First, the recipe:
1 cup water ("about shower temperature" is a good rule of thumb)
2 tsp - 1Tbsp active dry yeast
1 tsp or so of sugar/honey/similar
1 tsp (ish) salt
3 cups flour
generous splash olive oil
whatever else you want (chopped herbs? shredded cheese? nuts? go nuts!)
1. Put the sugar and yeast in the water, mix, and let it sit for a few minutes (say, 5) in a warm spot.
2. Dump in everything but the "whatever else," mix it up, and knead until nice and smooth and elastic (for the sake of ease, let's say 5 minutes again -- maybe a little more?). At some point in the kneading process, dump in the whatever else. Make sure it gets kneaded all the way in.
3. Put it back in the bowl. Drizzle some more olive oil over it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let it sit a while -- a minimum of 15 minutes (if you're thinking thin-crust pizza), a minimum of an hour (if you're thinking a loaf of bread).
4a. Is it pizza/cinnamon rolls/apple pastry thing you want? Great! Uncover the dough and roll it as thin as you can (for pizza) or a little thicker (for other stuff), making sure it stays nicely floured. This recipe makes two cookie-sheet-sized thin-crust pizzas.
4b. ALTERNATIVELY: Is it bread you want? Punch it down, knead it for a while and then make it into the correct shape (formless blob = totally fine, baguette = traditional for this recipe). Let it rise another hour or so.
Congratulations! You have dough.
For pizza, drape your dough over a cookie sheet, put stuff* on it, trim or fold over the edges, and bake in a very hot oven (we use 500 degrees F) until it's nice and brown, anywhere from 5-15 minutes depending on the depth and density of toppings. (Hint: peek under the bottom to figure out whether it's nice and brown; don't trust the top.)
For a yummy pastryish (not actually pastry, but you get what I mean, right?) thing, drape your thin dough over a tart pan (or whatever), fill it with stuff,** and bake it in a 375-degree oven until it's nice and brown top and bottom and whatever's inside is bubbling audibly. Tonight's rendition at our house took about 30 (?) minutes total.
To fake some cinnamon rolls, take your sheet of dough (a rectangle is best) and slather it with yummy stuff.*** Then roll it up nice and tight. Use whatever implement comes to hand to seal up the seam (I like toothpicks). Same baking instructions as the previous thing.
For bread: After its second rise, put your lump/baguette/whatever on a cookie sheet. Slash it artistically with a nice sharp knife. Put it in the oven at about 400 degrees until it's nicely browned and sounds hollow. Times vary a lot. You will have to experiment, but something with more surface area (e.g., baguette) will finish much more quickly than will something with less (e.g., lump).
* I'm partial to greens, actually. Hot pepper flakes, kale, fontina, and onions is a favorite combo of mine. But seriously, we've done potato-rosemary-bacon; we've done tomato-basil-mozzarella; we've done onion, mushroom and sausage; we've done everything.
** Example pastry filling stuff: apples sliced thin, coupla tablespoons lemon juice, brown sugar, cinnamon, pinch of cornstarch, BOURBON.
*** Usually butter, brown sugar, raisins, cinnamon, cloves. Sometimes also nuts, other dried fruit, or fresh apples chopped small. Although obviously you could also go savory with this one.
Here's the thing: this recipe (which is basically the same as one my pal Hollis taught me back in college when I was still afraid of making bread) can do anything. The bread it makes is not spectacular unless you flavor it spectacularly, but it is bread. Perfectly wonderful bread, especially when it comes out of your oven all bread-smelling and you made it yourself. It's easy!
In other news, here are two views of the galette-shaped apple "tart" thing I made tonight. It tastes a little like a mixed drink (see BOURBON under note ** above) and has completely made my day.