Well, the 2nd attempt was MUCH better!
Here's what I did differently:
I made sure the water was not as hot this time, checked the temp and it was 125F if my candy thermometer is to be believed (last time it was 160F).
Recipe calls for vegetable oil. I used Canola last time. This time I tried some Rice Bran oil I had around...seemed appropriate for bread.
The yeast was in overdrive! What took 5-7 hours per rise last time took mere minutes this time. I could see it rising before my eyes at one point, and I've *never* had that happen. I have to attribute that to garlicjosh's water temp tip, because I'm all but positive I've used near-boiling water in the past.
I have a recipe for cinnamon buns that I've made 3 times....the first time was a raging (and apparently accidental) success...the other two were abysmal failures. I'm going to try that next now that I've pulled off some bread!
As soon as we use up what I just made today I'll give it a third try (or maybe try a new recipe) and see if I can do better.
YEAH! That's more like it!
I'd say I'm really close to what I'm trying to achieve, but this is much much much better than last time.
It's also very apparent that I need to buy a bread knife.