Bread Machine Refresher Tips
Greetings bread bakers! Spring is here and our lengthening day-light hours are filled with getting the garden ready, driving the kids to little league, getting shape for the marathon and picking up the pace of our lives after the winter's slowdown. Who has time to bake bread? If you have a bread machine, than you do! Have you put your machine away because you're bored with the same old loaves (shape, flavor and texture), or were you frustrated by repeat failures? Don't give up hope. Drag it out, dust it off and try the following recipe—but first read my Tips for Success.
Rise and Shine!
Lora's Tips For Success
- Use good quality hard wheat unbleached, unbromated flour that has at least 12 grams of protein per cup. (I like King Arthur)
- Use fresh, quick dissolving active yeast such as Red Star—not rapid rise.
- Open the machine and check the dough during the first 5—10 minutes of the first kneading cycle!!! Even if your manual says not to do it: flour acts as a sponge absorbing moisture on wet days and becoming dehydrated during dry weather. You'll have to adjust for fluctuating humidity and barometric pressure by adding small amounts of flour or liquid to the dough.
- If you've never made bread before and don't know what dough is supposed to look like, buy a package of frozen bread dough (available at your local supermarket), and let it defrost according to the package directions. Place it on a lightly floured surface and play with it until you are familiar with the consistency. This is what you're aiming for in the bread machine.
- Now, to adjust the dough in your bread machine during the first knead cycle: wait until the ingredients have been kneaded for 3-4 minutes. If the dough looks sticky and wet and is coating the bottom and sides of the pan, then sprinkle in flour, a tablespoon at a time (you may need up to an extra 1/2 cup) while the machine is kneading, until you have a smooth, supple ball of dough. If the mixture is dry and corrugated looking or the dough doesn't hold together then sprinkle in additional liquid, a little at a time, until the dough is smooth and pliable and forms a cohesive ball. If you've wandered away from your machine only to return to find a wet messy glob or a dry desert thumping around in the machine, press stop (you can do this at any time—except if the machine has gone into the bake cycle), add a small amount of flour or liquid and press start. Stick around and make additional adjustments, if necessary, until the dough looks right.
- I have found that when you are either making dough, or placing the ingredients in the machine to make bread at that time, you can add either the liquids first or the dry ingredients first. The major exception to this is the old dak (no longer made) where the yeast must be placed in the bread pan first in a position farthest away from the kneading blade. When programming ahead make sure to place any dried fruits away from contact with wet ingredients as they will absorb those liquids and throw off the recipe.
Lora Brody (right) and Millie Apter of Bread Machine Baking—Perfect Every Time (Morrow 1993). Photo by Webb Chappell
Extra kneads and extra rise times all contribute to the depth of flavor, character of the crumb and general personality of a loaf of bread. One of the reasons I dislike rapid rise yeast and rapid cycles on the bread machines is that the dough really requires the entire life span of the yeast to become the amazing miracle that is bread. If you are partial to whole grain breads and are winding up with lower loaves than you wish, then try a double knead cycle: place the ingredients in the machine and program for dough or manual. At the end of the final knead reprogram the machine for bread (of Whole Wheat) and press start. You've given the dough an extra work-out to develop the gluten—that will result in a higher loaf. For an even higher loaf you can (if your machine permits) program for a longer rise time, or simply remove the dough from the pan after the final rise cycle (but before baking) transfer it to a bread pan and allow it to raise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. Then bake it in the oven.
Sweet doughs with lots of butter and eggs, also respond well to a second long rise in a cool place. I remove my brioche from the machine after the dough cycle is complete. I place it in a large freezer strength zip lock bag and refrigerate it overnight. Then I place it back in the machine (my Zojirushi has flexible programming), program for 2nd rise and bake. If you can't program your machine this way you can place the dough in a bread pan after you remove it from the machine, give it a long, refrigerated rise, and then bake it in the oven. Even non-wheat and non-sweet doughs can benefit from this extra rise.
The following two recipes will show you how easy it is to make wholesome, delicious bread and pizza, using the machine to knead and bake the bread in the first recipe, and as a dough maker in the second.
Lora Brody Recipes
This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.
Modified October 2007