Baking bread makes me happy, mostly because other people enjoy freshly baked bread so much. :)
Basic Italian Bread Recipe, by Katiefucious
1 Tbsp (or 1 packet) yeast
2 cups warm milk (the fattier the better--I find buttermilk works wonderfully)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp salt
5 cups flour
**If you're using a bread machine, add the warm milk and yeast and let them sit for about five minutes. Then add the rest of the ingredients in the order listed. Use the dough setting. Add flour as needed, if the dough sticks to the sides.
**If you're mixing it by hand, do much the same thing, but knead the resulting dough with your hands for about ten minutes until it's smooth and not too sticky. A nice bread dough will feel soft and not lumpy. It will be doughy, but won't stick to everything. Add flour as needed. When the dough is nice and smooth, take out a large bowl and grease the sides and bottom of it with olive oil. Put the dough into the bowl and roll it around to make sure it is covered with oil. Cover the bowl with a damp towel. Let dough rise until doubled in size--about an hour or so.
When the dough has risen, punch it down and remove it from the bread machine or bowl. Separate it into two lumps, and shape them into your loaves. Put the loaves on an ungreased baking surface like a cookie sheet or pan--you can put them both on the same cookie sheet if there is enough room between them. There should be at least six or eight inches between them or they will stick to each other after they rise.
Allow the dough to rise in a warm place for another hour or so. If you can find a sunbeam, that works very well! The dough will rise until almost double in size again. If it doesn't rise quite that much, don't get frustrated.
When the dough is almost finished rising, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Depending on how you've shaped the loaves, baking time will vary. I check the loaves while they are baking. It will probably take at least 20 minutes, so maybe set your timer for 20 min and then check it every five minutes afterwards. When the outside of the loaf is a nice warm brown color--not too dark--the bread will be done.
Sometimes I roll out the dough and cut it into strips to make breadsticks. They are really really really really really good. Yummmmm.