Freshly baked bread is one of life's greatest simple pleasures. It's much easier than you might think to make one of your own. It won't come out like generic white sandwich bread, and it may take a few batches till you get consistently good results, but don't give up! Anyone can learn how to make bread.
Choose a bread recipe. This wikiHow article is not a recipe, but a description of the process. That said, every recipe is more or less the same: 1 package of yeast (equal to 2 1/2 tsp), one cup of liquid, and about 3 cups of flour per loaf. Read the Tips and Warnings below before you start, or check out how to Make Bread from Scratch.
Make sure you have the right ingredients. Cake or pastry flour is too "soft"--bread should be a bit chewy. Avoid self-raising flour as well. All purpose is fine, but bread flour (it will be labeled as "bread flour," "high protein flour," or "flour for bread machines") is best--it has a higher gluten content, so will respond to kneading better.
Now you have your ingredients all ready--don't bother preheating the oven yet, you're a long way from baking. If the weather is chilly and damp, and if your house is cold, turn on the oven to the lowest temperature for about 5 minutes to make a warm place for rising.
When using "RapidRise" Yeast you no longer have to dissolve the yeast in warm water like the old days.
Mix together all of the dry ingredients but the flour, including the yeast. Just add 1 cup of flour to start.
Mix together all of the wet ingredients and heat to very warm (120° to 130°F).
Add the wet and the dry together and beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer. Stir in one more 1 cup flour; beat at high speed for 2 minutes. Stir in enough remaining flour to make soft dough. How much flour you use will depend on how humid it is.
Press all the leftover crumbs of flour etc into the dough ball, the turn the lump out on a floury surface, and start kneading.
Keep your counter and your hands well covered in flour, and if your hands get sticky with dough, put some flour on them and rub them together, and the dough will crumble off. Keep kneading for about 10 minutes--set a timer if you have to. When you are finished the dough should be smooth, shiny and elastic--it will bounce back when you squish it.
Cover the ball of dough with oil, and put it in an oily bowl. This stops the surface from drying out and cracking while it rises--the dried dough will become nasty lumps in your finished bread. Some people also cover the dough with plastic wrap. Definitely cover the bowl with a dish towel, and put the bowl in a warm (but not hot) location until the dough is double in size, 45 to 90 minutes.
Punch it down. This literally means, put your fists on the ball of dough and squish it till it's about the size you started with. Don't mess it up too much, just make it small. Divide in two--if you tear, your bread may have marks of being torn. I usually cut mine by bearing down with my big chef's knife, or use one of those dough cutters if you have it (a flat metal piece that looks like a wallpaper smoother). I always cut dough for making buns.
If you're using loaf pans, make sure they're greased. I often just shape the dough into a round or oblong loaf and bake it without a pan on a greased baking sheet. If you want the bottom to be dry, sprinkle cornmeal on the greased baking sheet and put the dough on that. If you like the look of a split-top loaf, slash the top of the loaf a couple times with a very sharp knife. Cover the dough and let it rise again till it's doubled, about 30 to 45 minutes.
Now you are ready to bake! Of course it's been so long since you started making the bread that the kitchen is nice and clean, or perhaps you started cooking the "Ratatouile" you're going to eat with your hot, fresh bread. Put the bread into a preheated 400 F oven for about 35 minutes (or check your recipe). When it's done it will sound "hollow" when you tap it with your finger, and it will easily fall out of the loaf pan. Cool them on wire racks.
Then after cooling, serve as you wish!