Bread Machines: You’ve come a long way, Baby!
My oldest son bought a bread machine in 1988. A, Rube Goldbergesque device that, after a fashion, produced an oddly shaped loaf of bread reminiscent of a miner’s lunch pail: tall where it should be short, square where it should be round, and round where it should be square. Its white bread cycle produced a soft-crusted loaf, with a crumb akin to Wonder Bread. I don’t recall if it had any other cycle choices. I promptly lost interest in bread machines, and for the next decade remained a smug, hands-on baker.
Until I went rideabout in a 5th-wheel trailer—for six months.
When I was younger I backpacked; I lived out of a sack for a week or more three or four times a year. A 30-foot 5th-wheel trailer has more room than a hiking sack, but not much. But they come equipped with stoves, with sinks, with refrigerators; and the stoves have ovens. Backpacking, one expects to eat freeze-dried grub, reconstituted with water faintly tasting of iodine, and gnaw on biscuits resembling hockey pucks in shape, size, and texture. That’s the price—along with the occasional blister—for the freedom of the trail. An oven’s presence raises one’s expectations. “I can bake bread!” you think. Ha! Fat chance!
My trailer’s oven has a knob divided seductively into ten-degree divisions beginning 200°F and ending at 450°F. “It’s just like home,” I thought, comforted. I soon learned differently. At 350°F my oven could melt lead, but the crucible had to be placed in the innermost left hand corner. Placed in the right hand corner, next to the oven door, for an hour-and-a-half a Pop Tart barely warmed. My first (and only) attempt to bake bread resulted a misshapen lump, charcoal at its north end, and drooping to the south. I went to a local trail outfitter’s store and bought a supply of hockey pucks.
In a few months I learned from other RV owners I was not alone. I met veteran trailer-hounds, full-timers, and disillusioned newbie’s, like me, who used their ovens for storage room, a place to keep the picnic-table grill, baseball gloves, or the cat’s litter box.
And then I thought of bread machines.
Reluctantly, with skepticism rampant in every thought, I bought one, but not until I’d researched carefully. A decade after my son bought his bread machine, many bread machines still clung to the miner’s lunch pail loaf shape. Only a very few had by then acknowledged that the common loaf shape was here to stay, and adapted their designs appropriately. Ironically, this trend seemed to be led by the Japanese. I’m not sure they sell bread in loaf form. In my brief travels to the Far East I’ve only encountered bread rolls, and I’ve never seen a loaf in a samurai movie.
Nonetheless, there was still something lacking: control--control over time and temperature. I solved the first, control over time; I never did solve the second—in the trailer. Once home for the summer, I had my trusted oven.
Control over time: I like to think I invented the dough cycle, now commonplace in bread machines, and the yet-to-be-realized “retard cycle”. It was very simple: take the dough out of the machine, and turn the darn thing off. It’s done its job; give it a rest. Proof the dough in a bowl; retard it in the refrigerator.
I bet you’re wondering how I got the machine to bake the proofed and/or retarded dough. That was simple too. Good thing, I’m not a rocket scientist. When I was nearly ready to bake I ran the machine empty through its early cycle steps, i.e., “Preheat”, “Knead”, “Rise”, and “Knead”. Silly? Yeah, but it worked. Besides, the cat box was in the oven I’d given up on. Listening to the machine’s unimpeded motor whirl while “Knead”ing was soothing, not as good as hand kneading, but still soothing.
I’d shape the loaf, tuck it back into the bread pan—I’d take out the paddles; that made removing the baked loaf easier, and left only two little round holes in the loaf’s bottom—just before “Bake” started. For the final three months I wintered in the San Antonio—my real mixer and oven were in Connecticut—I ate good bread, not great, but I knew all its ingredients to the gram, and having time control I would nurse all the flavor and texture I could out of each loaf’s flours.
Today we still own a bread machine, and it get’s used every week, sometimes twice in the same week. We mostly use the dough cycle. My wife, Yvonne, makes our everyday bread, mostly white or whole wheat, and she too knows the flavor secrets revealed controlling time. She bakes three loaves each time, the machine does the kneading and the first proof. The rest is in her hands. One loaf goes to the breadbox, one to the freezer, and one to our recently widowed neighbor—home made bread is healing, even bread-machine bread. She also makes sweet breads we take to potluck dinners, or give to friends. For those she fills the machine with ingredients, and forgets it until the machine beeps.
I’m the artisan baker. Oops, that sounds arrogant. Let me rephrase. I’m the free spirit baker. That’s better. Most of my breads—sourdoughs, ciabattas, baguettes, etc.—are hand (and Kitchenaid) wrought, but sometimes I use the machine.
This morning, over coffee, Yvonne said, “ Make some focaccia, with sun-dried tomatoes.” I did.
