A small appliance, often in the $30-100 range, which resembles a removeable bread pan with a heating element underneath and one or more paddles within. Water, flour, yeast, and other ingredients are added to this pan, and it then stirs and kneads them into a dough. This dough is allowed to rise for a period of time, then baked into a loaf of bread. The entire process usually takes two to four hours. Most bread machines also include a timer, which one can set before going to bed in order to have fresh bread ready for breakfast the next day.

Though machine-made bread is agreed to be somewhat inferior to hand-made homemade bread, it is much better than the loaves of sandwich bread that can be bought in grocery stores.

Grocery store bread?? Ewwww Gross!

Baking bread by hand is fun, but also lots of work and takes a lot of time. Doing it in a bread machine is a good substitute if you don't have the time or are too lazy to do the work.

Here's a basic bread recipe for a 3 lb. bread machine. Add the ingredients to your bread pan in the order suggested by your machine (i.e., liquid first or solid first). Note that this is a low sugar recipe. You may want to add a bit of sugar or honey. Most flour has enough starch to feed the yeast, but the applesauce I add probably helps too.

Solids:

  • 3 cups flour (preferably whole wheat flour)
  • 2 tablespoons powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
You can also add these optional enhancements. I sometimes vary this, leaving it out or changing the amount depending on the flavor I want, or if I'm out of it or something.
  • 2 tablespoons gluten (makes whole wheat rise better)
  • 2 tablespoons cream of rye (cuts bitterness of whole wheat)
  • 1 tablespoon hulled millet
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (or sprinkle them on the outside before baking)
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (as a preservative--use more if you want it to taste like cinnamon)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder for flavor and color
  • pinch of instant coffee for flavor

Liquids:

  • 1 1/2 cups liquid (e.g., cool water)
  • 4 1/2 teaspoons to 3 tablespoons oil
Last, add
  • one package (2 teaspoons) powdered yeast.

Some suggestions:

  • I use 1 cup water + 1/2 cup applesauce for the liquid.
  • Half way through the kneading, I usually add 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.
  • You can use 1/2 cup real milk instead of powdered milk if you include it in the liquid measurements. (I use powdered buttermilk typically.) The milk and oil improve the texture of the crust.
  • You can use any vegetable oil, but safflower, canola, or olive oil is healthiest. (The latter two also change the flavor, so you might not like them.)
  • I think dark breads in restaurants have a high chocolate content; I've had very dark bread that tasted like white bread. Some pumpernickel breads include not only rye but also chocolate and molasses, all three of which make it darker.
  • I've found that cinnamon can as much as double the length of time home made bread can sit out before going bad.
  • Add as much as 1/2 cup of diced fresh onions as part of the liquid. When I use them, I usually put them in a half cup, and then fill the cup the rest of the way with water. Small amounts will change the flavor, but won't taste like onion bread. (It's still yummie!) If you use powdered onion, you can just add them with the dry ingredients and not worry about the liquid.
Note that getting the solid/liquid balance right is pretty critical to the bread to rise correctly. Hand made bread should be smooth to the touch after kneading. Bread machine bread should be a little bit stickier. You can add one or two tablespoons of water or flour to adjust this, and may have to if you add stuff like rasins or onions or more than a 1/2 cup applesauce or whatever else is handy. :)

Also, after a day or two, I usually slice my bread and freeze it before it goes bad. (Assuming it hasn't already been all eaten, anyway.) That way, I can take out slices one at a time; I think they are OK thawed in the microwave, but if you sit them out for a half hour or so (in a bag or something), you won't be able to tell they were frozen. Don't let it sit out too long before eating, though, as the frozen stuff will go bad in about half the time it would have if you had kept it out instead of freezing it. (I.e., if it was already time to go bad when you froze it, it will be bad very quickly if you thaw it and leave it out.)

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