I figured it was time to right that wrong. If I'm going to be writing all these bread recipes, I think I should have at least some knowledge of how a bread machine works, so I borrowed a friend's machine and today I decided to give it a try.
Unfortunately, she didn't have the manual, so I looked up directions online and found some recipes that were designed for the machine.
This machine is pretty simple, with settings for light, medium, and dark crust, and a manual mode that kneads the dough but doesn't bake the bread. Newer and fancier machines have settings for different types of breads, but I figured that a basic machine would be a good place to start.
The basic recipe was about as easy as it could get. Dump in the yeast around the outer edge of the bowl, dump in all the dry ingredients and the butter on top, then add the water on top and press the button.
The ingredients were:
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon dry milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup minus 1 tablespoon warm water
Hmmmmmm.... that seemed a little wet to me. I usually use 2 1/2 cups of flour to a cup of water, and that's still a fairly wet dough. But I figured that I'd trust the recipe, and I measured it all out, weighed 9 ounces of bread flour, dumped it all in as instructed, and pushed the button.
The machine is supposed to beep at several intervals, but I didn't hear it. Maybe it's a quiet beep. But eventually I realized that the "run" light had turned off and the machine was cooling off. I opened the lid, and this is what I saw:
Here it is out of the machine and waiting to cool:
Oh, my. That's not a pretty loaf of bread, by any standards.
The manual gives some helpful tips on what might have gone wrong, like your yeast was dead or you measured wrong. Um, no, I'm sure the yeast was fine. I use it almost every day. As far as measuring, it's possible that they assume a heavier cup weight for the flour, but since that's not indicated anywhere that I could find, it's hard to say what they expected.
After that sad loaf of bread emerged, I stared at the bread machine for a good long time and decided that maybe it wasn't the best example of its family. But ... sigh ... I'd asked a number of people if they had a bread machine I could borrow, and the most common response was some version of "I had one but I got rid of it."
I knew I wasn't interested in buying a brand new bread machine, since it's pretty unlikely I'll love it enough to want to keep it. So I went hunting the thrift stores in town, and lookie what I found:
This little gem was a whopping $12. It came with the manual. And recipes.
The interesting thing right off the bat is that this machine's directions are almost completely opposite of what the other machine required. With this one, water goes on the bottom, yeast goes on top, and it uses bread machine yeast. The other model specifically said not to use bread machine yeast, and to put the yeast on the bottom towards the edge, and to have the water on top.
I washed all the parts today, and I'll take it for a spin in a day or so. We'll see how that goes.