Making bread involves 12 steps. It occasionally involves a bonus pre-step as well. I actually managed to take pictures along the way as I made my bread so here we go.
0.5. Bonus pre-step. Make a preferment. This is a bit of dough that you ferment 12-24 hours ahead of time. It gives the bread a lighter texture with more air bubbles (the sign of a good bread). I made mine the night before. This preferment is called a poolish and it made by mixing yeast, bread flour and water. It is really important whenever you are mixing yeast with water to have the water between 90 and 95 degrees. Warmer and you will kill the yeast. Cooler and it may not activate and ferment as much as it should.
1. Scale. It is important to measure all the ingredients accurately. We always use a scale.
2. Mixing - Bring all the ingredients together in a bowl first. Once they come together you can start kneading the dough on a lightly floured surface. Most breads get about kneaded about 140 times (or turns). You can see if it is ready by checking for what is called a windowpane. You pull up a bit of dough and stretch it out til it is a little bit translucent. If the window tears quickly it needs a few more turns.
3. Ferment - Cover the dough and leave it alone for about an hour or until it has doubled. You can check if it is ready by poking it. If it collapses it isn't ready. If the hole stays there and doesn't close up it is ready.
4. Punch - Once it has doubled punch it. Squish it down, fold it over, squish it down, repeat.
5. Scale Again - If your recipe is for 2 or more loaves now is the time to divide the dough. Weight it to make sure you have equal amounts.
6. Round - Pretty much was it sounds like. Roll the dough into a nice smooth ball.
7. Bench - Cover again and let the dough sit for 15 to 20 minutes.
8. Make-Up - Now is the time to make the final shape of the dough. I made mine into kind of an oval shape.
9. Proof - You need to let the dough double again. In bakeshops you would use a proof box, a warm and humid environment. Most people don't have those at home. You don't really need one, it will just take a little longer to proof. Put your dough in a warmish place like on top of the fridge. I had my oven on earlier and it was still a little warm so I put my dough in there with some hot water. If you do this make sure your oven isn't too hot. about 90 degrees is perfect for most doughs. Either way you can tell if your dough it ready when it doubles or when it springs back a little if you tap it lightly.
9.5. Score - Another bonus step I guess. If your bread needs scoring (cuts with a serrated knife), now is the time. If you want to egg wash the bead or add any kind of topping, like sesame seeds, now is the time.
10. Bake - Finally! Bake your bread. Most breads bake at around 450 degrees and will take 20-30 minutes.
11. Cool - Let your bread cool all the way before you cut or store it. I think this is impossible. I usually cut my bread when it is still a little warm. I just can't wait.
12. Store - Another important step. If you are making a crisp crusted bread store it is paper once it is cool. For a soft crust bread store it in plastic.
There. You did it! Or, at least I did. Don't worry, you can live vicariously through me this time. My bread actually worked! it is soft and tasty. It made a great sandwich for lunch today. I'm excited to try making my own dough recipe again.