I learned to make bread with AP flour. It can be amazingly good, soft, and with a great flavor. It won't make you a prper baguet, French, or Itallian loaf, bit it will fill the belly, and be great as toast, or hot with melted butter and strawberry jam.
I believe we all get caught up in "perfect" as defined by other people. There was no bread better than what my mother made on a cold winter's day, and gave to us as we came in from the snowy weather, hot and yummy. It made the house smell great, and the mouth water. I'd call that perfect bread.
I have won several bread contests with bread made from AP white flour, and AP whole wheat flour. I've even combined AP white, barley flour, rye, and several other flours to make my own seven-grain breads, complete with sunflower seed. It came out very good. I've also made my own sour-dough started with whte flour that worked exceptionally well.
The secret to good bread, is the consistancy of the dough. Too sticky means too much moisture content, and that means doughy bread. Too dry and your bread will be like eating sawdust. Bread dough should be smooth and elastic when needed, and slightly sticky to the touch so that you occasionally have to remove dough from your hands and between your fingers. But it should not stick to the bowl. Also, the amount of fat in the dough is important as it determines the "moist feel" of the finished product.
Bake at 375' F. until just a hint darker than medium brown. The bread should sound hollow when lightly tapped on top. Let the bread rest on a cooling rack for ten minutes or so before cutting into it to prevent all the moisture from escaping as steam. Butter or oil the entire surface of the bread, again to keep the moisture from escaping and the crust from drying out (you should also spread butter all over the dough surface as it rises for the same reason).
Follow those simple rules and your bread should make you proud. For a single loaf of bread (home sized bread pan), start with 3 cups flour, 1/2 tsp. salt for each cup of flour, 1 tbs. sugar per cup of flour. Use one package of yeast added to 1 cup of warm milk and stirred in to dissolve. Let the yeast/milk mixture sit until a foam forms on top. This is your singal that the yeast is good and is growing. Add to the flour, oil, and salt, and begin kneeding. Add more flour or water as needed to get the right consistancy, let rise to double in bulk, punch down, place in a greased bread pan, let rise again until double in bulk, and bake until done. That's all there is to great bread, seriously. And if you want a thinner, more tender crust, cook longer at a slightly lower temperature with a pan of water in the oven. For a heartier crust, cook at a higher temperature in a dry oven.
Seeeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
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