I had been tempted before but managed to resist each time the Lakeland catalogue dropped through my letterbox, with its promise of a shiny new gadget emitting heaven personified in the shape of freshly baked bread. I have enough gadgets collecting dust in dark over crowded cupboards which I were reluctant to add to.
Yet I bent to my hearts will and succumbed. Pressing ‘buy now’ in my online shopping basket and suddenly, as if by magic, a box, a huge box arrived. As I am signing for it I hear my minds chatter mentally chiding itself for buying something I now have to find the time to use and justify the expense. “It can go back if I keep the receipt I reasoned”. Stuffing the receipt into the ether of some messy draw I am likely to never find again, thinking it’s more likely to be relegated to a shelf under the stairs by Easter and in the garage by Christmas and on ebay by the New Year.
I had to rearrange my whole kitchen surface space with the gadgets I currently have in residence. There is the bean to cup coffee machine, the microwave, the kettle, the chopping boards, the toaster, the knife rack, the egg basket, the radio…..and with jengo like feng shui precision I found a little space for a big bread maker. Next to a plug socket. Its a tight squeeze but it gets in there.
I read the manual which drained my enthusiasm levels. It felt like hard work, until I got familiar with and understood their way of explanation. I had no choice but to perservere, my husband was watching over my shoulder ready to raise his eyebrows at my latest must have purchase.
I bought the ingredients needed; mainly flour and yeast. I set the timings and waited 4 hours for my first loaf. It felt like a labour of love as I listened to the blade turn and twist and when the first loaf was despatched I marvelled at the relative ease and glorious smell that radiated through my home. We ate the first loaf still warm, with dollops of salty butter.
The next loaf I made came courtesy of the timer, less than 24 hours after the first. Clearly on a roll. Excuse the pun. I set the timer so it was ready for breakfast time. We woke to the smell of freshly baked bread, with its quixotic charm permeating through our home. Again ingested with copious butter but this time washed down with copious bean to cup coffee.
And it was in this vein that the love affair continued. I baked rolls and tried all varieties of flour, mixed seed and even scouted out locally milled flour from a mill just down the road, Willesborough Windmill. There was no end to my baking, until, well, we ate a loaf too many and our jeans began to tighten and feel a little uncomfortable.
It has been year since I bought our bread maker but it has not once left its little spot, either for a cupboard or garage shelf. It has been a surprise purchase that keeps on giving and one i’m questioning if we could do without now, should a desert island gadget question be asked.
My only gripe with it if I’m honest, is that the freshly baked bread using the recipe and quantities they suggest produces bread which is only really suitable and edible for eating on the day such is it denseness. Nothing I seem to do is able to make it a little lighter.
Yet when I buy shop bought bread packets suitable for bread makers, a favourite of ours is the 99p Waitrose Oat and Linseed bread (which has everything in it except the amount of water and butter which you are to add) It makes the perfect loaf. Light, airy, edible the next day and suitable for freezing.
Ive tried to find the quantiies of flour to yeast they use but to no avail. I’ve searched online forums looking for others with similar problems but again to no avail. I know others who have the same issue as me, but enjoy the dense ‘rustic’ bread or buy shop bought packets ready to go.
That was until this week I had a lightbulb moment. A true Eureka of a revelation that came to me in the early hours when my middle of the night insomnia interrupts. If the shop bough bread mix, which only requires me to add butter & water already has the yeast in it, why when i make my own bread adding all the ingredients in their desired quantity must I put the yeast in the separate yeast holder which according to the manufacturer instructions drops it in at the moment it is needed. Why can’t I add it to the bread tin loaf from the start with the flour, butter, salt, sugar and water ?
I am no baking genius, I do not profess to understand the vagaries of baking and the importance of yeast in the mix, but I tried doing this – adding the yeast in along with everything else and i produced a loaf worthy of a theatrical bow. The lightest, tastiest, still good the next day loaf came out the machine. Have I invariably stumbled upon the method? I do not know, but will surely keep you posted with my vigorous experimental testing and bread consumption.
Either way, shop bought or home prepared freshly baked bread is something we still enjoy over a year later either as a mid week treat or with our dippy eggs at the weekend courtesy of our Panasonic Bread Maker.