Back in gradaute school, I would occassionally spend an entire weekend day making bread from scratch. I bought the Tassajara Bread Book and would diligently follow directions on amounts of ingredients, then spend a half hour kneading, followed by many hours of rising and punching, then baking, only to have a very dense, barely edible loaf of whole wheat bread. It did not take long to realize that I was doing something wrong, so I continued to buy high quality healthy bread at $5+ a loaf.
Then a few years ago (feeding a growing boy and two adults that love bread) I thought about the cost of flour and water and wondered why I was spending $5-10/week on bread when I could make it for much cheaper. Sure, you can buy bread more cheaply, but it almost always has high fructose corn syrup and/or partially hydrogenated oils…not things that I want in my bread. We went to Target and bought a Breadman bread maker (an affordable <$100 one that would pay for itsef in no time). Three years later after using it 1-2 times per week, it started to show serious signs of age. We were obviously going to be a bread-maker family, and so I received a nicer model.
For those of you that have never used a bread maker, it is super easy and you have lots of options for changing things up. The easiest option is to dump all ingredients in, push a few setting buttons and walk away (having spent all of 10 minutes max and virtually no dirty dishes to wash)…..three to four hours later your house smells wonderful and you have a loaf of fresh bread with dinner. Us working parents can even set the timer in the morning to start later in the day so that the loaf will be ready and fresh at 5:30pm when we get home. What could be bettter?!
While I certainly do this often, I have started enjoying using the breadmaker for the “dirty work” of keading and initial rises, and then I take the dough out for one more rise and cook it in my oven. The advantage is no holes in the bottom of the loaf (size varies with type of maker) where the kneading blades are and also I prefer the crust in my own oven – a little less tough.
I have been having fun with new recipes and have found a WONDERFUL one (Flax and Sunflower Seed Loaf) that is going to be our family’s standard weekly loaf for quite a while. Here is a step by step:
Start by putting all ingredients in the bread maker pan, wet ones first, yeast last
You can buy active dry yeast at most stores for super cheap – We get ours at Good Food Grocery.
There are also lots of options for flour, but we use a combination of King Arthur unbleached bread and white whole wheat. In contrast to 100% whole wheat, you get a softer, flufier loaf that rises better.
This is what the dough looks like the machine is done kneading and after two rises.
You then dump it out on a floured surface, flour your hands (b/c this recipe makes a pretty sticky dough) and shape the loaf how you like it. We shape it for a loaf pan.
Winter is great for bread making b/c there are typically warm places (furnaces, radiators, wood stoves, etc) near which you can place your dough for the final rise. Here is our loaf in front of the wood stove. It blows very warm, dry air so I put a towel over it so it does not dry out too much.
An hour or so later, it has risen over the lip of the pan. Time to go in the oven. 350F for 25 minutes.