Sprinkle yeast into warm water, stirring until dissolved. Add at least 1 tsp of the sweetener called for in the recipe. This helps to activate the yeast much more quickly. Stir again until the sweetener has been dissolved. Then let the mixture set while you are measuring other ingredients.
Combine your yeast, your liquids, and shortening mixture in mixing bowl with electric mixer or whisk.
Add flour, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Do this until you have about 1/2 of the flour required for the recipe. It is important to beat thoroughly at this point to obtain light tender bread.
Then cover and let rest for about 20 minutes. This resting time can be omitted, but will give you a lighter, nicer textured bread. It also makes the bread dough easier to knead without working in too much flour.
Add additional flour with a heavy spoon until very stiff. Then use your hands to work remaining flour into the dough until stiff enough to knead. Sprinkle flour over sticky surfaces as you work to keep your hands and the bowl from getting too sticky. Add the minimum amount of flour possible to obtain a workable dough.
The kneading process is important. It develops the gluten structure of the dough so that the gas produced by the yeast will be trapped. Kneading takes from 5-15 minutes, depending on how large a batch of dough you have, how fast you work, and your skill level. Thorough kneading gives uniform grain, fine texture, and good volume.
Grease your bowls generously, place dough in bowl, flip it over, and cover it with a cloth. Let it rise in a warm spot, about 80-85 degrees, until double in size. This should take about an hour. On sunny days you can set the bowl in the sunlight. You can even turn your oven on low for about 3 minutes, and then shut off and place your bowl in the oven. It is important to let the dough rise properly. Do not let dough over rise. This will greatly damage the quality of the bread. The yeast cells stretch beyond their capacity and break. Dough will not rise properly a second time and bread will have a poor volume, a course texture, and a yeasty taste when baked. Dough that did not rise enough tends to be heavy and soggy. To test dough, quickly press two fingers deeply into the dough. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready to be punched down.
To punch dough down, plunge your fists into the center of the dough. Do this several times to break up air pockets in the dough. Then turn dough over so the smooth side is up. Let rise until double again. It does not take as long the second time around. If you need to delay baking the bread because of your schedule, it may be worked down another additional time. It will not hinder the quality of the bread. It may also be placed in the refrigerator tightly covered to retard rising. Be sure to let dough rise until double after removing from the refrigerator.
After it has doubled again, you can shape it into loaves and placed in greased pans.
Let your bread rise until it starts to peek over the top of pan.
Preheat your oven 350. Place pans on lower oven rack so tops don’t overbrown, and leave airspace around each loaf for even browning. Jarring the pan on the way to the oven could cause dough to fall slightly. Bake for 40 minutes until golden brown and it sounds hollow when crust is tapped.
Remove from oven immediately, and grease tops with butter or margarine. Cover loosely with a cloth, and let cool. As soon as bread has cooled, place it in plastic bags and close tightly. Store at room temperature or freeze.
Some tips to remember
Lightly dust your hands with flour to keep the dough from sticking to you.
Kneading can get messy, wear an apron while making bread.
Always keep a measuring cup of flour by your work area in case you need to sprinkle some more on counter top to prevent stickiness.