Bread machine

I'm not a great cook; I usually don't have the energy to cook anything interesting, so I tend to fall back to the very simple. (Plus Montreal has zillions of great restaurants, so it doesn't take much excuse to make me go out to eat.) But fresh bread is delicious, so when I visited my parents and they had a bread machine scavenged from the kerb, I was happy to give it a try. I was impressed, but felt like I would probably use it for a little while and then it would sit cluttering up my kitchen. So when some friends mentioned that they had a bread machine they weren't using, I asked if I could borrow it.

I figure, they used it a lot for a month, then got bored of the bread and put it in storage. If I use it for a month and then get bored, well, maybe they'll find someone else to lend it to afterwards. And maybe after a while they'll have a craving for bread again; seems like a fine solution. (Of course, bakeries are a perfectly fine solution too, and indeed I do like to buy a nice Première Moisson baguette from time to time.)

What sold me on a bread machine was not the fine bread it could make — though I did have some nice loaves — but how easy it was to make bread. Now I can have put off going to the grocery store for far too long, so there's no longer anything perishable in the house, but toss five ingredients in the machine, hit a button, and lo and behold, fresh bread:

  • 250 mL water
  • 60 mL olive oil
  • 15 mL sugar
  • 5 mL salt
  • 750 mL flour
  • 8 mL yeast
This uses the "basic" program and produces a medium-size loaf.

There's even a "French" bread recipe that works if I'm out of oil:

  • 250 mL water
  • 60 mL sugar
  • 8 mL salt
  • 750 mL flour
  • 8 mL yeast
This uses the "French" program, which kneads more and lets it rise longer, and produces a chewier bread with larger bubbles. Since all bread machine loaves are approximately cubical, this doesn't much resemble a baguette (not that that's the only kind of French bread), but it's still pretty good bread.

The biggest problem with the machine is that it takes three hours to make the bread, and about half an hour before the bread is ready it starts smelling delicious.


Popup said...

I also love bread, and I own a bread machine for making sandwich-bread. However, for a weekend breakfast I prefer small rolls. After reading Harold McGee's latest column I decided to try a simple wet no-knead recipe. I just mixed 200g flour with 130g water, 5g salt and half a packet of yeast before going to bed. Next morning I stirred it all again, and scoped up four ping-pong-ball sized lumps, and left on an oven-rack for another hour. Then into a hot oven (~220°C) for a couple of minutes before waking up Madam.

Surprisingly nice, given that total work amounted to about 2x5minutes.

- Note1) If you're a scientist with even minimal interest in food, you have to read Harold McGees On Food and Cooking. It's a mighty tome, but it gives the details about such things as Maillard reactions and the etymology of ketchup.

- Note2) Working with very wet dough is messy. Conventional wisdom is to use enough flour and knead it until it doesn't stick. I have come to the conclusion that it's also possible to do the opposite, and work with wet hands and keep everything slimy. Not as elegant, but much easier for wetter doughs.

- Note 3) Working with flour it's much more reliable to use weight. It packs unreliably, and unless you want to re-calibrate all recipes and start sifting flour it's the only way to make sure.

Anne M. Archibald said...

Going by weight makes a certain sense, but I don't have any kind of weight-measuring device in the house. Perhaps I should obtain one...

That book does sound interesting, even for a very occasional cook. I'll see if I can find it in a local bookstore.

Popup said...

Scales are surprisingly cheap. (You can even get them from Dealextreme, but most of what they're selling looks like it's intended for back-street drug dealers rather than serious cooks.)

On Food and Cooking is more than a book - it's a bible. The first edition came out in 1984, and was responsible for (among other things) the conversion of Heston Blumenthal from good cook to avant-garde World's best chef.
A revised edition came out in 2004, and it's got 900 pages (up from 700) plus it's set in a smaller font. It has become more of an encyclopaedia where you look things up, rather than something you read cover-to-cover. (Although I read it as bedtime reading, but that says more about me than about the book.)

Highly recommended.