You either love this instrument or hate it, but when used with a bit of knowledge and preparation, it can be a powerful kitchen ally. Nothing seems quite as satisfying as fresh home made bread and it's aroma, and although the hand- made process lets one get intimate with the activity, there are legitimate reasons for going machine- made. For some, infirmity may have set in that limit the hand- making flexibility required, for others the notion of bread that is free from unknown or unwanted chemical compounds is very desirable and within reach using this technology. In this Instructable, I'll share some of the ways and means I use to take most of the perplexity out of the process, and help you get better results with minimal fuss.
Step 1: Accuracy Does Matter
I have made up a custom kit of all tools and measures needed to reliably produce my bread. Purchased at thrift stores and for a small amount of money, I have:
- Containers for premixed batches of flour. Doing this step at my own convenience makes bread day very quick since flour, yeast, and salt (dry ingredients) keep well in the 'fridge until needed.
- Clearly marked measures for “wet ingredients” like oil and molasses.
- A modified custom measure cup for water, “V” grooved at the lip to spill off any water above the 200ml my recipe requires.
- A tray, scoop, and a straight icing spatula form a system to control flour measuring and handling.
- A plastic handled rubber spatula to safely reach the dough during mixing.
Step 2: Assembling the Dry Ingredients
My recipe calls for 1:2 ratio of whole wheat flour to bread flour, using a one cup each amount. I have found that the most reliable way to get a consistent measure of flour is to overfill the scoop, then strike off the excess to a long level cup. A plastic tray with one end clipped off provides a neat, easy way to return the excess flour to the bag. Also added to the containers is ½ Tablespoon each of yeast (bread machine type) and salt, and that completes my handy dry mix setup.
Step 3: Putting It All Together
I like the long, oversized flour containers, they get right down into the pan before the flour comes tumbling out, preventing any spillage. At this point it makes little difference if you add dry to wet or wet to dry since the kneading process begins now. I select “Whole Wheat” setting, and the default “Medium” crust. As soon as I press “Start”, I set my microwave oven's alarm timer for 80 minutes. This alerts me that about 10 minutes remain before the last kneading action will take place after which the baking process begins. Why that matters is detailed in the next step.
It is at this time that kneading will begin, and it is important that you help the machine totally incorporate all the ingredients. Using the rubber spatula, immediately begin moving dry areas into wet, paying special attention to the corners, where the paddle cannot reach very well. It only takes a few minutes but this step is crucial for a complete wetting of the flour and hence a fully useable loaf.
Step 4: Readying the Loaf
After the timer alarm sounds, we are at the end of the last knead, 2:15 hours on the display. Baking is about to begin, but we have a few minutes before things get hot so I like to remove the paddle now rather than later after baking is complete- that saves me from digging it out and creating the resultant big ugly hole it leaves. Also helpful is greasing the paddle shaft with butter or margarine, and smoothing the dough back into the form of the pan, thus yielding a nice, symmetrical loaf with a flat bottom.
Step 5: The Payoff
I set up a cooling and handling station to rack the bread for the final phase. The pans are very hot, and so I prefer padded gloves for the extraction process, now when turned upside down, the bread readily slips out thanks to the buttering of the paddle shafts, and the pans are almost clean enough to be put away for next use. When cool, in about 1- 2 hours you may slice it; a serrated edged long bladed knife works best and again thrift stores will answer your need. To get maximum yield, a slicer tray is recommended, a simple to make version is here:
Step 6: Parting Thoughts
I'm hooked on this. I can't go back to store bought bread with its puckish taste and better living through chemistry construction. Two 1-1/2 pound loaves last me and the wife about two weeks give or take, and with the process now simplified and predictable, I actually look forward to baking day. Bread machines are abundant and cheap at thrift stores and sites like Craigslist; I payed $10 each for both and treat them like a rented mule and still they carry on. Find a favorite recipe and work it until you get it right, from then on it's all a pleasant and gratifying experience that you control.
Honey Wheat Bread- 1-1/2 Lb. Loaf
- 1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
- 2 Cups Bread Flour
- ½ Tbls Salt
- ½ Tbls Yeast
- 200ml Water
- 1/8 Cup Oil
- Scant ¼ Cup Molasses
Set Oven Alarm Timer For 80 Minutes, Start with Bread Machine
@ 2:15 Final Knead Begins
After 1 Minute, Remove Paddle, Butter Shaft
Total time will be 3 hours 40 minutes, display will read 0:00, unplug machine, remove loaf, cool on wire rack.