It wasn't perfect, but I've bought worse loaves from supermarkets.
There were a few different steps I took from the last loaf I tried.
I read somewhere that if you take the number 44, and subtract the room temperature in centigrade, you are left with the temperature the water should be. (presuming your flour is at room temperature)
[Edit from the future - That should read "Take the number 54 and subtract the room temperature and the flour temperature. ]
It seemed to work. And I think I got a quicker rise as a result.
This time I just gently mixed around two cups of bread making flour with a cup of water and a few pinches of salt. I stirred it in a bowl for probably a minute or so until it looked like this.
I covered it and let it rest for 20 minutes.
I've read that this can save a bit of work as the flour absorbs the water by itself. I'm guessing this activates the yeast as well.
The hole in the middle is where I stuck a spoon handle to see how deep it was so I could check later and better judge that it had doubled in size.
It's a bit tricky to tell, and I think I had previously let it more than double.
It only took 40 minutes to rise.
The kneading is very important to get right, because it causes the gluten in the flour to turn into long chains. These make the dough springy and stretchable. One way to tell if your dough is sufficiently kneaded, is to stretch out a window between your fingers. If its done, it doesn't break, and can be stretched to being see-through. This is important, because it's this stretchability that allows the carbon dioxide that the yeast create, to be trapped in little bubbles. Or big bubbles.
I'll show you the window thing when I can get my dough in good enough condition to do it.
This creates a smooth membrane on the outside of the loaf on what will eventually be the top. This is also important, because it shapes how the loaf will rise.
Because it isn't going to be in a loaf pan, the only thing holding it together is the tightness of the outer skin.
I think those tears are a fault, and indicate that I should have kneaded a bit longer.
It's a bit difficult to describe, but you use your little fingers to tuck in the bottom, as you pull it a centimetre or so towards yourself, then rotate it and do it again until the top is tight and smooth.
The drag from the counter on the bottom means that the top is stretched.
I then placed it on some baking paper and onto a cake cooling tray that will go with it into the oven.
A razor is best.
But then realised I hadn't preheated the oven.
The slashing should be done just before entering the oven, but because I wanted to preheat the oven, this pic was taken a few minutes later, and you can see it has risen a bit more.
I cook my bread in a very, very old convection/microwave. The microwave bit is not used. I cant imagine what that would do, but I'm guessing the result would make nice shoes.
One of the problems with this tiny oven, is that it heats from above.
People who know this stuff use a clay baking tile in the bottom of their oven, and preheat it until it becomes really hot. This means when you put your bread onto it, the bottom is instantly given very high temperature, and it should start to cook from the bottom. This in turn allows the top to rise even more as it hasn't yet formed a crust. As soon as a crust forms the loaf cant expand unless there are cuts in the loaf, or unless the loaf tears.
I don't have a baking stone, so to try to get some heat under them I put some cast iron 1970's steak serving hotplate things in the oven.
Then I started freaking out because the loaf was still changing and starting to flatten out, so I put it into the oven even though it wasn't yet hot.
The result was the top cooked before the bottom so in the end, just before bringing it out I turned it over for a few minutes.
I cooked the loaf with the stainless steal bowl over the top and added some water to the cast iron things.
Bread making ovens have steamers to add water to the environment. This keeps the top from forming a crust and allows it to fully rise in the oven. The bowl and water can do a similar thing, and in my oven at least, the bowl also stops the top from burning.
After the first 20 minutes covered by the bowl, I cooked it for another 20 uncovered.
The first 20 minutes was at around 220c and the last at more like 180c.
You can see in the top slice that there are some irregular lines. I think they were formed while I was shaping the loaf, and they are a little denser than the rest of the loaf.
It looks like bread, feels like bread, smells like bread, and tastes like bread.
120 Things in 20 years - Success! I made bread!