I have been waiting to show (off ) my bread machine! Westbend HiRise with dual blades. Ever since I got it recently, I have been waiting to bake a decent enough bread and tell you all about it. Of course it took time, beginning from getting a step-up converter to figuring out how the machine works and what recipes work best. And some more time as I made the big mistake of ignoring instructions and thinking that baking bread in a machine (after baking bread by hand all along) is going to be a breeze ( to the extent that I kept planning for the next post to be that bread) until the first one turned out to be a brick (Oh No!!!) and the next couple of them just about OK.
Problem with assuming that bread machine baking is exactly the same as baking bread by hand and trying to compare it with the rules or fundas you are used to for hand made bread. Then ending up thoroughly confused, bewildering people around you by obsessively talking about it and baking more breads..till you bake a decent one. Hope rekindled in this wonder gadget so many people successfully use - in different ways. Hope - the desperate bread baker's bread!
To me, a bread machine is a really really new gadget, having read about it first on Champa' s blog. A machine in which I can just dump in the bread ingredients in a certain order, select a cycle, the color of the crust I want, the size of the loaf and then press start. Then get on with my business till the machine sounds a beep to signal that the bread is baked and ready. As simple as that. This is the Basic cycle, takes 3.20 minutes in my machine. Or use the machine to just do the dirty work of kneading the dough, allow it to rise, punch down, knead again (this second knead truly shocked me, but it works!) and let it rise again, sound a beep when done. This is the dough cycle, takes 1.50 minutes in my machine. All you then need to do is shape the dough into loaves or rolls or sticks or pizza or whatever you fancy and bake. No mess. Home-baked bread with minimal effort and time.
There is also a feature called as a delay start timer. Allows you to set a basic cycle or dough cycle among others so that you can just dump in the ingredients in the order and command the genie to either fully bake your bread or just knead the dough (till its ready to shape) by a specific time. Really cool. No perishable ingredients on the delay start cycle of course. There is also a Rapid cycle which bakes your bread in about 2 hours, but with more yeast (no thanks!). And yes, another cycle called as home-made which is for seasoned bread-machine users. Allows you to customize each of the knead, rise and bake settings. I think this will be great.
As I gather, a lot of bakers prefer only the kneading to be done in the machine, the shaping, final rise and baking done in the oven. As bread baking veterans say, baking entirely in the bread machine gives an odd shaped loaf, less of taste, less moist breads as compared to bread baked in the oven. Taste and texture is better when baked the latter way. And its not very surprising if you aren't highly impressed with breads baked within the machine. Think a little better than your typical packaged bread. But of course, you could make it in varying flavors, sans a load of preservatives. So if you buy bread regularly and have no time to bake breads at home, then baking in the bread machine is good enough. If you don't want the hassle of kneading but can spend time on shaping and baking, the dough cycle is of great help. I baked 3-4 breads quite successfully, one of them baked in my oven. And yes, the one baked outside tastes much better!
Well, I did read the manual, but completely ignored the recipes in it, as I always do, who ever reads or follows them? But obviously bread machine recipes are an exception. And then I wrote a distress mail to Champa and she suggested that I try a recipe from the manual so that I can get the hang of it. It worked!! I baked one when I was almost asleep, the success shook off the sleep! I wanted to bake another one, and since it was already midnight, I set the machine on delay start and went to bed. Of course, the bread was waiting when I woke up lazily at 7.30 on a Saturday morning!
Here is the recipe from the manual, which I baked on the basic cycle, meaning bread dough kneaded and baked in the machine itself. A recipe which worked for me, the texture was quite good, the flavor could have been better. That I guess can be remedied to a certain extent by adding herbs and spices.
Milk - 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (80 degree F, which is almost room temperature)
All purpose flour - 3 1/3 cups / 434 grams
Vital wheat gluten - 3 tbsp plus 1 teaspoon
Salt - 1 1/4 teaspoon
Sugar - 1 1/2 tablespoon
Butter - 2 tablespoons
Instant yeast - 1 1/2 teaspoons
Procedure: Place ingredients in the bread machine pan in the order specified by the manufacturer. Liquid first, then dry ingredients. Level the dry ingredients, quarter the butter and add to the corners. Make an impression the the center of the dry ingredients and add the yeast. Close the lid, bake on the Basic cycle. This made a 1.5 pound loaf, I selected a medium color crust which sets the temperature at 199 degree C /390 degree F.
Thanks to Champa for her post on bread machines, it helped me pick out one for myself. I hope to bake lots of breads like her some day and without the sweat! Here is another useful blog which tells you why a bread machine is better for baking yeast breads. So as I continue to experiment with my machine, find answers to my questions, more breads will appear here, hopefully better ones. The bread machine also comes with a learning curve and I hope to learn my way with the machine better over a period of time, discover good recipes and learn techniques which work better. If you use a bread machine, please do share your most helpful tips and tricks.