Do not tremble in the face of bread making. Yeast is not the enemy (well, dead yeast is) and bread is everyone's friend. Sure, they say that man cannot live on bread alone but if you turn it into the right kind of sandwich, you could. And, should you find yourself thinking, "Ugh! It's so hard!" then I must point out that one should not confuse difficulty with time. It's not hard, it just takes forever. And, it's not like your expected to stand there and watch it rise. Your allowed to do other stuff in the meantime.
Why should you subject yourself to this process? Because it is an all around lovely experience. The smell of yeast bread baking in one's own house is something mirrored only in heaven, I'm sure. The sense of achievement when putting that golden braid on the cooling rack isn't half bad either. But the best reason of all? It is so good-- so very, very, very good.
1 packet of active dry yeast (To avoid frustration, go out and buy it new. Don't use the one you bought for holiday baking three years ago that you found stuck to the bottom of the vegetable crisper)
1 1/4 C of barely warm water
1/4 C of honey
4 1/2 C of bread flour (or all-purpose) weighed out or scooped into measuring C and leveled with knife
1 ts of salt
1 tbs of olive oil
1 beaten egg to brush the loaf before baking.
In bowl of stand mixer, add water and honey. Sprinkle yeast on top.
Let it dissolve and start to foam. You don't have to stir it or move it around. Just let it sit, dissolve, and foam. Do try to sprinkle it evenly over the water though instead of making a big island of dry yeast in the middle of your bowl.
Here's what it looks like at 5 minutes and ready to go.
So, with the yeast mixture ready and using the dough hook attachment (Ar, matey!) start adding flour with the mixer turned on to low 'stir' setting, then the salt, the egg, and finally the oil.
When all ingredients are combined, up the seed to setting 2 and "knead" for 8 minutes.
Shape it into a ball by folding it in on itself, and stick it back in the bowl.
Cover with a clean kitchen towel an put it somewhere warm and not drafty to rise. Does your oven have a proof setting? Turn that on and stick it in there if it does. If not, just put it on the counter somewhere and let it double in volume (or something approximating that).
After the first rise (1 to 1 1/2 hours), gently push the dough down, remove from the bowl. Flatten it into an oval on the buttered baking sheet (about 9 in. across).
Take a knife or a pastry scraper, should you have one, and cut the dough into thirds.
Gently coax/roll/stretch each 1/3 into a snake about 14-16 inches long (a bit longer than what you imagine a foot to be).
Braid the three strands and squish the ends together so it doesn't unravel.
Place the braid on a buttered baking sheet, cover again with the towel, and let it rise once more so that it is doubled in volume.
Remove the towel, brush with a beaten egg and bake at 375° for 40-45 minutes, remove loaf to cool on baking rack, and bask in the glory.