To start off with, we are not going to preheat the oven today! That's a first, huh? Instead, get your warm water measured out, and add in your sugar. You can stir to dissolve the sugar, but I don't worry about it. Pour in your yeast, and set it aside for the yeast to bloom. This is fancy talk for activating the yeast. This should take anywhere from 5-15 minutes, you'll know its done when there is a layer of foam on top of the water. You'll see in a minute.
While you're waiting, go on and mix the flour and salt together, in a medium sized bowl. I just use the mixing bowl from my mixer. You can sift all of this together, but I just dump it in. I do give it a mix with a fork, though, just to try and incorporate them a little before adding the yeast, sugar, and water.
Here is the layer of foam I was talking about; if your yeast mixture doesn't do this, toss it out and try it again. Yeast isn't expensive, and since yeast is what makes this bread rise, you don't want to risk it not working. I actually had to toss out my first yeast batch while making this bread; my water wasn't warm enough for the yeast to activate, but the second time it was great! As you can see below, I don't stir my yeast in after I put it in. I just dump it on top of the water, and it figures itself out.
Don't worry if all of the flour doesn't get absorbed, just get most of it mixed in. I ended up using my hands to mix it all together, after it got too much for my fork.
Once you have something that looks like this, place a damp kitchen towel over it (I usually wet it with warm tap water, wring it out, and place it over the bowl), and set it aside, in a warm place, for an hour and a half, to two hours. With most houses being air conditioned, it can be difficult to find a place warm enough to let dough rise, so I just turn the light on in my oven, and stick the whole thing in there. I've never had a problem with a dough rising doing this. This is the dough about an hour into rising.
And here is the dough two hours after rising! It always amazes me that it works! Isn't science great???
Okay, now we have to "punch down" the dough. This basically means that we have to remove the gasses that the yeast have developed, so the dough can rise again. The easiest way to do this, is to take a fork, and scrape down the side of the bowl, bringing the dough back up on itself, by pulling it up toward you. I think these pictures help to show what I mean better than I can explain it. The phrase, "A picture is worth a thousand words" rings true here, that's for sure!
Once your dough has been punched down, take two forks, and divide the dough into two, by splitting it down the middle. Scoop up half and dump it into one of the prepared bowls, and dump the other half into the second bowl.
As you can see, I like to put mine on a cookie sheet (easier to move them in and out of the oven). Cover these and put them back into the warm oven for another thirty minutes to an hour, until the dough has risen up over the top of the bowl.
I mean, seriously, how easy was that?? This bread makes amazing French toast, croutons, or just a snack! Yum!! I make this bread once every couple of weeks, and my daughter just loves it! She's a bread lover, just like me!