Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dusting off The Bread Machine

Several years ago, my mother bought me a bread machine. You know, around the time that they were all the rage. Everyone had one. If I remember correctly, twice I used a recipe in the manual. A generic white loaf of bread. It was good. But, nothing to write home about. After that, for whatever reason, I reached for a boxed bread mix, specifically for bread machines. Eventually, the machine got stuffed in a dusty corner of my pantry and has, pretty much, stayed there.

Recently, I read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle." It's a great book, with some great recipes and pertains to subjects I'm becoming more and more passionate about (read the reviews and book description at Amazon). The subjects covered in the book are subjects I, personally, think everyone should start thinking seriously about. However, I'm not going to get into it on the blog because, you know, I tend to get to preachy and drawn out.

Anyway, the author's husband wrote a snippet in the book that got me thinking about that bread machine collecting dust in a cupboard. He suggests experimenting with different flours and recipes and make your own bread. Not only did he remind me how easy it was, he reminded me how inexpensive it is to make your own bread, compared to buying a healthy loaf of bread in the store. In fact, I was discussing, with my mom, the price of a loaf of healthy bread the other day. Bread that doesn't have HFCS, artificial flavors, colors, etc. She told me that the kind she gets is over $4 a loaf and it's not even organic!

So, I pulled out my new King Arther Flour Whole Grain Baking cookbook and made whole wheat rolls and sandwich bread using the knead cycle on my bread machine. Just throw in your wet ingredients, followed by flour, salt, butter (if called for) and yeast and hit the dough option. The machine will knead it, allow it to rise in a great environment and, when done, you just have to punch it down, shape it, let it rise one final time and throw it in the oven. AHHH, the smell of fresh bread baking in my oven. Obviously, you can just push the bread cycle of choice and it'll do the whole loaf from start to finish. However, the wheat rolls required shaping. Oliva helped me punch down the dough, cut it into 16-pieces and then roll into balls. Helping me out made her very eager to see the finished product and give them a taste test (she approved).

I love that I only have to spend five-ten minutes measuring and dumping the ingredients into the machine, hitting a button and being done with it (unless I'm shaping the dough, in which I take it out after the first rise). There are bread machine recipes galore online. I've been having fun browsing.

For now, I'll probably experiment once a week or so. The bread here, in Portugal, is great and inexpensive. So, I'll mostly eat that while I can! But, when we move back to the States, I plan on buying my flour, yeast, etc., in bulk and making bread and rolls throughout the week.

I'm wondering. What do you all think of bread machines (I do make bread using the dough hook on my mixer - but, this post, in particular, is about the bread machine)? Do you use it? If not, have you thought about it lately, especially with the cost of food up? Do you have any recipes you'd like to share?


Jay and Amie said...

We actually did the same thing not too long ago. Jay has had a bread maker since before we started dating. We finally dusted it off in the past few months and have made a few loaves. My favorite so far was a Hawaiian bread recipe - I'll email it to you if I can find it.

I'd love to use it more, but truth be told, we don't eat much bread (we are a fan of tortillas, espeically the homemade ones we can get out here!) and Jay is cutting down on carbs. So when we do make it, it's a treat!

As I usually say in my comments these days, once we start a family, I'm sure I'll be using it a lot more! If you find any great recipes, please do share w/us - I'd definitely like to try them out!

Natalie said...

Yes, Amie, once you start a family, you'll eat more bread. Therefore, using your bread machine, buying flour, yeast, oats, etc., in bulk will be a great way to save money. I know your kids will be in the class of rare kids who will know where their food comes from, how to grow some of it, and how to cook w/it - whether they are boys or girls, etc. You'll be teaching me a thing or two before you know it!

The Matthaidess' said...

I love my bread machine. Ed's parents bought it for me years ago. Initially, I used it often. Then we moved to MA where I purchased bread at Whole Foods -- Yummy! Now, we're in VA and I've gone back to using my bread machine. It's so easy! I make honey whole wheat, pumpernickel, rye, and egg bread. Besides, like you said, it's nice having your house smell like fresh bread:-)

House Dad said...

I got one for Christmas and it's still in the box out in the garage. I did buy some bread machine yeast a few weeks ago and if I ever get off my butt and open the box, I'll try something out in the next few weeks.

Katie said...

I had a couple years when I used my bread machine all the time. I LOVED it. I made fresh pizza dough in it every Thursday. I haven't used it in about 2 years now. I really REALLY loved it for a while. Thanks for reminding me about it. I may try it.

I find that bread machine bread is hard to slice into sandwich slices. Could you slice your whole wheat bread? This is so exciting. I can't wait to try out your recipe!

Anderson Family said...

I know I'm late with this post but here is my 2 cents...Danny bought me a bread machine this year for christmas and I love it. I don't use it as much as I would like but I love knowing that I can make my own bread. I'm still learning my way around a kitchen so the fact that the bread machine is so easy to use it wonderful.
I find it hard to cut the bread into slices for sandwiches...if I could figure that out I think we would use it a lot more. Once again great blogs...and how are you guys doing?