When you learn how to make homemade bread, I tell students in my UNM-Taos Culinary Arts bread baking class, you learn much more than how to bake bread. “If you thought you’ve come here just to learn how to follow a bread recipe at home, you’re in for a nice surprise,” I say. “You’ll be getting a lot more than you bargained for.”

Among the many intangible benefits of bread baking – besides the intoxicating aroma of just-baked bread wafting from your kitchen throughout your home, and the musical “mmmmm’s” and “ahhhhhh’s” and “ohhhhhh’s” you’ll enjoy hearing when family and friends taste your bread creations – there are these, I feel: The process of bread baking teaches patience, attentiveness, and respect (especially for other, smaller, life forms) like nothing else you might make in the kitchen.

Every step of the way, bread baking teaches patience, because the truth is, you are not in full control. The bread dough, filled as it is with living, breathing, expanding yeast, you’ll find, has a mind of its own. You are working with the dough, paying close attention to its needs. It needs, for example, to be treated with kindness; using hot liquids will likely kill the yeast altogether and therefore kill your plans to bake yeast bread.

It needs, also, to go through (normally) two rises, both times rising to double in bulk. The beginner yeast-bread baker, left alone in her kitchen, may take the recipe’s timing too literally. If, say, the recipe states that the dough will rise to double in an hour,and she goes by the clock instead of her observations, she may wind up with disappointingly dense bread. The secret is to pay attention to the bread dough: What does it look like before each rise, and what will double that size look like later?

While serving in the Peace Corps in Gabon, a country on the equator, always hot-hot-hot and HUMID, my bread dough rose in record time at room temperature – well under an hour. In New York City, where I made homemade bread on site for all of the private parties I catered, the dough would rise to double at varying rates, depending on the temperature in each client’s kitchen. And here now in Taos in winter, where I deliberately set my thermostat at 60 degrees (to save on the electric bill!), my bread dough takes much longer (about two hours) to rise to double, giving me more time to do other things, such as go for a good, long walk, restoring my soul with the magnificent mountain views.

Like most things that are particularly satisfying and worthwhile to do – such as playing the piano, painting an outdoor scene, or writing haiku – yeast bread baking takes practice, which implies time and patience. But you’re sure to find, I firmly believe, that it will be time and patience well spent.

Here is a step-by-step, foolproof recipe to get you started.

BB’s Honey Whole Wheat Bread

Step One: Make the “sponge.” In a medium-size bowl, combine 1 package active dry yeast, 1 cup lukewarm (not hot, or you’ll kill the yeast) water, and 1 cup bread flour. Stir well, cover loosely (so the mixture can breathe), and allow to sit on your kitchen counter overnight (during which it will bubble up and then calm down). [Note: Making this “sponge” ahead of time will give your bread extra flavor and extend its shelf life.]

Step Two: Make the dough. In a large bowl, combine 1 teaspoon salt with 1 cup warmish (not hot) milk, ¼ cup honey, 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (such as canola), 1 cup whole wheat flour, 2 cups bread flour, and the above “sponge” mixture. Stir well with a wooden spoon.

Step Three: Knead the dough. On a clean, flat counter or table, spread 1 cup of bread flour in a dinner-plate-size circle. Scrape the contents of your big bowl onto the floured surface and knead rhythmically and steadily with both hands (being “both strong and gentle – at the same time,” I tell my students) for 10 whole minutes. (Don’t skimp on the time.) If your dough is sticky, add more bread flour in small increments.

Step Four: First Rise. Form the dough into a smooth ball and place in a large, buttered bowl, turning to butter all sides. Cover loosely and allow to double in bulk at room temperature. This will take a shorter time (under an hour) in a warm room and a longer time (up to about two hours) in a cool room.

Step Five: Punch and Form. Place the doubled-in-bulk dough on a floured surface, and knead it again, briefly, to eliminate its puffiness. Form into the size and shape you wish – small dinner rolls, larger hamburger buns, freeform round or oval bread loaves, or traditional loaves made in bread pans.

Step Six: Second Rise. Cover your bread(s) loosely and allow to double in bulk again at room temperature (which, again, will take longer in a cooler kitchen than a warmer kitchen).

Step Seven: Bake, Cool, Serve. Bake your bread in a preheated 375-400-degree oven for about 30-35 minutes, until “GB & D” – golden brown and delicious! Remove from pans (if using) and let bread cool on a wire rack before eating.