I said "Finally". I've been trying various recipes for a while, and have only been moderately satisfied with the results. I mean, I love the simplicity and the results I get with no-knead bread, but the holes in it don't make it the best choice for sandwiches. I've been looking for a way to make nice, fresh sandwich bread. After trying a recipe or two online, I resorted to my Christmas present, the classic The Joy of Cooking. I started baking early- last time I made bread, I got started too late and ended up rushing the rises so I could get to bed at a reasonable hour. This time I was prepared. I started with the "white bread" recipe described as "perfect white bread", first appearing in Joy in 1931. If it's been around so long, it can't go wrong, right? Wrong. I follow the directions so carefully. I really want this to work. When I mix everything together, it seems to "seize up". No amount of kneading fixed this fact, and I was getting mad. It was dry, flaky, and I didn't know what I did wrong, that 75 years of cooks before me did right.* I set it in a bowl to rise, giving it about a 15% chance of success, and turned my attention to quickly trying to get another loaf started. I was determined to do something right.
The next recipe in the cookbook was for "Fast White Bread" (page 597) - just what I needed. It required less preparation, and I was able to throw the ingredients together fairly quickly. When it came to kneading- Oh! What a joy! Especially compared to my experience an hour before! It was relaxing and smooth and everything as it was supposed to be. I was happy. The two rises went just as well- and I was patient enough to let them finish- my problem in the past.
At almost 10pm, I pulled the loaf out of the oven with pride. Finally, baking a kneaded bread went right. I left it to cool, and cut it for sandwiches while making lunches this morning. The texture and flavor is just right. The crust is harder than the store-bought variety, but that can be tweaked. All in all, I'm pleased. Finally.
* Upon investigation, I discovered this forum comment and this recipe correction on Joy's publisher's site. Figures. In 4,500 recipes, 0.2% have corrections, and I try one of them. So, it makes me feel better that it wasn't just me screwing up, the recipe was wrong. Very wrong. I'll have to give it another try later, with the correct amount of water.