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Using a Bread Machine

GarlicHerbBreadsqOne of my all-time favorite inventions. The bread machine. A wonderful gadget, but it often falls into the unique category I call Underrated & Overwhelming.

Underrated because of the variety of recipes it can help with and Overwhelming because it requires things like time and yeast and sometimes. . . bread flour.

If you don’t have one of this little machines, no problem. Most recipes can be done by hand and just take a little more time and elbow grease.

And if you already have a bread machine, pull that baby out. Step One is finding it a nice home on your counter (or in a cupboard you can easily access) so that you will SEE it and remember that it EXISTS and maybe USE IT. What can you use it for? Word on the street is that some machines can tackle cakes and cheesecakes, jams and other sticky things. But let’s start with a few basics. Like. . .

Homemade Pizza Dough. Yum. No seriously, it’s reeeeeally good. Get that recipe down pat and I promise you will thank me — well, me and my mom and the friend we got the original recipe from! (Thanks, Cheryl!)

Bread – Wheat, White, Italian, you name it! – the great thing about a bread machine is it’s versatility. It can mix, knead, rise and bake your bread or be set to just get your dough ready for the next step. Check out my favorite and most often used bread machine recipe for Soft White Bread .

Cinnamon Roll Dough. Another classic and this recipe for Perfect Cinnamon Rolls makes the old-fashioned kind, which is the ultimate breakfast treat!

Dinner Rolls. These are the super classic kind that you may find mounded high at a family gathering. They can be made ahead and frozen or used for sandwiches. They. Are. Delish.

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If you don’t have a machine and are still reading this, I’m super impressed! If you are interested in the idea and want a suggestion, here’s my favorite. . .

BreadMachine

The Zojirushi Breakmaker

I can’t really pronounce the name, so let’s call it a Zo. . . I LOVE this machine.

What’s so great about it, you ask?

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To start, it can preheat the ingredients for you and retains heat and moisture really well as the dough is kneading and rising (yeast thrives on warmth and moisture).

It has not one, but TWO paddles for kneading, and — bonus — it has a rectangular shape. . . like a typical loaf of bread! I’m definitely a fan.

It also has lots of settings for both regular and quick cycles and the best thing. . . you can program your own homemade pre-sets. So, when making this Soft White Bread recipe, I like to extend it’s kneading and rising times so the dough will sometimes look like this. . .

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Now that you’ve been teased with recipes and sat though an unpaid advertisement for a Zo, here’s some tidbits for using one of these machines.

Bread Machine Tips & Trips

One. No two bread machines are the same. THEY WILL MIX DIFFERENTLY. The amount of flour my bread machine will need may not be the same as yours. Don’t let that scare you off. During the first 3-5 minutes of mixing a new recipe, check on the dough. Add warm water if it’s crumbly and not forming into a single ball. Add some flour if its soupy and not taking shape. Then, the KEY. . . Make a note on your recipe and alter the ingredients the next time.

For example, the original recipe I had for Homemade Pizza dough listed 2 1/2 to 3 cups of flour and 1 cup warm water. For years, I made it with 2 1/2 cups flour and 1 cup water but the dough didn’t quite fill my large pizza pan the way I wanted. So now — I put in 1 and 1/3 cups water and use 3 full cups of bread flour. Perfect.

Two. Preheat ingredients. Warm one cup of water in microwave for about 30 seconds. (Ideally, the warm water should range from 115 to 125 degrees.) Make sure butter is soft (though not melted). Even eggs can be room temperature.

Three. Bread machine pans have very thick walls, and therefore, baked bread has a thick, sometimes hard crust. Some people like that, others don’t. My husband happens to dislike a hard crust, so I usually let the dough knead and rise, then bake it in my oven. (See the recipe for Soft White Bread.)

See the difference between the two loaves below. They both started in my bread machine with the same recipe. One baked in my bread machine and the other in my oven on a greased baking sheet.

GarlicHerbBreadsq         SoftBread

Four. Make sure the ingredients are not old or expired, especially the flour and yeast.

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Bread flour (vs all purpose) will make your bread lighter. And if you have a hard time getting your bread dough to rise, try increasing the amount of yeast by 1/4 or even 1/2 teaspoon.

Also, always place wet ingredients (water, oil, egg) in your bread pan first, then the dry ingredients. Make a well in the middle of the flour for the yeast. If there’s something soft (like butter), place around the edges, away from the warm water and away from the yeast.

Finally, if you don’t like cutting the sometimes awkward size and shape of bread machine loaves, try one of these cutting board guides. My dear cousin Amy recommended this to me and I believe I found it on Amazon. It works great and the slices are nice and even, making sandwiches look less lopsided and the finished product a lot more impressive!

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I will be added more recipes as time allows, so check them out in the Recipe Box. As always, enjoy!