Monday, October 10, 2011

Tools and Tips: Bread Machine



Last year, I wrote a love note to my bread machine, thanking it for all the countless hours it saved me while kneading, rising and baking breads.

I feel this kitchen tool deserves another tribute - it's not just a handy appliance like a food processor or immersion blender, my bread machine enables me to be more loving to family, friends and even the environment. Indulge my fanciful claims while I explain.


My bread machine frees me from store-bought breads crammed with shelf-conscious preservatives and suspicious vanity food dyes. It saves me money as I (somewhat reluctantly) resist snatching up a tempting artesian loaf in favor of baking one myself. It creates the illusion of more time with my loved ones as I trustfully ignore the whump, whump, whump, whump of kneading dough. It equips me with healthful ingredient options like unbleached flours, whole grains, olive oil, honey and assortments of seeds.


My bread machine can even be an environmental hero. Typical sliced-bread producers burn inefficiently obnoxious amounts of energy in order to plop-out nutritionally bastardized bread products. And even worse, some grocery chain bakeries buy pre-baked dough for toasting with on-premise ovens - thus amplifying the energy burn. Even if one is willing to turn a blind eye to energy waste, there's still a cornucopia of packaging and transportation waste tied to every convenient, prepackaged loaf.

My bread machine is an energy camel by comparison, using a single electric coil and efficient heat-conducting materials to bake. Since I don't need to package or ship the final result, my home-baked breads result in substantially less packaging and transportation waste per loaf (e.g. one bag of flour makes at least three 2-lb loaves).


And so to summarize all this bread machine lovin' talk:

  • No preservatives or dyes
  • Better nutriton
  • More money
  • More time
  • Less energy
  • Less packaging
  • Baby whales survive (wait - how did that get in there?)
If you're one of those bread-baking saints who derives a perfect dough with a stand mixer or (gasp!) your bare hands, heaven bless you and may you live long and prosper. But if you're like the rest of us and cannot devote hours to the creation of marvelous dough (there are things like jobs, children, cleaning house, cutting grass, raking leaves, cooking meals), then I recommend turning a blind eye to dough purists and embracing your new best (bread machine) friend.


When I was young, I used to bake bread almost every week by hand: knead it, proof it, form it, proof it, bake it. Now, I use my bread machine nearly every week to create dough that I then form and bake myself (I like to determine the shape and crustiness of the bread, although the bread machine is quite capable of producing a fully baked loaf). I find the machine's little paddle and preprogrammed cycles result in delightfully resilient dough far superior to the temperamental hand-made dough of my youth. In fact, all the pictures in this post are of breads I started or completed using my bread machine. 


If I've persuaded you on the virtues of this machine, here are few suggestions before you rush over to Amazon and order your own:
  • Forget all the fancy stuff: Buy a machine that includes a manual dough cycle, white, wheat and french cycles, a timer delay and capacity to make 2-lb loaves
     
  • Read reviews matter: Buy a machine with good user reviews that are relevant to your situation (you may not care that Sally recommends the machine because her toddler enjoys the beeps); I was given a Breadman three years ago and I've been happy
     
  • Loaf Pan Shape: If you're picky about the shape of your loaf, inspect the loaf pan in person and pick one that suits; I prefer to form and bake the loaves myself, so the pan shape is irrelevant to me

     
  • Get creative: You don't have to follow the pre-determined recipes in the little book accompanying your bread machine - if you've always wanted to make your Aunt Sophie's legendary cinnamon bread, chances are you can make it in the machine
     
  • Use the machine: Once you have the machine, use it. It can't save you time and money, bake nutritious bread, bypass preservatives, or save the baby whales unless you commit to using it.
Others have devoted entire sites to enabling bread machine baking, so to further your own edification, check out The Bread Machine Digest. There's plenty of tips on selecting a bread machine, useful loaf-size conversion charts, and helpful tips for beginning bakers.

Now that's I've extolled the loving virtues of bread machines, bread-baking purists beware: machinery approved bread recipes are coming to a neighborhood near you. 





6 comments:

  1. Okay - gonna try this again! I think I lost my previous post! What a fun post..I make my bread from my *gasp* stand mixer, but I have two bread machines!

    It's a wonderful thing to make bread for your family - and once you start, you never want to buy bread again!

    I like that the baby whales snuck in the post, too!

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  2. looks great and good post love all natural bread thanks so much for visiting my blog Rebecca

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  3. Hey Ann, Glad you enjoyed the whale and sorry if you lost your previous post - I've had complaints from a friend about this and I'm not sure what would be causing it. I admire your use of the stand mixer - so far the only bread doughs I've made with the mixer are pizza, brioche and pita...

    @Rebecca, no problem and glad you enjoyed!

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  4. I am such a breadaholic. Seriously! I wouldn't dare to make it at home yet...I'm sure it taste so much better than store brought. After seeing yours I'm gonna try it soon...thank you for sharing these tips!

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  5. I eat WAY too much bread - and if it's not slices of bread or chunks of baguette, it's croutons made from the bread! To control my snacking, I tend to freeze what I'm not going to use immediately :)

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