I have a bread machine. It is a good little machine, and I have used it to make bread before, but I don't like the way the bread comes out when it's finished. For some reason, even though the machine does all the work and I measure the ingredients carefully, my bread never comes out the way I think it should. So, I prefer to make bread the old fashioned way: with my hands. Today I tried a very basic bread recipe from The James Beard Cook Book. The dough was beautiful and it was nice to work with. And, the top didn't sink in.
I halved the recipe so it would only make 1 loaf. The full recipe was for 2 loaves.
Basic White Bread (makes 1 loaf)
1-1/4 teaspoons yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water + 1/2 cup lukewarm milk
1 Tablespoon sugar
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
2 Tablespoons butter
Put the lukewarm liquid in a large bowl and add yeast. Add sugar and salt and stir well (until yeast dissolves).
Add the flour 1 cup at a time and stir in with a wooden spoon. As soon as you have a smooth dough, melt the butter and mix it into the dough. Then add the rest of the flour. Continue stirring or mixing until the dough is blended.
Turn the dough out onto a floured board, cover it with an inverted bowl and let it rest 10 minutes. Knead until smooth and satiny.
Allow the bread to rise in a bowl until doubled (1-1/2 to 2 hours). Then punch the dough 2 or 3 times to deflate the dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 3 minutes. Shape into a loaf and put into a well greased loaf pan. Cover and let rise until doubled. Bake in a 375 degree oven until nicely browned and done (40 - 45 minutes).