After a few semi-fails with some English muffins and artisan bread (they tasted great but didn’t rise much), we did some reading and learned that we might need to stick to rapid-rise yeast and/or pay more attention to the temperature of the water or milk that when combining with the yeast. This is an area of baking where you really can be your own best friend.
We followed one baker’s advice to start with boiling water and let it cool to the desired temperature. Then I found another baker who uses regular yeast and room temperature water. Her secret? The slow rise: letting the dough rise for 18 hours instead of 12. We also discovered that the microwave makes an excellent proofing box in cold weather.