Thursday, December 13, 2012

Baking Bread

 As I grow older, I suppose I grow lazier. We have enjoyed the use of a bread maker for many years but it's only recently that we've allowed the bread maker to do all the work, start to finish. That's because I like a traditional horizontal loaf, not the vertical loaf our machine turns out.
 But then, I thought, it's the taste of the final product that counts most. And being able to pour the ingredients into the pan, walk away and come back four hours later to a wonderful loaf of steaming "homemade" bread seems reason enough.

 Does this look other than perfect?
 We modified a basic white loaf and included about 1/4 cup of sunflower seeds to the mix. They add a nice salty crunch to the final product. As I added the regular baker's yeast, I found that I didn't have quite enough. I also had a pack of wine yeast (Montrachet) open in the refrigerator and just topped it off with that. How could it hurt? I suppose all yeast has its own taste but, going on the assumption that "yeast is yeast" I just poured it in and crossed my finger. Perfect!

 Mom also experimented with the baking time. We unplugged the machine five minutes early and cut the +45 minute process by a bit. Mom thinks the crust becomes a little too tough, a little too brown if left in the machine until completion. I don't ... but then I also don't care if it's a little less brown. I don't see that the change made much difference.
 I lifted the hot baking pan out of the machine, dropping a pot holder into the bread maker which immediately began to smolder. Bad idea! I grabbed the nearest knife I could get my hands on and flipped the potholder up and out of the baking area. A few seconds more and it would have burst into flame.
 If there's one thing I don't like about an automatic bread maker it's the mixing tool that extends up into the bottom of the loaf. Separating the loaf from the pan takes some hard raps to get it to come loose. And where the tiny paddle pulls out, there's a hole in the bread.

 The top of the loaf is to the left. Mom uses a paper towel and spreads softened butter across the entire loaf to make the crust more pliable. This certainly adds a nice, rich taste, too.
 The trouble with homemade bread is that it's addictive and lasts such a short time. For the four hours devoted to the project, this is all you get. So as soon as we have one loaf out of the machine, we're thinking about the next. Store-bought bread isn't even a close second to this.
 Mom's already talking about a cherry-infused bread with brown sugar. "Do you think I could use cherry yogurt?" she asked. I don't see why not. So the experiments - with a little help from technology - continue.

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