I've tried white. I've tried wheat. I've tried sourdough. They've all been really tasty, but INCREDIBLY dense and with a really really really hard crust (yes, I do put water in the oven while it's baking). Right now I'm in the process of making some baguettes and don't have any idea how those will turn out, but things aren't looking good so far - after an hour, had hardly risen at all (and our house in not particularly cold...) Honestly, I think I'm having several problems, largely stemming from the fact that I've never actually seen anyone make bread before - I've just been working out of cookbooks. PLEASE, if you have any fool-proof bread recipes, I would LOVE to hear about them. I really need more info on what they don't tell you in the cookbooks:
1. How sticky should the dough be? Today's dough was REALLY sticky (I sort of thought I was being attacked by "the blob" or something), but was pliable enough to knead for the required amount of time. Other times I've made it the dough has not been very sticky, but has been really stiff.
2. What to do about the dough rising situation - should I leave it longer? (My yeast is still good - just double-checked). Any particular reason that it would take multiple times longer to rise than the recipe predicts? (I know bread takes a long time to cook, but 8 hours seems excessive!)
3. How can I make bread that's more suitable for sandwiches? Currently, all of my breads are made on a jelly roll pan, not in a bread pan.
4. Any general tips??? (What would you tell your daughter if you were showing her how to bake bread?)
Thank you so much in advance!