I'll go ahead and warn you now, this post is going to be pretty picture-heavy. I've always been a visual learner, and apparently I'm a visual teacher as well. I can't just explain to you how to do something - I have some deep-seated need to SHOW you. Just go with it.
Ok, first gather your ingredients. You will need:
1 packet active dry yeast
1/3 cup warm water
5 tsp sugar
1.5 tbs butter, melted
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup milk
approx 2 cups flour
Step 0: It's not completely necessary, but I like to warm my metal bowl by holding it under hot running water before I start. Yeast likes things to be warm, not cold.
Step 1: Combine the packet of yeast, 1/3 cup warm water, and 1 tsp sugar in the bowl and stir until the yeast is completely dissolved. Then walk away for 10 minutes. If your yeast is active, it will form a foamy layer on top of the liquid. If you see that, yell "It's alive!" in your best Dr. Frankenstein voice and continue to the next step.
|Foamy top - might be a little hard to see in the picture, but it's there!|
You want the dough to be just slightly sticky. It should form a ball as you stir - if it sticks to the bowl, you should add a bit more flour. If you add to much and it gets dry and no longer sticks to itself to form a nice ball, you can add just a very small amount of water to moisten things up again. It's trial and error at this point, but eventually, you'll get a ball of dough you can hold without it sticking to your hands.
Step 3: Plop that ball of dough down on a floured surface.
After several minutes, you will notice that the consistency of the dough is changing. It will become smooth and kind of elastic-ish.
|See, doesn't that look different than before?|
Then find a warm place for your dough to hang out while it rises. Some people use the light in their oven to generate a bit of heat and put the dough in there. I have a different method. I get the best results when I fill a bowl with hot water, put a rack over it, and put my dough on the rack. Wherever you decide to put your bowl, cover it with a towel and leave it alone for an hour. It should double in size.
Step 6: Move the dough back to a floured surface. Punch it down (it will return to its original size) and knead it a few times. Then flatten it out into a rectangle that's about the same length, but wider.
Step 9: Put the loaf pan back in the warm place, cover with a towel, and leave it to rise for another hour. Before your hour is up, make sure you preheat your oven to 375.
If you are anything like me, you'll probably start eating it before it ever gets a chance to cool. Enjoy!
* This bread is just a very basic recipe. You can alter it by using different types of flour or adding things such as cinnamon and raisins. You can even branch out a little and start making your own pizza dough, bread sticks, and hamburger/hotdog buns! The possibilities are endless!
**Keep in mind that this bread doesn't have the preservatives that store bought bread has, so it won't last as long before growing stale. Enjoy it while it's fresh!