BREAD BAKING is usually thought of as laborious--almost aerobic--and time consuming. But since the introduction of the food processor, many people have discovered that the machine simplifies bread making, even to the extent that it is possible to make a loaf or two of bread in the time it takes to prepare a meal.

An almost shockingly simple technique is used in food processor bread making. The proportion of dry ingredients (mostly flour, but also nuts, oats, corn meal, seeds, sugar or salt) to wet ingredients (water, honey, maple syrup, eggs, bananas, milk, juice, and so on) is always three to one. The size of the loaf (or loaves) depends only on the capacity of the processor.

Smaller machines will handle about three cups of dry ingredients and one of wet, still plenty to make a nice-size loaf in an 8-by-4-inch pan. The new Cuisinart DLC-X, however, can handle about nine cups of flour, and three cups of wet, enough for three loaves.

Regardless of quantity, the procedure--and quality--is constant. Yeast is dissolved in about one-third of a cup of warm (105-115 degrees farenheit) water, along with any sweeteners. The processor is fitted with the short plastic blade designed for bread doughs, although the regular steel blade will do. Flour and other dry ingredients are placed in the container and mixed briefly. Then, with the motor running, the yeast mixture is added through the feed tube, followed by the remaining liquid, which should be cold (in contrast to traditional bread making techniques) because the machine raises the temperature of the dough significantly and starting with warm liquid may result in temperatures higher than the yeast can tolerate.

After all of the liquid has been added (the amount, as in any bread recipe, is approximate), the dough forms a ball that spins around the container above the blade. Sixty spinning seconds usually kneads the dough completely, although most people (myself included) like to knead by hand for a minute or two. The entire process from gathering the ingredients to kneaded dough takes about 10 minutes. From this point, the dough is treated normally, with one or two risings, shaping into loaves, a final rising and baking.

One recipe here (the Best and Simplest French Bread) can be completed between arriving home from work and sitting down to dinner. Except for 100-percent whole-wheat breads, which are generally too heavy to be kneaded sufficiently by the machine, almost any bread recipe can be adapted to the food-processor technique by using three parts dry ingredients to one part wet. A loaf can be started while preparing dinner (or cleaning up), and finished before retiring for the night.

Another technique--refrigerating the dough--may be added to the process to make even more efficient use of time. Bread dough may be placed in a cool place--refrigerator or cool hallway or closet--thereby retarding the growth of the yeast. For example, a dough may be prepared in the evening and placed in a cool place to rise overnight. In the morning it is punched down and returned to its rising place. In the afternoon or evening it is shaped into loaves, allowed to rise--this time at room temperature or in an oven warmed by a pilot light, whichever is more convenient--and baked.

By combining these two techniques--mixing and kneading the dough in the food processor and controlling the speed at which the dough rises--even someone on a tight schedule can enjoy homemade bread without expending a great deal of either time or energy.

The recipes below are designed for a small food processor and make one medium loaf (in the case of the french bread, two baguettes). Increase ingredients proportionally for a bigger processor bowl, but the amount of yeast used need not necessarily be increased; one tablespoon of yeast is sufficient to raise six cups of flour or more. BEST AND SIMPLEST FRENCH BREAD (Makes 2 baguettes) 1 scant tablespoon yeast 1/3 cup warm water 1/2 teaspoon sugar 3 cups unbleached white flour 1 teaspoon salt, optional 2/3 cup cold water

Proof yeast in warm water with sugar until bubbly. Place flour and salt in container of food processor. Process mixture with machine on, slowly add yeast mixture, then cold water, through the feed tube, until ball of dough spins on blade (one or two tablespoons additional water may be required). Allow ball to spin on blade for about a minute. Knead for one minute. Grease a double baguette pan (long, half-cylindrical pan shaped like a rounded "W"). Cut dough in half and by rolling, pulling or whatever, shape into as long and skinny a loaf as is practical (it must not be too long for the pan). Put into pan.

Cover dough with a damp towel and let rise, preferably in a warm place, for about 1/2 hour. Just before putting the dough in the oven, cut slashes in the top with a sharp knife and brush with water. You may sprinkle the dough with coarse salt or sesame seeds at this point.

