Saturday, October 30, 2010

Adventures with a Bread Machine, Part I

I've been baking bread for more years than I want to admit. I've kneaded with a food processor, with my hands, and with a stand mixer. But the one thing I've never used is a bread machine.

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.


Catherine Peart said...

That's funny, I know three people with bread machines that work beautifully and they wouldn't be without theirs. One of them said they had to work out their own recipes though - the provided ones weren't very good. I used my Mum's when I was home last and it worked perfectly. Hope you have some luck with this model!

Rebecca said...

I'm really looking forward to reading part 2 of this post! We have a bread machine taking up space in the cabinets that we haven't used in 2 years or so. Lost the dough kneading hook.

We've been trying to decide whether to get the missing piece for our existing bread machine, give away our existing one for a new-to-us one from a thrift shop, or just give it away and use our mixer.

One of the things we didn't like about the bread from our bread machine was the hole in the bottom/through the center from the dough kneading attachment. Still, the convenience (and coming home to the smell of baking bread) was just awesome.

Anonymous said...

For Rebecca... Such troubles. Sorry to hear it. And two years to boot. Best suggestion is free up thata cupboard space, use the mixer that you already have and try some of Cookistry's great recipes. Start simple and follow Donna's directions. Bullet proof methods. Understand everything befor you begin, of course. If there are questions, I think Cookistry (Donna) will help you through them. This is about (good) bread, not machines.
Best wishes. I know hat you can do it!

Anonymous said...

I've had several bread machines over the years and use them at least once a week. However, I only use the dough cycle to mix and knead the dough, then take it out, shape it, let it rise again and bake in the oven. I never bake the bread in the machine. I think the texture is better, and I've always had good results.

Anonymous said...

I have that exact machine and before I got my Kitchen Aid used it continuosly. Seemed like the dough always required a lot of tweaking,adding water or flour,while mixing to get the finished dough ball right. I enjoyed the bread and enjoyed the making of it and it lead me to a book by Christine Jenner and Jennie Shapter with tons of information on breads and bread machines which lead me to today doing it by hand. I still used the machine every so often to make just a dough and still love it.

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