Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bread Machine Bread Is Mediocre

I haven't found a decent bakery anywhere near my house. I miss Acme something fierce. So I started using the landlord's bread machine from the basement. The results are mediocre when compared to virtually the same recipe when done by hand. It does save four hours and it's great to be able to use the timer to wake up to fresh bread, but still, would it kill someone to make a decent cranberry walnut around here, and is this just a function of bread machines?  I'm an economist, so it wouldn't surprise me if there's no such thing as a free lunch (magically saving four hours), but does anyone have suggestions (preferably of the mult-grain variety) to diminish the problem?


  1. My family has adopted an approach where we use the bread maker for a kneed cycle, upon which we take it out of the machine, kneed it a little bit more by hand, and then let it rise in a loaf pan and cook it in the oven. We find that this gives the bread better structure than letting the bread machine do all of the kneeding while taking significantly less time than doing it by hand (we spend ~10min of time spread over two times per loaf). It also gets rid of the paddle holes in the bottom problem. We have optimized this approach for time by doing the secondary kneeding in the air (kneeding in one palm using the other hand) and doing only one rise using the oven's delayed start with timed cook to reduce our number of interactions with the oven.

    My observations are that bread machines for the most part make one style of bread, and that is more of a crumbly type rather than what Acme makes. I think that this is because the paddles of a bread machine are limited in how well they can kneed. We choose to make a whole wheat bread that I like, it is 1 1/3 C water, 1.5C whole wheat flour, 1.5C bread flour, 1C oatmeal, 1.5t salt, 1.5t yeast, 3T honey, 4T olive oil. If you use steel cut oats rather than rolled oats, it comes out much chewier, which may be closer to what you want. You can also add things like cranberries at the last kneeding step (we have had good success with adding raisins). You could also experiment with adding your own grain mix. I suspect a lot of things would form a passable loaf provided that the sum of the grains is around 4C and there is enough gluten present.

    Hope this helps.

  2. Thanks a lot, Travis. I'll give the half-machine/half-oven thing a try the next time I'll around for any of the process. I've experimented a few times with varying fractions of whole wheat, rolled oats, spelt, popppy seeds, pumpkin seeds, quinoa and I'm getting decent results. I haven't tried steel cut oats yet, however. I'll give those a shot.

    (Wow. It only took me three browsers and 9 attempts to post a comment on my own blog. 3rd party cookies. I hear a lot about that from people.)

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