Almost ten years ago, someone gave me a bread machine as a wedding gift.
I had never used one before, but I followed the recipes in the little booklet that came with the machine and the bread turned out just fine. However, the loaf was a very strange, tall, and rectangular shape, which didn’t work very well for sandwiches, so I didn’t make bread very often. There also weren’t a lot of options for different flavors of bread, so I ended up just taking the easy route and buying bread at the grocery store while the bread machine sat collecting dust on my kitchen counter.
Several years later, after moving to a house and having two children, I decided to start using my bread machine more often. I wanted to feed my family healthier food and saving money at the same time was also a nice bonus. My husband bought me a fantastic book called The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook: A Master Baker’s 300 Favorite Recipes for Perfect-Every-Time Bread-From Every Kind of Machine by Beth Hensperger. Now I didn’t have to worry about becoming bored with the same old recipes every day!
I started off by making my own pizza dough.
I hadn’t realized before that I could keep it in the freezer until I was ready to use it. Now I always have some pizza dough waiting in the freezer in case I need a quick dinner at the last minute. I also explored some of the other interesting recipes in the cookbook, like garlic bread, which was great for grilled cheese sandwiches and some sweet breads for dessert, which my kids particularly loved. The chocolate challah bread was one of their favorites. I was using my bread machine more often at this point, but it was still only about once every two weeks. When I felt like I was finally mastering this mysterious machine, it went and died on me. It made horrible noises and wasn’t baking the bread properly anymore. Good riddance!
At this point, I decided that I wanted to keep making bread, so I started shopping for a new bread machine. There were a lot of different options out there, but I decided that I really wanted a machine that made a more traditional bread loaf shape so I could actually use the bread for sandwiches. I also made sure that I got a machine with a timer, so that I could dump in all the ingredients whenever I found the time and still have the bread finish whenever I wanted it to. I really liked my new bread machine, but I still wasn’t using it that often.
Then everything changed. I went to a mom’s group where we listened to a speaker talk about nutrition for our families. One thing that really stood out to me was how commercial loaves of bread are filled with things like artificial colors, preservatives, and high glucose corn syrup. I didn’t want to feed that to my family when I had a perfectly good bread machine just sitting on my counter, waiting for me to make my own bread.
Even though the thought of it scared me, I vowed that I would start to make all of my family’s bread at home from then on.
The best thing I did to begin this bread-baking quest was to invest in some very long, high-quality bread knives. The biggest reason that I had avoided making my own bread for sandwiches was that it was too difficult to cut. I either ended up with slices that were thick enough to qualify as slabs or I would screw up my cutting and end up with only a lopsided half a slice. Good knives made it easy to cut the bread into reasonable slices for sandwiches and toast. In the beginning, I always kept a loaf of store-bought bread in the freezer as a back-up in case I couldn’t keep up with making enough bread for my family. I eventually phased that out and now I end up making around three loaves of everyday bread a week to use for all of our toast and sandwiches.
I also developed a love for King Arthur Flour’s white whole wheat flour. It’s made from a different type of wheat, so that it has a milder taste than typical whole wheat flour. I make most of my breads and pizza dough with a mixture of the white whole wheat flour and regular white flour. My kids have adapted just fine to my homemade bread, although I still have to cut off the crusts for them. Every mom needs to pick her battles, so I go ahead and cut off the crusts so that they will eat their entire sandwich instead of taking just two bites from the very middle.
At this point, I’m just glad that they are eating bread that isn’t filled with artificial ingredients.
As I gained confidence, I got more adventurous in my bread baking. I invested in a baguette pan and now I can make my very own baguettes at home. I mix the dough in the bread machine and then use the baguette pans to bake the loaves in the oven. Fresh baguettes are simply the best and I find it easier to make them at home instead of having to gather up the kids and run to the grocery store and hope that the baguettes aren’t sold out. I also really like my cookbook’s recipe for cinnamon swirl bread. The dough is made in the bread machine and then it gets rolled out and spread with butter, cinnamon, and brown sugar. Then the dough is rolled up and baked in the oven. Cinnamon swirl bread never lasts very long around here.
My latest adventure is baking my own bagels. I swore I would never make my own bagels because it was too much work. Then the grocery store stopped carrying my favorite bagels. I looked for a replacement, but all the other bagels were full of artificial gunk that I really don’t want to eat. I finally got desperate enough to make my own bagels at home and it really wasn’t that bad. I can make them whenever I have the time and then throw them into the freezer until I’m ready to eat them. I use a recipe similar to this one. I make the dough in the machine, form it into circles, boil them briefly, and then bake them in the oven. I like to add in dried fruit or herbs to make different flavors.
I’m living proof that anyone can make bread using a bread machine. All it takes is a good recipe to follow. Not only does the bread taste great, but it also helps you avoid artificial ingredients and saves you money.