Originally Posted by Mraughh
I do live in denver, so the altitude here is about 3k feet. I dont know if that's a big factor or not.
Baking at 3,000 ft requires minimal adjustments, so we can say that was not a big factor with your bread. More than likely the yeast was the culprit. If your yeast was good, you should have had sufficient oven spring that would prevent the whole recipe from being a brick.
I know there are folks here who feel strongly about using "Active Dry Yeast" that requires proofing (read: making more work for yourself), but I recommend using "INSTANT YEAST" which you mix in with the dry ingredients (check the expiration date on your packages. Some stores don't sell much yeast, and you can get expired packages). Instant Yeast has the highest concentration of live spores, and can be kept in the freezer to maintain its freshness. If you plan on doing a lot of bread baking, go to a restaurant supply or Sam'a Club and buy a 1# package of Instant Yeast for about $3-$4 for a whole pound. That's enough to make almost 100 loaves of regular bread. If you can't get it near where you live, you can order it from Bread Making Videos — Bread Baking Instructional Videos and Baking Supplies.
In the future when you get in a time pinch, just put your dough in the fridge in a bowl covered with plastic wrap or a container like Tupperware with a lid. You can leave it there for several days, and just bring it back to room temperature and pick up where you left off.
Speaking of the fridge, how cool is your house? if you keep your house too cool, the proofing time needs to be increased. Bread dough like to proof at temps around 80-90 F, so you might need to find a warm spot to proof the dough. I boil a cup of water in the microwave then put the cup in the corner of the unit and put the covered bowl in the nuke and close teh door. I don't open it for at least 1 hour, and my dough rises in that time.
EDIT - oh yeah, he was saying about after the first rising the dough should have a silky texture, it did'nt. it was still kind of moist so I had to keep adding a bit more flour to the counter when I started doing the shaping of the loaves.
This may have been another reason the bread was dense. Silky means different things to each person. As long as the dough does not stick to your hands, it's fine for making French bread. Adding significantly more flour after the initial proof will make your bread more dense. I flour my hands and dough just enough to get the shaping done. If it's a bit slack it will still give you a good loaf of bread with big holes and a chewy crust.
Give it another try and let us know how it goes.