Friday, April 26, 2013

Adventures in Bread Making - to knead or not to knead

I love the smell and taste of homemade bread. It must be eaten immediately upon coming out of the oven with real butter and honey drizzled on top. However, I rarely make bread because of the time and attention it requires. Also to be considered is the fact that baking during the hot months of the year very rarely happens around here. A benefit to homemade bread is that it's preservative-free and I can control the ingredients.

So, I had some birthday money burning a hole in my pocket and thought it would be fun to have a bread machine.
I queried friends on Facebook and received mostly encouragement to buy one. My friend, Karen, still holds to the old-fashioned way of bread-making and in response to my question about what kind of bread machine people had she quipped, "My bread maker is called Hands. Manufacturer: God." Thanks, Friend.

I went online to shop and read reviews. After finding one in my price range that had excellent reviews I ordered my bread machine and waited eagerly for it to be delivered right to my door. There were visions of tender, flaky, crusty goodness dancing in my head. Well, it has turned into one of those "it-seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time" moments.

This isn't meant to be a product review, so the bread machine shall hereby remain anonymous.

The morning after it's arrival I gathered my ingredients, carefully followed the directions in the manual, and pushed start. I watched fascinated as the little paddles turned the dough this way and that. It was quiet and efficient. Peeking in again revealed a perfectly shaped loaf of rising bread dough! Soon the house filled with the scent promising deliciousness coming our way! In anticipation I laid out the butter dish and cute little honey bear. Finally, the machine beeped incessantly signalling completion of the baking process and I bolted for the kitchen to reveal the fruit of it's labor.

It didn't take long to see there was a problem.
Uhhh - this is NOT how a loaf of homemade bread  is supposed to look.
(Sorry for the yucky cell phone pictures.)

Turning to the troubleshooting section in the manual revealed a couple adjustments I could make in the recipe in the event of bread that sinks while baking. Making those adjustments, I started over.

Loaf number two.

Really now? I've been making bread since I was a little girl. My mom makes bread by hand. My grandma made bread by hand. Never in my entire life have I ever seen a sunken loaf of homemade bread!

Before embarking on loaf number three I turned to the internet for advice. Making more simple changes, I tried again. Same thing! (Sorry, no pictures of this one. But you get the idea. It looked exactly the same as the other two.)

Granted, all three loaves tasted delicious. The texture was perfect. The crust was nicely browned and not too crunchy. I cut off the peaks and we enjoyed slices of bread about two-thirds the size of a regular slice.

If any of you more experienced bread machine users have words of wisdom I would certainly be obliged. I'm not giving up. This is a thing to be mastered.

Good thing I have tons of yardwork to do. I'll need something to burn off the increased intake of carbs this quest is bound to entail.

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