CRAVE: Experiment with a bread machine for easier baking
Say you’ve been baking bread for more than 20 years; if you’re like me, there’s no nourishment comparable to a fresh loaf of dill bread, still warm from the oven. Your family members no doubt have their favorites, too.
But as age sets in, homemade bread making can get tough. Unfortunately, as in the case of my mother, who endures and battles severe arthritis, we watch as loving hands that prepared countless meals can no longer engage in tasks like kneading bread or even combining dry and wet ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Take solace, though, in the fact that since the mid-1980s, the physical labor is no longer an obstacle in bread making. Released at American trade shows in 1987, the home bread machine has changed the way we bake one of the most basic items in our diet.
Now, the question is, “How do I convert all my favorite bread recipes from 30 years ago to a bread machine?”
The major difference between baking bread by hand and by machine is the size of the loaf. Nowadays, there are three common sizes of bread machines: small 1-pounder, medium 1 1⁄2-pounder, and the large 2- or, in rare cases, 2 1⁄2-pounder. In categorizing by pound size, you are really looking at the volume of the loaf rather than its true density, since loaves with nuts and dried fruit will always weigh more than the same size loaf made with basic ingredients.
Traditional recipes for bread were intended to make two loaves, so many older recipes call for 6 cups of flour, which means a single loaf will call for about 3 cups.
So the first step becomes looking at the manufacturer’s manual, or even the box, of your bread machine to see what type of machine you have and how much flour is called for in the recipes. If that favorite dill bread recipe from Grandma calls for 6 cups of flour, and the recipes provided in your owner’s manual call for 3 cups, just divide Grandma’s recipe in half. It’s a simple but important process of adjusting the recipe to the capacity of your bread machine.
With proportions, you’re usually looking for the proportion of 3 ounces liquid to 1 cup flour, which is about 1 cup liquid to 3 cups flour. This varies, of course, but these amounts are a good guide, according to Beth Hensperger, author of The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook. Remember that eggs and honey count toward the liquid measurement. When you run into a recipe that has you converting and dividing eggs, simply round off the amount as close as possible.
Follow the owner’s manual for adding ingredients, and pay attention to the dough during the mixing and kneading cycles, making adjustments as needed.
Herb Garden Bread
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1⁄2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1⁄2 teaspoons dried chives
1 1⁄2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1⁄2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 1⁄2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1⁄4 cups water
1. Place all ingredients in pan of bread machine in order recommended by manufacturer.
2. Select mode and press start button. (Note: Recipe can be made using rapid, regular or delayed-time bake cycle, depending on individual preference.)
3. When done, remove from bread machine and allow to cool slightly before slicing.
Crusty French Bread
Yields 1 Baguette
1 1⁄4 cups very warm water
2 1⁄4 teaspoons rapid rise yeast (1 packet)
1 teaspoon granulated cane sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 1⁄4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
1. Heat oven to 200 degrees. Spray baguette pan with nonstick cooking spray and sprinkle bottom with a little cornmeal; set aside.
2. In small bowl, combine water, yeast and sugar. Place in warm, draft-free place to proof for 5 minutes. Mixture should be bubbly.
3. In large bowl, whisk together salt and flour. With dough hook, slowly work in yeast mixture until fully integrated. Beat an additional 2 minutes on Medium or High. Dough will be very wet at this point.
4. Turn off oven.
5. Cut 1 inch from a bottom corner of a 1-gallon zipper-seal bag. Scoop dough into bag and squeeze bag to remove air. Squeeze dough through hole to form one long loaf in prepared pan.
6. With pastry brush, gently brush milk over exposed areas of dough. Cover with waxed paper that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Place in oven to proof for 20 minutes, while heating oven to 400 degrees.
7. Place a baking pan filled with water in oven. Leave in oven while baking bread, as the humidity created by the pan of water will help the bread form an extra crunchy crust.
8. Once dough has risen, uncover and make 3 or 4 diagonal slits in top with serrated knife, cutting about 1⁄4 inch deep. Spritz dough with water from a spray bottle.
9. Bake for 20 minutes. Brush top of bread with a little more milk, and bake an additional 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately remove from pan and cool on wire rack.
Irish Soda Bread
Yields 8 Servings
1 1⁄2 cups white rice flour
1⁄2 cup tapioca flour
1⁄2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9-inch round cake pan.
2. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. In small bowl, whisk together egg and buttermilk.
3. Make well in center of dry ingredients; add buttermilk mixture and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour into prepared pan.
4. Bake for 65 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and wrap in foil. Let stand overnight for best flavor.