Do you remember I started making white bread? that my husband approved of, and would actually eat in preference to the thick sliced white bread he used to insist I bought? (2014 edit: he has gone back to preferring sliced bread... :( )
I've been playing further and have a couple more ideas for you that have been very successful.
Make a flying sponge
A flying sponge is a fast method of making a pre-ferment or poolish. It takes part of the flour and liquid and pre-ferments that with the yeast. Some methods call for just a little bit of the yeast and a long (often overnight) rise, others take a faster route and mix with all the yeast from the recipe. This adds a lot of flavour to the bread without a lengthy rise, and suits my schedule much better.
Basically, you take 50% of the total flour called for in the recipe, and add an equal amount of liquid and all the yeast from the recipe. So for this milk bread, I use 250g bread flour plus 250g milk at blood heat and 1 tsp on instant yeast. NO SALT. Mix to a shaggy dough, no need to knead, and leave for 2 hours until puffy and risen.
Then add the rest of the flour (250g OO flour for this loaf), the rest of the liquid (another 150g warm milk) the salt (1.25 tsp) mix, knead and continue as your recipe. I find that the rising times are much reduced, without sacrificing any flavour.
Add DRY milk powder
I tried with fresh full cream milk, scalding this and allowing it to cool to blood heat, but to be honest, I kept forgetting to buy full cream milk (I don't use it normally) so went back to using skim milk. Either fresh skim milk, scalded and cooled, or more easily, the boiling water and milk powder I used in the original recipe. Then I discovered that I could make it even easier by mixing the fine powdered economy milk powder into the flour, and just using water. Which is easily got from the kettle and the tap. Simples!
Use yoghurt instead of milk if you have run out of milk or milk powder
I had not been shopping, I only had a little bit of milk powder, and very little liquid milk, but I did have some Greek yoghurt in the fridge. I used the milk powder for the sponge, and used 100g yoghurt with 100ml water to the main bulk mix. The dough is slightly stickier, and easier to knead in a machine than by hand, and the crust softens when it cools.But that isn't always a bad thing, and the flavour is lovely.
Knead by machine if you have one.
I admit I have resisted buying a stand mixer for a long time, due to the expense to be honest. But I succumbed and bought myself a Kenwood Titanium as my Christmas and Birthday present this year, and I am so very pleased with the results. I have been kneading on a low setting (1) for 10 minutes and the dough is excellent. I would always use Dan's quick knead method if I didn't have the machine around, but to be honest, I am getting such good lift and tension in the dough, I can only recommend you to use if you have one.
Allow it to rise properly
I have started allowing my bulk proof to really swell up, to nearly 3 times the original volume. It definitely helps having somewhere warm to put it, draughts are no friend to bread dough. I treat the dough quite gently when I turn it out of the bowl, but after deflating it gently, it needs to be
Make sure that you maintain a distinction between the sides of your dough. One side will form a good skin with tight shaping, and you need to keep this on the same side, folding and shaping the dough to tighten this skin to make the bread rise properly. Have a look in Jeffrey Hamelman for really good shaping instructions.
Don't use a silicone sheet to put your bread on
When I baked the bloomer, I thought putting the bread on a silicone sheet would help it not stick, but I didn't realise that it would stop it from browning and cooking properly underneath. The heat of the metal seems necessary, and the finish on the bottom of the tin loaf was much better. I took the loaf off the silicon, turned it upside down and finished it off that way to give it a crust underneath. Sadly, this made the top flat!
I hope these tips help, do let me know, and let me know any tips you have too please. I'm still learning, I need all the help I can get!