It worked! First time!
I made bread using my Kenwood mixer, small amount of manual kneading, and lots of patience by following the ‘country-style crusty bread’ recipe in Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion.
My oven is a combination microwave convection and the maximum temperature that I can specify is 230 deg C, whereas I have never seen the actual temperature above 200 deg C. For this reason, the only change I made to the recipe was to add five minutes to baking the top and when I turned the loaves over.
The smell of dough and the baking bread was reward enough, but to have two complete loaves that were tasty with good springy texture was thrilling.
I purchased the yeast and bread flour (unbleached and wholemeal) from Loose Produce. One of the few places that allow you to purchase just what you need. For example, I only needed 800 g of unbleached bread or strong flour and 200 g of wholemeal bread flour. All the other places that I looked for ingredients wanted me to buy either bread mix or bread flour in 10 kg bags.
Once this bread is finished, I think I’ll have a go at olive bread. It is very similar to the recipe that I have just followed except that it includes olives, rosemary and a bit more olive oil.
I think the secret ingredient was the flour. That is, following the recipe and using the recommended unbleached bread or strong flour. What I read is that these flours are milled from wheat that has a high gluten content. Household flour that you get from the supermarket is made from low-gluten soft wheat, with most of the bran extracted, and is bleached. It is the gluten that ensures that the bread is well aerated by trapping the gas produced by the rising loaf.