13 March 2012

Bread - in the bread machine

I sometimes get emails from people who have started making their own bread at home but they feel ashamed of using a bread machine. A few people I met on the road said the same thing. I use a bread machine almost every day; I'm not ashamed to tell you that, there is no reason to hide away thinking that "real" bread is only made by hand kneading.  Friends, the truth is that real bread is what you make at home, adding or omitting the ingredients that suit you and your family - the custom healthy loaf. We live in modern times. People keep telling me that there is not enough time to do everything and that they're busy. If you fit that category, or if you're unable to knead bread, or just don't get the same result hand kneading as you do with machine kneading, use a machine. The simple living police will not arrest you.

I use the same bread recipe for almost all my bread now. I add variety to it by changing the type of flour, and sometimes changing from water to milk, or half and half. I also change the additives I put on top. Sometimes it is seeds, sometimes oats, sometimes it's a combination of several things. This same bread recipe can be made into rolls by putting the bread machine onto the dough setting. When the dough is kneaded I shape the rolls and add seeds, then allow them to rise and cook in the oven. The recipe is also good a a fruit loaf - this just needs the fruit added half way through the kneading process, again I bake it in the oven.

The one thing I always do it to mix the yeast and water together to prove before adding it to the other ingredients. You must know that your yeast is fresh, otherwise you might get to the end of the process and find the dough doesn't rise. I think adding the yeast to water before it mixes in with the other ingredients gives a better rise too - the yeast is already dissolved and working before having to work in with the other ingredients.

You will need high protein flour to make bread, this is also known as strong flour or baker's flour. The flour can be white, wholemeal, wholegrain, corn and barley, rye, spelt or any combination of those flours. If you can't find this type of flour, use plain flour and add gluten to it. You can usually find gluten or gluten flour (same thing) at a specialist baking shop, health food shops or sometimes at the supermarket - IGA usually has it. Add one teaspoon of gluten for every cup of plain flour and you will have baker's flour. Don't be afraid of gluten - unless you have an allergy to it - gluten is simply a protein that is part of flour. It helps the bread rise and give that soft fluffy texture. I buy my flour from a bulk food store called Simply Good. They have shops at Morayfield and in Brisbane, details below. You can also buy a 500 gram pack of yeast there as well as nuts, seeds, coconut, cereal, spices, pasta, dried fruit, tea and coffee. I have added these shop details because I'm often asked where I buy my flour. If you know of similar shops selling bulk flour, please add the details in your comment. If might help someone else move closer towards being a home baker.
9 Samford Road
Alderley QLD
(07) 3856 5000

156 Morayfield Road
Morayfield QLD
(07) 5498 3722

This is my bread recipe - it's tried and true over many years:

Mix the first three ingredients together in a cup to check the freshness of the yeast. When it is frothy and bubbling, add it to the rest of the mix. If, after ten minutes, nothing has happened, your yeast is dead. You have to buy fresh yeast. Once you've opened the packet, pour it into a jar and store it in the fridge.
  1. 2 teaspoons dried yeast 
  2. 1 tablespoon sugar or ½ tablespoon honey 
  3. ¼ cup warm water 
Add the following to your bread machine bucket. It doesn't really matter which order they go in.
  1. 4 cups baker's flour - also called strong flour or high protein flour. It can be any variety - wholemeal, rye, white, whatever. 
  2. 1 tablespoon olive oil - this gives a more tender dough 
  3. 1½ teaspoons salt 
  4. 250 mls warm water + more if necessary, but add it slowly, one tablespoon at a time.
Using this one simple recipe and your bread machine, you'll be making additive-free fresh bread every day. If you get it in the machine by 9am, you'll have hot bread for lunch. It you put it into the machine the night before and set the timer, you'll have hot bread for breakfast and for packed lunches. It's probably wise to bake a loaf on the weekend to test it and make sure you have your water amounts right - then use in the overnight timed machine.

If you bake a double batch, wait until the bread is completely cold before packing it in a large plastic bag, expel as much of the air as you can, then seal it and put it in the freezer. The bread will thaw out on the bench top or can be partially thawed and refreshed in the oven to give you warm bread.

When you sit back with your warm bread and enjoy that first bite, I hope you feel good about what you've done. Don't listen to people who tell you that if you use a bread machine it isn't authentic bread. If you make bread that you choose the ingredients for and make fresh, you, my friend will have just made a good healthy loaf of bread that will feed your family and friends. It will also be healthier and cheaper than the bread you buy in a plastic bag at the supermarket. I think that is something to be proud of.

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