Until recently, I never spent much time using or learning about a bread machine. In fact, for years, I didn't have one. The first one, a gift from my family, spent most of its time inside the cupboard. I wasn't at all impressed with it.
In recent years I attempted to regularly make homemade bread, but the results were inconsistent and even the best loaves were so-so. A few were light and airy, but most raised very little and had the texture of a brick.
Still, the desire to make my own bread waned but never disappeared, popping up on my radar again when I was working to keep processed and boxed food out of my cupboard.
This time, after hearing a friend talk about her bread machine experiences, I purchased a bread machine, in December, a time when weather conditions often kept me and my husband confined to our home. I had plenty of time to "play" with the machine.
If the only recipes you've ever tried in a bread machine are those that came with the machine, you're really missing out. I attempted several loaves with the "dump it all in" method, but results were disappointing.
After nearly a dozen tries, I came up with a method that allows you to quickly and easily mix, raise and bake bread dough, with consistently delicious results. I have not purchased bread since I bought the machine.
The reason the bread machine is like a right hand helper to me is the kneading. My bread machine has two 15-minute kneading cycles. Even if I was ambitious enough and had enough time to knead my dough that long, I couldn't do the thorough job the machine does. It has become my irreplaceable baking partner when it comes to making bread!
I also searched hundreds of websites for easy, delicious bread recipes.
In recent years I've found helpful instructions and tasty recipes at King Arthur Flour, and that's where I found my go-to bread machine recipe. This is their recipe with my instructions. When you use their bread flour (or at least some brand of bread flour) you will produce the lightest, tastiest bread that looks almost too beautiful to eat!
The original instructions for this bread called for adding all ingredients to the machine — as most bread machine recipes do. However, my greatest loaves have been produced when I wove in some old-time bread-baking steps. And it doesn't take that much time. I can prepare all the ingredients and slip my freshly-baked bread out of the oven in just over 2 hours. You can too!
You'll find King Arthur's recipe here:
Eating the fresh-baked loaf — doesn't take long at all!
My bread machine — a Hamilton Beach model — is very simple and cost around $50. If you have an old model bread machine, as long as it kneads the dough well, it should work just fine. You don't necessarily need to bake it in the machine.
Coming up next: a recipe (my own) for the tastiest 100 percent whole wheat bread ever!
Loretta Sorensen makes her home in eastern South Dakota. Read more about her and her family's draft horses and hobby farm experiences at www.ourdakotahorsetales.com. And if you're loving this homemade bread tutorial, watch for the release of "Bread Maker's Primer" in October 2018.
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