I baked my first loaf of bread ever two weeks ago. I was expecting it to turn out like a brick, it was surprisingly delicious. Thick crust and soft of the inside. I was so pleased with the first loaf I made another the following day. (The picture above is the first loaf )
* 1-1/3 cups very warm water
* 1 rounded tbsp. sugar
* 2 teaspoons salt (I used Fleur de sel )
* 2 tbsp. butter (vary as needed; see below)
* 4 rounded cups flour (nearly 5 level cups)
* 1 tsp. active dry yeast
3 cloves of garlic to the basic recipe.1/4 cup of chives and a few sprigs of parsley roughly chopped.
Stage One: Mixing and Kneading: There are two general methods for making these ingredients into good bread - the "machine-mixed" method and the "mixed by hand" method. There is no real art to mixing - it's brute-force work best left to a machine. So, if you have a heavy-duty stand mixer (like a KitchenAid), a bread machine, or a food processor, I recommend the first method. Even if you have nothing more complex than a large bowl and a wooden spoon, though, you can make bread (it's just a little more tiring that way!)
* Machine-Mixed Method: The best machine for bread mixing is a bread machine. They make lousy bread, but they're great for mixing because they mix, knead, and provide a warm place for the bread to rise, all in one. Simply assemble the ingredients in the machine's bucket, in the order listed, and use your machine's Dough cycle. When it's done, skip ahead to Stage Three, below. Mixing dough in a food processor or with a standing mixer is a lot like mixing it by hand - so read the instructions for that, but let the machine do all the work!
* Mixed by Hand Method: In a mixing bowl, dissolve the sugar salt in the water, and sprinkle yeast on top. Stir to dissolve, and allow to stand for 10 minutes before stirring again (set the butter out to soften during this time). Add the butter, then about 2/3 of the flour to the mixing bowl, a half-cup at a time, and mix until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Use the tail-end of a wooden spoon, or a sturdy case knife (the dull table-knives that a lot of folks call butter knives). Turn the dough onto a floured bread board or counter top and flour your hands (if you're using a machine for mixing, just leave it in the machine). With your fingers, gradually work in remaining flour while kneading the dough into a smooth mass (about fifteen minutes - or about half that with a machine). If at any point your hands start to get sticky, put flour on them!
Stage Two: The First Rising: If you're using a bread machine, this step is handled automatically by the Dough cycle, so you can skip ahead to Stage Three. Otherwise: Place dough in a bowl greased with 1/2 tsp. butter (turning once to butter the top). The best way to grease a bowl is to put the butter in a paper towel, and use the paper towel to rub the butter on all sides of the bowl. This gives a nice even coverage and doesn't get your hand greasy at all! Cover the bowl with a towel, and place it in a warm place. A sunny spot in your kitchen will do on a summer day, but I prefer a slightly warmed oven. Warm your oven by turning it to the very lowest setting. It should be noticeably warm, but cool enough so you can press your hand against the inside of the oven door without burning yourself. Turn the oven completely off before putting the bread in to rise. Keep the oven closed during the rising-time to keep in the warmth.
Allow about 45 minutes rising time (this can vary a bit with the climate, the yeast used, and other factors - allow for a 20 minute "fudge factor" in either direction); the dough should grow to twice its normal size. When a finger inserted into the top of the dough leaves a tunnel that doesn't begin to "heal," the dough has finished rising.
Stage Three: The Loaf: Punch the risen dough down completely (pretend it's somebody you're mad at) and give it a quick kneading on the bread-board or countertop. If it's too sticky at this point, add a dusting of flour. Shape dough into a fat cigar-shape about 12-13 inches long. Re-warm the oven if need be for the second rising.
The loaf should be placed on a flat cooking surface - a series of baking tiles, or a pizza stone, or a cookie sheet. Dust the surface with a light dusting of cornmeal, then gently place the loaf on it. If you like, slash the top of the dough once down the middle of the top, or in several short, diagonal slashes across it. This will help keep the loaf from splitting along the side.
Stage Four: The Second Rise: This one's real easy. Cover the loaf lightly with paper towels and stash it in the warm place again. Let is rise for another 45 minutes, until the loaf is doubled in size and ready to bake.
Stage Five: Baking The Bread: Place the loaf in the oven (if it isn't already there, rising) and turn the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not preheat the oven! Bake the bread for 30-45 minutes, until it turns a deep golden brown. Baking time varies because all ovens are different. Check your bread first at 30 minutes, and again every five minutes until it looks done. The finished loaf should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom with the flat of a wooden spoon.
Remove the bread from the oven and brush the top and sides lightly with olive oil or melted butter. Cool on a rack for one hour; the bread is then ready to serve or store (if you don't have a rack, any improvised surface that allows a little air to circulate under the bread will do)
Original source for recipe by By S. John Ross he also has a sourdough recipe I want to try here