Heather recently posted what she has learned about great homemade bread. Read it.
I wanted to share my recipe as well as what I do. I think good bread only has a few ingredient. But you need all of them or it won't work out!
oil (I like to use Olive Oil)
flour. (This recipe is for wheat-based flour, I should try it with oat or other flour!)
As Heather mentioned, you should activate your yeast first. I use Fleishman's yeast and it works fine, but I do keep it in the freezer.
I don't really have exact measurements, but I'll give approximations:
2 Cups warm water
1 Tbsp yeast
1 Tbsp sugar/honey (you can add more if you are making dough for something like cinnamon rolls)
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp oil
4-5 cups flour (I use 1-2 cups whole wheat, and the rest white flour)
First, mix your water, yeast, and sugar. Make sure your water isn't too hot, it will kill the yeast. If it burns you it's too hot, otherwise it's fine. If it isn't warm it won't activate the yeast as well. Dissolve the yeast and sugar, and let this sit for 5 minutes or so.
Add Salt and oil. Then, if you are using partial wheat flour, add that, mix well, and let it sit. 5 minutes should do the trick (the whole wheat flour needs more time to absorb the moisture, this will prevent you from adding too much flour).
Add the rest of your flour, one cup at a time. I don't have a mixer, so I knead my dough by hand. I don't think it's too inconvenient. My sister doesn't like having to clean her mixer, but cleaning your hands is no treat either. Make sure you take your rings off before you knead.
This is especially where Heather's post helped me. I would knead the dough for 1 whole minute, then if you need more flour, add 1/2 cup at a time until the dough isn't too sticky. You want to make sure you knead it enough. It's hard to explain how you know you've kneaded it enough. If you're using a mixer, it will pull away from the bowl. If not, just practice a few times and you'll get the hang of it.
I use this bread dough for a variety of things. Pizza, rolls, cinnamon rolls, breadsticks. It's pretty yummy! I should probably start making loaves for sandwiches and such.