When it comes to bread baking I am all about thrift, ease, efficiency and success. Not to mention tasty. Here is how I make my bread, step by step.
For ease and efficiency I let a bread machine do most of the work for me. I just plug it in and select the dough cycle.
Take the pan that comes with the bread machine and put the paddle in it. I only mention this because it is a real pain to put it in after the fact once you realize you forgot to do it in the first place.
Add your dry ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 tsp. yeast
3 Tbs. sugar
1 tsp. salt
Place the pan in the machine making sure it is properly seated. Hit the start button. While the paddle rotates and begins to mix the dry ingredients fill up your measuring cup with:
1 cup hot water
1 Tbs. olive oil
Pour your water and oil into your flour mixture. Watch it as it combines. If it seems too dry and can't from a ball add water a tablespoon at a time. If it seems too wet and sticky add flour one tablespoon at a time. It doesn't take much flour or water to change the consistency so take your time and allow each addition to thoroughly combine before adding more. Once your dough ball forms close the lid and walk away until the machine summons you at the end of the cycle.
After the machine beeps to signal the dough cycle is complete sprinkle your surface with about a 1/4 cup of flour and dump the dough out of the pan onto it. Remove the paddle from the dough if it is no longer in the pan. Usually it comes out with the dough.
At this time I usually drop the paddle back into the pan and fill it up with warm water to start soaking for easy clean up.
Gently pick up your dough with your floured hands and roll it in on the floured surface just until it is easy to handle. Shape it into a round or log shape, depending on what type or pan you plan to bake your bread in. Spray your pan with pan spray and place the dough in it to rise.
You can cut a slice along the top of your loaf or in this case I did an X. You don't have to but sometimes I like to get a little crazy with the creativity. Now rinse out your bread machine pan and clean all the dough out of it and off the paddle. Dry them and put them back in the machine. I tuck my cord inside my machine. It allows the lid to stay propped open for air flow between uses. No one wants a funky bread machine.
Once your dough has risen to double its original size place it in a pre-heated 400° over and bake for 20 to 22 minutes. Remove from oven and butter the top, if you like. I always like. J After a few minutes remove bread from pan to cooling rack.
Note: If you do not have a bread machine and think you want one check out the thrift stores. You can find plenty of them there in the $10 to $15 range. Garage sales are another great place to look for them too.
You may also enjoy revisiting this old post on Bread Machines.