I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to tell you all about my bread machine, and for that I apologize! This is an appliance I never thought I’d buy until 2 things happened. First, I read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (inspiration for my pizza obsession, too!). As a quick summary, Kingsolver’s family decided to spend a year eating only what they could grow themselves or procure locally. So as you can probably guess, this family is hardcore in food preparation – growing during the warm months to can, freeze, and dry for the cold months, forgoing tropical fruit imported from across the world, the works! So of course when she wrote about the homemade bread her husband made for the family, I wasn’t surprised they they would go to those lengths. Then I got to the sidebar written by her husband that was titled something like “how to impress your wife with a machine” – he was using a bread machine!! Well, if a bread machine was hardcore enough for this family, who was I to judge??
The second thing that happened was that I got increasingly picky about bread that I would buy – I wanted something that was 100% whole grain, organic, didn’t have tons of filler ingredients, and TASTED GOOD! Apparently this was a virtually impossible request. I could get 3 out of 4 criteria, but couldn’t quite find everything. I tried making bread by hand, and while it’s certainly not as difficult as I might have expected, it’s messy and I found I needed to get the timing exactly right so that I could be around for all of the steps, which meant it would sometimes be days before a bread actually got made. So when we moved out of the city last summer and finally had a reasonably sized kitchen, my birthday request was for a bread machine. And I am proud to tell you that I have not bought bread in months! Along with my Zojirushi machine, I also bought a cookbook with tons of recipe ideas. I have to confess I haven’t branched out much past the 100% whole grain section (although I did make homemade white bread for my Thanksgiving stuffing), but my mom has made a bunch of other breads in the book that are equally delicious.
So here is my sales pitch (which, by the way, is totally unendorsed by anyone and 100% my own opinion expressed solely because I love my bread machine and this blog is the best place for me to go on rants about my views without having to see the eye rolling in person!).
- EASY – all that’s required for most basic breads is to dump ingredients in the pan and turn on the machine. Clean-up consists of throwing a few measuring cups/spoons in the dishwasher and, after the bread is done, washing a non-stick loaf pan and paddles, which barely require a sponge. You do not need to do anything in the middle (for most recipes), or even be home except when it’s time to take out the bread. There’s no watching the clock for rise times, transfering from bowl to bowl, kneading, or wondering. Just dump, press start, and come back to fresh bread.
- FAST – after a little practice, all ingredients can be in the machine in about 10 minutes, and then all you have to do is take the bread out when it’s done. On the quick cycle (which you can use as long as you have instant yeast), this means 2 hours 8 minutes on my machine and bread is done. Most machines also have timer functions so that you can, for example, set up your ingredients in the evening and have the bread ready when you wake up. And I already told you how easy clean-up is!
- HEALTHY – you control the ingredients!
- CHEAP – even with relatively expensive organic ingredients, the cost of a loaf is less than half of its closest equivalent in the store. This helps to make up for the fact that the machine itself is NOT so cheap 🙂
- DELICIOUS – you really can’t beat the smell of fresh bread baking, and I have gotten rave reviews about my loaves, even though they are 100% whole grain.
The only downside I feel obligated to mention is that the baking pan is non-stick, and non-stick coatings have a questionable reputation regarding toxins and eco-consciousness. This bothers me a little bit and I have been trying to minimize my use of non-stick pans in general, but at the same time if the alternative is buying store-bought bread (which is ALSO likely made in a non-stick pan), the benefits certainly outweigh the risks! If this is concerning to you, one option would be to use the machine for making dough and transfer the bread to a glass pan and bake in your oven instead (since most reports say that it’s heat which makes non-stick pans potentially dangerous). But for me, until I can find the time to learn how to make bread by hand, I will happily continue to use my machine 🙂
Ok, now that I’ve told you about my new favorite kitchen appliance, it’s time for some recipes. The two breads I make the most are a basic whole wheat and a lighter version using all white whole wheat flour (the same flour I use in my pizza dough, another wonderful use for this machine!). I’ll post those separately so you can skip this whole rant when you want to refer back to the actual recipes 🙂
Update: Here is the listing of all of my bread machine recipes!