Dear friends in bread,
Encouraged by your comments I will continue my story.
The gift of the bread machine was accompanied by enough flour and dried yeast to set me going. As my diet calls for granary / wholemeal breads the powdered milk was consigned to the back of the cupboard. On a trip around the supermarket I found 500g packaged bread mixes that just required water. Into the bread machine they went and out came inconsistent results. I searched the web for explanations and saw that others had the same problems. Just add water and get disappointed with inconsistent results - after experiments the packs are abandoned.
This was the point that I spoke to my local bakers. Without naming names this gentleman and lady (deserved titles for he is certainly a gentleman and she is most definitely a lady) took me under their wing. I look back on this as something like the central theme of Sir Henry Newbolt's poem "Vitai Lampada ("They Pass On The Torch of Life"). These lovely people were handing on the torch to me, guiding and supporting me until I could fly on my own. It seems somewhat ironic as I am now passing the flame on to a good friend as he starts on his journey through bread.
The "Lovely Bakers" as I call them gave me a recipe and some live yeast. I explained that due to problems with hand strength I could really knead dough. The baker said the answer was simple - "use the bread machine to knead the dough". This was sound advice and today I still use the bread machine to knead dough. I think kneading, as a process is part of the mystical element of bread making. Often the answers to problems with bread failures seem to be kneading it a bit longer. There is some piece of specific science going on here that I needed to understand. At this time I was unable to take in the facts behind kneading. You learn when you learn is spot on. I would say that the role of kneading is complex - it's not always important to knead the hell out of dough, sometimes gentle handling is the right way. The physiques of the bakers suggest that rather than arms like a body builder they have slender arms that seem to move dough about with great speed.
I would say that bread mixes do have their place and they do make great toast and breadcrumbs. I mention breadcrumbs here, as I never throw bread away. The last untoastable pieces are whizzed up into crumbs and toasted in the oven. Cooled and stored in the fridge, these for the base of my quiches in the place of pastry. I sprinkle the crumbs into the baking tin and sprinkle on some grated mature cheddar and bake openly until the cheese melts and glues the breadcrumbs together. This is just reassigning some of the cheese / fat from the quiche recipe and is healthier than pastry.
Hope this has been of interest and thought / comment provoking. The next episode of my journey concerns sourdough and the beast that is sourdough starter. As for now the timer clock has gone "ding" and the soup needs whizzing up. I have to make some bread to accompany it. Focaccia and some Sourdough and special Soda Bread for supper tomorrow.
Happy baking - the baking bear.