In the middle of the first week of our holidays I took a trip to Value Village in my hometown. I was on a quest: for a bread maker. I had seen bread makers at just about every garage sale and I just KNEW I could pick one up at the second hand store.
Right I was–there were three to choose from on the shelf. The helpful employee told me they price them according to brand, and by how well they function when they are tested. (It seemed like they had a lot of bread makers in overstock–each time I went to the store, there were 3 machines on the shelf, but one was different each time.)
I picked up a West Bend model with the words “The Natural Choice” written in reassuring letters on the top. It was $17.99. Thus began the theme of my holidays: baking bread.
Of course I had to try it out right away, so I took it home to my sister’s house and quickly found a recipe online for whole wheat bread. I scanned her cupboards, found all the ingredients, threw them in to the machine, and waited . . .
“It’s not doing anything,” I told my partner after 15 minutes.
“It’s not doing anything,” I told him again after 20 minutes.
“It’s not doing anything,” I complained again after 21 minutes. “Maybe it’s broken.”
Which was when I took to the internet and found out that most bread machines have what is called a “rest period” where they let the ingredients come to room temperature before mixing. Aaah–it’s not broken.
20 minutes later, it sprang to life, mixing with vigour. Over the next 4 hours, it kneaded, rose, punched down, rose again, and baked, producing a lovely fragrant loaf of whole wheat bread. And all I had to do was measure the ingredients!
Now, let me just say, to maintain my bread cred, that I am very anxious to go back to my hand kneading, slow-rising, hearth baking ways–after the heat of summer has passed. The beauty and magic of the bread maker is that it doesn’t require me to heat up the oven, and hence the house. This means I can bake bread on the hottest day of the summer!! No more fooling around with baking in the slow cooker (that never really worked anyway).
I think I made bread every day after that, both there and at the cottage we stayed in on Manitoulin Island. Lots of sandwiches. Lots of toast. Lots of bread and butter.
Has my bread maker earned its keep? Without a doubt. I’ve read it uses about a nickel’s worth of energy to bake a loaf, and it probably takes less than a dollar’s worth of ingredients. Compare that to the $3.50 to $4 we usually spend for a loaf of bread, and you can see the evident savings.
The other factor is that when you make a lot of bread, you will eat a lot of bread, which means that you are probably replacing some more expensive foods with cheaper food. Mmm–pass the butter.
My next challenge will be getting my sourdough starter up and running, and then attempting to make some spiked dough sourdough in the bread machine.
How about you–any experience with bread machines? Any great recipes to share? Have you too experienced bread machine bliss??