The basic recipe comes from, “Bread Machine: how to prepare and bake the perfect loaf” by Jeannie Shapter. (Y bought it at a Barnes & Noble book sale, for five bucks.) My take is a variation: sundried tomatoes, capers, and rosemary in both the dough and the topping, in lieu of sage and red onion topping only; all else is the same. I put the bread machine on dough cycle. When its finished the dough gets a few minutes of light hand kneading, twenty minutes rest, and directly to the pan, stretched to the corners. After a final proof, nearly doubling, it goes into a 400°F oven. I don’t use bread flour for this recipe, preferring all-purpose flour. The finished crust and crumb are soft: a great sandwich bread. Tonight’s diner is home-cured-and-smoked ham, with Swiss cheese, panini. I’ll mix up some Dijon mustard and honey, but Yvonne won’t use it. The focaccia’s flavor is enough for her.
Most of my breads take 12, 18, even 24 or more hours, but…Let me put it another way. I love fly-fishing, but I still use worms on occasion, and catch big fish.
Here are some pictures of this morning’s focaccia.
Tuesday (or Wednesday), Grandma’s Welsh cakes recipe.
Ready for the oven
Ready to eat
Cinnamon bun dough
Hi there, I am new to the forums and also new to bread baking. I have decided that I can not tolerate buy chemical bread for my kids anymore. Anyway, I have had alot of success making regular loafs of bread using either my bosch machine or my kitchenaid., However, twice I have tried to make cinnamon buns and everytime I role out the dough the dang stuff just keeps shrinking back in on me!! Any Ideas what I could be doing wrong or what I could be doing different. Thanks a heap
effect of vinegar on instant yeast dough
I've read that some sliced bread loaf recipes have vinegar in their ingredients. I hope that you shed some light on the benefits of adding vinegar, and how does that affect the finl result, specially on doughs that use instant yeast.
Wheat Montana In-store Flour Mill
I finally remembered to take a camera with me while grocery shopping this afternoon. For almost two years now I've been thinking "Gotta remember to take a picture to show the other Loafers." So, finally, here goes.
The Hy-Vee supermarket located at the intersection of 135th St. and Antioch Rd. in Overland Park, KS has an in-store unit from Wheat Montana that contains two micronizer-style mills. One is fed from a hopper with Bronze Chief wheat kernels (a hard red wheat) and the other is fed from a hopper with Prairie Gold wheat kernels (a hard white wheat). A customer places a bag from the center of the display on the stand beneath the wheat variety of their choice, and then pushes a button to grind the wheat into flour, which falls into the customer's bag. See photo below:
This particular installation is in the middle of the "health foods" section of the store, in case any of you are close enough / curious enough to go take a look at it.
If you want fresh-ground flour without having to splurge on a mill for yourself, you might want to see if you can cajole your local grocer into getting this kind of set-up for a store near you. Probably wouldn't hurt to check with the folks at Wheat Montana first to see if they are still making these units; no point in wheedling your grocer into getting something that isn't available.
Gotta run. The hamburger rolls are ready for shaping.
Pain Au Levain With Walnuts
This is the first time to try this bread and first bread I have made from Bread Alone by Daniel Leader & Judith Blahnik. I wanted a nice loaf to go with a variety of cheeses and this made a nice choice...like it says thinly sliced it makes a nice compliment to cheeses. It's delicious, I think the grated walnuts in the dough, plus the fact that I have access to some very fresh nuts in my area made this bread even more tastier. The crust also has a very pleasing crunch, chew and lot's of flavor. The crumb was pleasing and so is the color the toasted walnuts lent to it... I was surprised at the size of the two hugh torpedo shaped loaves the formula made. Next time I will try his formula for Pain Au Levain with Pecans and Dried Cherries, we have cherry pie so I didn't want overkill on cherries...though I do love them.
I Definately need to pitch my lame for new sharp one!!
My 100% WW sourdough sandwich loaves
Made these today. 100% whole wheat; rose for total 7 hours and baked at 350 for 45 minutes (small one) and 1 hour (large one). Internal temperature was 190F.
Whole wheat bread
I want to start baking some whole wheat breads. Can I pretty much take reciepes that I have now with white flour and substitute whole wheat flour and maybe add some vital wheat gluten? I realize texture will be different and most wheat bread recipies usually use some white flour but I'm interested in doing 100% whole wheat. Do you think this will work? Can I take my Kaiser rolls recipie and just substitute whole wheat?
20090331 My favorite Japanese style white sandwich bread - by water roux starter and sponge method
Cooked Kamut berries, now what?
Ongoing Kamut experiment... a short one.
I have 600g Kamut berries. Dirctions say how to cook, 2 cups water for 1 cup berries washed in sieve. I decided to use the rice cooker for my good 4 cups of grain. By washing, it was clear that the grain was better washed in a large bowl and water poured off the top to remove parts of hulls and dust. The berries are large enough to drain in a colander. I then let the rice cooker do the work with 1 tsp of salt. All the water was absorbed and the grain took on a caramel color with a nutty fragrance.
Now what? I was hoping to put this grain into a rye bread but I had to eat some first. Very chewy. Very chewy indeed! Now I'm not so sure I want it whole in my bread. I was eating chili for lunch so I combined some cooked grain into it. Uh, ok, not the best idea, but I did get a glimpse of the texture with other food. The tough chewy berries stood out. "Roughage" kept going through my head. I guess the blender is the next step, make the grains smaller. Will I come out with a pudding like substance? I have to think about this.... any ideas? (Meanwhile, starter is being refreshed.) I need some coffee.