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In Defense of the Humble Bread Machine

In Defense of the Humble Bread Machine

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People either swear by their bread machine, or wouldn’t be caught dead with one in their kitchen. I know and love some in each camp. Myself, I’m a convert.

I grew up in a house where everything was made from scratch. In fact, we didn’t even use the term “from scratch” because it was redundant. Everything was homemade, from cakes and cookies to stuffing and bread; I don’t think I ever saw a box mix in the house.

Making bread at home was no exception; it was not uncommon to come home from school and see the mounds of dough, covered with a thin towel or sheet of plastic wrap, in the rising stage on the kitchen table. And then, a few hours later, the mouthwatering smell of fresh bread just out of the oven. The last step, keenly watched by my sisters and me, was the brushing of melted butter over the tops of the hot loaves.

I still make everything from whole ingredients, and bread is no exception. Five-pound bags of flour are on our weekly shopping list. If that sounds expensive, then consider the price of a loaf of bread! I make all of our bread, from weekly sandwich bread. to French or Italian loaves when an occasion calls for it. Also sourdough…but that’s another topic altogether.

For all of my bread making, I now use a bread machine. Years ago we were given a Sunbeam 2-Pound Programmable Breadmaker by a neighbor, who had one and didn’t use it, and wondered if we would. I said sure, let’s try it. Well, we tried it, and the bread maker is now an essential part of the kitchen.

What a bread machine can do for you:

  • Automate the process of timing and kneading, freeing you to just go about your business and listen for the beep.
  • Mix, rest, knead and bake bread for you.
  • Make dough for pizza, dinner rolls, and more. Also cakes and jams, though I haven’t tried these yet. (Did I mention pizza dough? Homemade pizza!)

Reasons you might NOT need a bread machine:

  • You have time to watch the clock and relish the idea of springing to the kitchen for the next step. (Mostly joking here, though I have failed at this more than once.)
  • You enjoy the laborious process of kneading. If you have the time and enjoy it, keep doing what you’re doing!
  • You don’t like pizza. (But seriously, give homemade pizza a try!)

How does a bread machine work?

Simple: You measure and add all of the ingredients and turn on the machine. The bread maker stirs, rests, kneads and bakes your bread. Then you pop the hot loaf of the pan. Done!

Cons to using a bread machine?

There will be a paddle gap in your loaf. The bread pan has a small paddle (or two, depending on your model) that mixes the dough. The paddle stays in there while the bread bakes, and it leaves a gap and creates a little tear when the loaf comes out of the pan.

(I don’t bake my bread in the machine. Instead, I take the finished dough out, shape it and place into two loaf pans to rise and bake. Does this defeat the purpose of the bread machine? Not at all! The machine still does most of the work, and I have two loaves instead of one. I like small slices.)

Pizza and more

I mentioned pizza. Have you ever made homemade pizza? If you thought it was too much work, you have to try making crust in a bread machine.

I recently made dinner rolls to bring to a party. Other guests were astounded that they were, in fact, homemade. “Did you really make these from scratch?” Yes, I measured the flour and butter and salt. When I mentioned that I used the bread machine, there was a little confusion. Yes, the bread machine can bake a loaf of bread. No, it cannot divide dough into 24 neat dinner rolls; I did that part by hand. But if it were not for the bread machine, I can tell you I would not have endeavored to make homemade dinner rolls for a party!

After many years of weekly breadmaking, our faithful bread machine finally quit. I researched as I shopped for a replacement, thinking we’d upgrade to a nicer one. Guess what? After all my research, I ended up buying EXACTLY THE SAME  Sunbeam 2-Pound Programmable Breadmaker again! It’s a good one.

Do you make your own bread, and if so do you use a bread machine?

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