oven and bake until brown (40 to 45 minutes). Remove the loaves from the pans and place on a wire rack to cool.
STEP 8: Here's the good part. Enoy your own great tasting creations. They'll be preservative free. They'll be fresh. And, between the great smells in your home and the great tastes at the table, it r