Bake at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes, then turn oven down to 350 and bake about 15 minutes more. Cool on a rack until ready to serve. This bread reheats and freezes well, but it does not keep well--so eat it fast! WHITE OR WHITE/WHEAT BREAD (Makes 1 loaf) 1 scant tablespoon yeast 1/3 cup warm water 1 teaspoon sugar 3 cups unbleached white flour, or 2 cups white and 1 cup whole wheat 1/2 teaspoon salt, optional 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature 2/3 cup cold water or milk

Proof yeast in warm water with sugar until bubbly. Place flour and salt in container of food processor. Process briefly with machine on, slowly add yeast mixture, then butter, then cold liquid, through the feed tube, until ball of dough forms and spins on blade (more or less water may be required). Allow ball to spin on blade for about a minute. Knead one minute by hand. Grease a bowl, put dough in; turn over, cover with a damp towel, and allow to rise until double in bulk. Punch down and allow to rise again. Grease an 8-by-4-inch bread pan, shape dough into loaf, and place in pan. Allow to rise until double in bulk. Brush top with melted butter, milk or water, cut two or three slashes in loaf, and bake in a 350-degree oven until done, about 45 minutes to an hour. CINNAMON/OATMEAL/RAISIN BREAD (Makes 1 loaf) 1 scant tablespoon yeast 1/3 cup warm water 1 tablespoon sugar 1/2 cup rolled oats 2 cups white flour 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon salt, optional 2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature 2/3 cup cold water 1/2 cup raisins Milk, melted butter or water for brushing on top

Proof yeast in warm water with sugar until bubbly. Add oats, flours, cinnamon and salt to container of food processor. Process briefly. With machine on, slowly add yeast mixture, then butter, then cold water through feed tube. Process until ball of dough forms and spins on blade (more or less water may be required). Allow ball to spin on blade for about a minute. Knead for one minute by hand, incorporating raisins into dough. Grease a bowl, put dough in; turn over, cover with a damp towel, and allow to rise until double in bulk. Punch down and allow to rise again. Grease an 8-by-4-inch bread pan, shape dough into loaf, and place in pan. Allow to rise until double in bulk. Brush top with melted butter, milk or water, cut two or three slashes in loaf, and bake in a 350-degree oven until done, about 45 minutes to an hour. ONION RYE BREAD (Makes 1 loaf) 1 scant tablespoon yeast 1/3 cup warm water 2 cups white flour 1 cup rye flour 2 tablespoons oil 2/3 cup cold water 1 teaspoon salt, optional 1 medium onion, chopped fine 1 tablespoon caraway seeds Melted butter, milk or water for brushing top

Proof yeast in warm water until bubbly. Place flours and salt in container of food processor. Process briefly. With machine on, add yeast mixture, oil and cold water slowly through feed tube. Process until ball of dough forms and spins on blade (more or less water may be required). Allow ball to spin on blade for about a minute. Knead for one minute by hand, incorporating onion and caraway seeds into dough. Grease a bowl, put dough in; turn over, cover with a damp towel, and allow to rise until double in bulk. Punch down and allow to rise again. Grease an 8-by-4-inch bread pan, shape dough into loaf, and place in pan. Allow to rise until double in bulk. Brush top with melted butter, milk or water, cut two or three slashes in loaf, and bake in a 350-degree oven until done, about 45 minutes to an hour. BANANA BREAD (Makes 1 loaf) 1 scant tablespoon yeast 1/3 cup warm water 2 cups white flour 1 cup whole-wheat flour 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1/2 teaspoon salt, optional 1 banana, mashed 1 egg, beaten Grated rind of 1 orange 1/4 cup honey 2 tablespoons butter 1/2 to 2/3 cup cold water Milk, melted butter or water for brushing top

Soften yeast in warm water until bubbly. Place flours, cinnamon and salt in container of processor and process briefly. Add banana, egg, orange peel, honey and butter and process briefly. With motor running, add yeast mixture and then cold water slowly through feed tube. Add only enough water for a ball of dough to form and spin on blade. Allow ball to spin for about a minute. Knead by hand for one minute. Grease a bowl, put dough in; turn over, cover with a damp towel, and allow to rise until double in bulk. Punch down and allow to rise again. Grease an 8-by-4-inch bread pan, shape dough into loaf, and place in pan. Allow to rise until double in bulk. Brush top with melted butter, milk or water, cut two or three slashes in loaf, and bake in a 350-degree oven until done, about 45 minutes to an hour.