Three or four weeks later, here is the recipe I settled on. And it is good enough to make mustard bread with! It's also far less expensive to make four loaves - if you're following you costs, the basic breakdown is about $1 per two loaves of bread. I can give the breakdown on that some other time but it's a sizable savings and healthier since there are no preservatives added. If you have to, the bread freezes well - it won't last long on the shelf! I often make one, freeze one and maybe make the dough for the 2nd batch to freeze for later.
Not quick, but super-tasty, healthy, and simple to make. I make two loaves at a time (only have two bread pans) and bake once or twice a week. I add extra stuff to make it healthier, but you don't have to have all of that to make a decent, fluffy loaf! If you don't add the extra, you'll need more flour to make up for it. The picture above is made without the extras, and shaped by hand instead of in a pan - we were having pasta that night. I added rosemary to the top and a few other herbs as well. But below is what I use every week for sandwiches.
The stuff with a ** by it is stuff that I add, but that is not really necessary - but does help give it a little bit better "sandwich bread" texture. Without the extras, you get a pretty decent french bread loaf!
4 - 5 cups flour (I use "Better for Bread" flour, gives me about 6 to 8 loaves per $2 bag)
2 packets of dry yeast (NOT the kind for bread machines)
1 scant Tbsp. sugar or honey (only a very slight difference in taste)
1 - 1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 - 1/4 c. ground flax seed** (1/4 c. of each of these makes it a little too heavy to rise well so I use just slightly less of each)
1/8 - 1/4 c. wheat germ** (I find each of these "extra" items over in the organic section of the Commissary - near the protein bars and vitamins.)
1/8 - 1/4 c. wheat bran**
1 Tbsp. gluten**
1. In a 2 c. (or larger) measuring cup, warm 1/2 cup of water to 115 - 120 degrees (the temperature can make a huge difference. I look to go at 120 myself.) Add 1 Tbsp. sugar/honey and the yeast. Let sit about 10 minutes until foamy - it will fill up to about the 1 1/2 c. mark.
2. While the yeast rises, in a large mixing bowl, put 3 c. flour (4 cups if you're not adding the extra stuff), salt and flax, wheat germ, wheat bran and gluten (if using.) Mix all of these dry ingredients together. The rest of the flour will be used during kneading.
3. Add the risen yeast and an additional 1 3/4 cups of water, also at 120 degrees. Mix everything together fairly well - but if there is still some flour not mixed in on the bottom it's not a big deal.
4. Put about 1/2 c. flour onto a clean surface (counter/cutting board/etc.) pout the dough out onto the floured surface (the dough will still be sticky.) Put another 1/4 c. flour on top of the dough. Knead the dough, adding additional flour as needed for 8 to 10 minutes (I'm not precise in the time, as you might guess, but it usually takes me about 8 minutes before it's at a good elasticity. If it is getting hard or difficult to fold over for the kneading process, you can pick it up on one side and let it hang for a second to stretch out a bit and continue from there.)
5. Oil the mixing bowl and put the dough in, coating the outside of the dough with the oil. Cover with a fairly damp cloth and let rise for at least 1 hour. How long it needs to rise will depend greatly on the humidity and temperature.
6. Once the dough has risen and is about double in size (or more if you're not paying attention!) put a light coating of oil onto a clean surface, and knead the dough again for three or four quick strokes. Place in two lightly, but thoroughly oiled baking pans, cover with a fairly damp cloth (almost wet!) and let rise for another 30 to 60 minutes (until risen as high as you'd like them to be.) Mine always rise a little more even once I've put them in the oven, so maybe go just under how high you'd like them to be. Remove the cover and bake at 450 deg.s for about 20 minutes. Let cool for about 15 minutes before turning out for best results.
I hope I've written this out clearly and that it tastes as good for your family as for my own!