If you've read other bread recipes from me, and note differences, that is because bread is a constant work in progress for me. Usually, each round turns out better, and I refine my technique, sometimes not so much. This is the current recipe I am going with, but make sure to hit the bread tag above and get the latest to date version, as with all my recipes.
The night before if possible, combine 1/2 cup warm water with about a tablespoon of sugar, cover loosely and set aside. I learned about the importance of yeast viability from my beer making, and to a degree it carries over to bread making as well. If you are like me and keep your yeast in the refrigerator, it takes them a little time to wake up and start eating sugar. Yes, you can get good bread from dry yeast and shorter times. But why bother, drop it into a cup of warm water the night before and forget about it. The yeast will keep in the water for a while as long as it doesn't get contaminated, so if you don't et to it right away the next morning don't worry about it.
Combine Sugar, salt, shortening, eggs, scaled milk, 1/2 cup cold water and a couple handfuls of your flour (preferably sift all dry ingredients). and stir or wisk until all dry ingredients make a smooth batter. The point of this step is to make sure you don't have any lumps of dry goods that will solidify as you form the dough. Think of it as making gravy. Once everything is well mixed add the yeast and stir a while longer.
Hint: Bread yeast love warm but not too hot temperature. The point of adding cold water is to cool down the scalded milk. Test the batter with your finger before adding the yeast, if you think it is too hot, cover it and walk away for a bit... or add an ice cube and wait for it to melt, either would work. But don't kill the yeast by adding them to something too hot. If you can keep your finger in it for 30 seconds, it isn't too hot.
Add flour about a cup or two at a time until dough is stiff and pulls away from the side of the bowl. One of the tricks to making bread is to not gum up your hands doing it. Add about a half cup more of your flour once you think it can't possibly be stirred any more and work at folding the dough off of the side of the bowl, turning the bowl a few turns each time. When you've worked around the bowl once or twice you should be able to push the entire dough bowl out onto a floured surface leaving a nearly dry bowl and never touching the dough with your hands.
Dust the dough with flour and your hands and begin kneading. keep a sited pile of flour nearby to dust the dough and your hands as needed as you go. Once you get good, the dough will never stick to your hands throughout the process. Knead for about 5-10 minutes. You are kneading to build gluten in the flour, so you do need to really work at it, but remember to not tear the dough.
Once done coat the top of the dough with some oil to prevent drying, then leave covered with a towel in a warm place, preferably not too dry. I like to pre heat my oven to 250 with a metal cup of water in it. Then turn the oven off and open the door for a minute and place the dough in a bowl in their, towel and all.
Once the dough has doubled in bulk, punch it down, or squeeze the air out of it, oil again and let it rise a second time. Punch down again and divide into the number of loaves you want (usually 3). Note: When I first started baking bread I thought that this was a mandate and tried to get the bubbles out of the dough That will give you dense flatter bread./ The point of this step is to redistribute the bubbles more than it is to squeeze them out of the dough. Try just gently pressing the dough out to about 3/4-1" in height and folding in the left and right sides to the center. Press those in, rotate 90 degrees, and again fold in and gently press out. done.
To form the loaves I like to roll the dough into a long cylinder, press flat, then starting at one end, roll up along the short end. I pinch the end in then on either side pull the bottom of the loaf over the end and pinch it in. Place in loaf pan seam side down, split top into whatever pattern you like, coat with oil and let rise a third time.
Bake at 375* for about 20-25 minutes. Pull loaves and rub a stick of butter all over them, bake another 5-10 minutes until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when you thump them.
This may sound like a lot of work, but once you are good at it you can be doing other things around the house while the loaves are rising and really only spend about 20-40 minutes working on it. The trade off is well worth it.