Bread machines are these large clunking devices that sit on the counter taking up space and hollering out that they could be filling your house with the fragrance of heavenly baking bread. People drop them off at the Goodwill all the time. I get mine there for $5-$15. They retail for Christmas present prices. So why don’t people like them in the long run?
They take up space, they have to be cleaned, and the loaves they turn out have a stupid looking shape with a hole in the bottom from the paddle, since they bake in the mixing bowl. The slices don’t look like what we were hoping for. And if you use mixes and follow the recipes in the book, the yeast won’t really develop a nice tangy, yeasty flavor and it will taste sort of bought. Now comes the thinking part.
Use the dough setting! The great part about Bread machines is that they do all the mixing, kneading, and rising for you- I mean that it warms a bit and the dough stays warm and covered until a little beep tells you it is done rising. I really love this with rye bread because rye is super sticky and I don’t enjoy kneading it so much. The only caution is that you need to look in on it as it is mixing in the early stages because if you are adding various things, as I do, and using sourdough started, as I do, moisture content can vary, and you want to see a nice little ball being whammed around the workbowl by the paddle. You might have to add a tiny bit of water or a bit of flour.That being said, if you don’t see that, as long as it is mixing well you will be ok. If it is too full, which won’t happen with a standard 3 cups recipe, you may need to reach in and flip the dough around so that everything gets moved and mixed. But by the time you are that adventurous you will understand what I am talking about.
Every bread machine I have ever had has a dough setting, but make sure it doesn’t default to basic loaf the next time you bake- suddenly you smell it baking and you haven’t formed it the way you wanted to.
So now you have the dough. Just grease your loaf pan- I recommend stoneware, which is another Christmas present type item (pricey), dump your dough out on a floured board, shape it, and put it in the pan to rise again. I like to try to create a little more surface tension by folding the dough and putting the seam on the bottom. But I also don’t always totally crush the bubbles in the bread- called degassing. When you cover it don’t put anything tightly on it and mind it doesn’t stick. I do reuse clean plastic bags a lot. You don’t want the surface to dry out since it’s expanding.
But here’s more fun! Bread machines are ideal for making plain doughs that are easy to form into rolls, braids (try following a challah recipe), and flatbreads like pitas. I don’t like really plain white flour dough but spelt (which is less inflammatory than modern wheat) and whole wheat can give flavor without being super heavy, and you can use half and half white, smidge of this and smidge of that, to make up your 3 cups, for a very light result. The next post is about pitas, and if you want I can also make some rolls and photograph the process.
Bottom line, I love bread machines (links to Amazon search in case you feel a need to boost the economy with your surplus cash…) for certain things, enough that mine does live on the counter. We just don’t ever buy bread because it is easy and better to make it. And economical, even at today’s flour prices. Now, my friend Lisa, who has 8 kids, grinds her flour fresh and bakes bread every day. She uses extra virgin coconut oil and the bread, though completely whole wheat, is light and mild flavored. None of the oils in the grain had a chance to go rancid. It also rises faster I think. Her batches are too big for a bread machine but I think- and I have to ask her- she uses a mixer with a dough hook. Anyway, for sure she is buying in bulk so she is saving a lot.
Also- and this is so very important, don’t forget that today’s baked goods contain bromated flour. Always make sure your flour is not bromated. It is very bad for your thyroid, and I am convinced it is a factor in the thyroid epidemic we are seeing today, especially among women. You will have more energy if you substitute home baked bread for store bought, so don’t be concerned that baking will make you fat.
So do it. It is about sustainability and bliss.