Before goats, before chickens, before soap, before the garden and even before the urban homestead, and way before the actual homestead was even dreamt of the first thing I really taught myself to do is bake bread. See, at 19 I was an army wife stationed overseas. If you want to fall in love with bread Europe is the place to do it. Before bread machines became popular in the united states they were big in Germany where I lived. Everyone had one, and most people provided the majority of their bread themselves at home. This way of life 20 years ago was the norm so made me eager to try it out.
I remember the first time I saw a woman take two scoops of amazing flour mix, a prepackaged 9 grain bread, and dump it in a machine and walk away later to have bread. After running a little math I realized this made each loaf of bread less than a quarter and that machine would pay for itself in a matter of months. I did not buy store bought bread again for almost two decades as I baked my way through not only mastering the process of baking artesian breads but also I also saving thousands of dollars in the process.
Don’t get me wrong my mother had taught me to make a proper loaf of bread as a child. I helped stir and kneed the dough through the hours of process but as it was so time consuming it was something even my mother did not often do. However, the bread machine took this enormous task and boiled it down to a few minutes on either side of a few hours to make a loaf of bread.
I tend to favor peasant style breads as their simplicity and affordability make them a go to staple for any meal. Over the years I have mostly used the dough cycle of the bread machine and baked it off in the oven for a more authentic loaf shape, however living in a camper without a proper oven I’ve taken to letting the bread bake in there as well, with the exception to funky shape of the bread machine pan, everything is the same.
Recently, with access to the goats milk and home grown eggs, I’ve revisited my bread machine as a way to encourage my family to consume what I produce.
The science of making bread is the same regardless of its ingredients so I am going to use a basic bread recipe to give you some of my best tips for amazing bread using a bread machine.
The first thing to remember is that bread machines come in two varieties the kind you add the liquids first, and the kind you add the dry ingredients to first be sure you know which you have. I have always used liquids first machines so will list my ingredients off as I add them to my machine, yours may be opposite but the manual or google should be able to help you figure that out.
I will Include several variations you could try with your recipe for simple substitutions as I go. If you want to make a whole wheat recipe the ratios are completely different so in this recipe only white flour can be used. I will make a tutorial for whole wheat and other grain breads breads if someone is interested just ask in the comments.
Challah (egg bread)
3/4 Cup of liquid
(goats milk, cows milk, water)
2 Large eggs
3 Tablespoons of “fat” softened or liquid
(Butter, margarine, olive oil ect.)
3 Cups bread flour
1/4 Cup sweetener for the yeast to eat.
(sugar, brown sugar, honey, or maple syrup)
1 1/2 Teaspoons salt
1 Packet or 1 1/2 Teaspoons of active dry yeast
Next comes the number one most important part of this process. It’s the hardest part of this process. The secret to having successful bread in a bread machine is to supervise it for the first 15 minutes or so to be sure your dough ball is the proper texture. IF your bread is going to fail it is most likely because of this step.
Bread machines lure us into thinking this is an automatic process by offering delayed bread making options. If you make a great deal of bread, and have reasonable expectations for occasional failed loaves you can use the delayed start option. Also be sure not to use the delay start option with ingredients that spoil. The reason you have to supervise is flour is never exactly the same therefore the amount of liquid is never quite the same. The humidity level of flour changes significantly even in your cabinet over time. This is the soul of making bread, the culture of it, the magic even. The knowledge of what the dough should look like, and how to slightly adjust the dough will determine whether you are baking just a bread machine loaf of bread, or an artisan loaf of whole roasted garlic olive oil almost heaven like goodness.
Here is what you are looking for. First the ball should pick up most of the flour, may need to use a rubber spatula a bit to encourage it, but it should not be sticking to the walls of the pan at all. It should be moving in one smooth ball. If your ball is too wet it will thunk harder, and look soft, flatter, stirred or simply sticking bit and may need flour added to it. A ball that is too dry is cracked and crumbling and not coming together into a single smooth ball.
When making adjustments mind you its easy to overdo it and create a dance of back and forth. Go slow, and watch how it reacts for a minute before making more adjustments.
After you are confident your ball of dough is properly balanced you are ready to go for the rest of machine’s cycle regardless of if you have chosen to let the machine bake it for you. This is the simplest way to make bread as your involvement ends at this point, if you can open the machine at the end of the baking cycle to cool, that is best, but if you happen to be like me and are off milking goats somewhere its fine if its not opened right away either.
Maybe you want to shape it yourself and bake it in the oven. Here are my top ten tips from decades of bread making experience to help you be successful.
- Use a stone baking pan and preheat it in the oven before you start baking. I leave mine in there. This creates a “tandoor” style oven and bakes the bread much more evenly.
- Cant afford a stone baking dish? You can also use unglazed tiles from the hardware store at a much lower expense. Place a few of them next to one another in your oven it makes a big enough difference that you too will be sold and perhaps even find yourself baking everything with these heat powerhouses!
- Sprinkle rough cornmeal on your stone/tile so that your breads do not stick, and spray oven with water bottle near the end of baking for a chewer crusted bread.
- If you are getting lackluster results and poor rising toss your yeast and start with a fresh batch.
- Use tried and true recipes until you develop a knack for knowing what works and what doesn’t.
- Most bread machines are generally the same, I have owned 7 of them in my life and helped countless people learn to use theirs, buy a good brand name from a thrift shop.
- Bread machines are different sizes make sure you know your machines maximum loaf size.
- For the best slices always cut bread cool.
- If you fall in love with a recipe make a “mix” of the dry ingredients and keep it on hand to speed up bread making and cleanup time.
- remember all ingredients must be room temperature if they are too cold they will retard growth in the yeast and if they are too warm they will destroy the yeast.
Bread making may seem time consuming and complicated but with a bread machine it is much less work than driving to the store to get a loaf, well for me anyway. I get to know exactly what is in the bread, and work the things I produce into my bread making it friendly for everyone. I hope I have encouraged you to dust off that old model you have or to seek one out to try this is one of the biggest ways to slash your budget and boost your health at the same time so check it out.
For over a decade I made all of my families bread. Here are some of my “pro” level tips for pulling this off.
*Learn to make naan!!!! It is bread that bakes in 90 seconds, can be added to any meal to stretch it, can be doctored up a billion and one ways. Takes minutes to get the bread going in the machine and 90 minutes later the dough is ready. Use the delay start option to have it ready when you are!
*Buy two machines make bread once, freeze the extra loaf for later in the week. I bought one for $10 at goodwill that outlasted the $250 bread machine I paid for at the high end snobby store. It does take inactive time to make bread so having a loaf or two in the freezer and the ability to make more than one loaf at a time near holidays is amazing.
*Source ingredients in bulk. Yeast is always cheaper in bulk, but don’t buy more than you can use before its freshness is up or you just waste money.
*Bake in the machine in summer and in winter crank up the big oven to help stay warm.
*If your oven is going to be heated for a long time baking something anyway, throwing a loaf of bread in after removing your baking and adjusting temperature gives you a reason to run it a bit longer for warmth in the house without using a lot of energy to preheat the oven.
*Some bread machines make butter compounds and jam as well. Utilize these features to make small batches when you aren’t in canning mode or have only a small amount to work with.
Show me your loaf in the comments!!!!!!
~A Little Faith Farms