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?