BASIC BREAD THAT REALLY IS, FOR A LOT OF PURPOSES, BETTER THAN YOU GET IN THE SHOPS:
"Bread consists in flour, salt, water and yeast. Anything else is cake." (Lugo Teehalt; Clearwater Lake Ecological Congress; 1972; Keynote address.)
White flour (Cheap flour will do.)
Add the yeast to the water with a little of the flour. (For dry mix yeast, which is best avoided, follow the genetic engineer's instructions.) When the yeast has "dissolved" add the rest of the ingredients and mix. (Added much later, 13th. Sept 2007: An improvement in the lightness of the bread, and it does not increase the time to make the bread by much, is had by allowing the mixture to rise quite a lot before kneading it. This also makes it easier to knead.) Knead the mixture 64 times, say, preferably longer. (To knead: smear the dough away from you; rotate dough through 90 degrees; fold the edge nearest you to the edge furthest from you. Kneading may be less effort if the bread is allowed to rise slightly.) Allow to rise, it rises faster the warmer it is - remembering yeast is a living organism, until it doubles in size, preferably (very) more than doubles. Knead lightly 35 times, say. Shape and place on lightly floured, dry baking tray. Sticks and buns are nicer, easier and quicker to cook than are loaves. Place in a cold oven. Cook for 30 minutes in a very cool oven (gas mark 1). Then turn up oven to hot (gas mark 7) and cook for about 15 minutes for sticks and buns or a little longer, until it sounds hollow when tapped on the base, for a loaf.
The important points to get a good, well risen texture are:
Do not use too much water, a stiff dough is much easier to cook.
Do not "over prove". That is, after the second knead do not allow the bread to rise much before you cook it. In the method no rise at all is specified and this gives good results. Not over proving is much the most important consideration. The idea is to get the bread to rise as much as possible when it is inside the oven.
One way to adjust the crustiness is how long it is cooked. (Another is brushing with brine.) Longer cooking gives a robust crust and more flavor.
The yeast organism is inhibited by salt.
The less yeast you put in the better the flavour, (this is by far the most important consideration for flavour - the yeast lightens the dough by filling it with bubble of gas, but it also ferments the flour and it is universally held that this provides the nice taste) but it takes longer to prove.
Yeast may be economized upon by saving some of the dough, mixing it with water and some fresh flour, covering and allowing this brew to ferment until the next time you make bread. In this way yeast needs to be purchased only once. Sporus does not know if this is safe - other organisms cohabit with the yeast - but it makes excellent bread.
Letting the bread prove in a refrigerator overnight often gives particularly good results.
Bread-ologists would be appalled but a lovely sweet taste is produced by putting no salt in the bread, but it has to be no salt at all not even a pinch.
Always experiment, only then can the bread get better. The inevitable cock ups are rare.