It is summer in the city, hot and sticky everywhere, including my kitchen. The oven is just out of the question. Time to overcome my fear of the little white machine sitting stealthily beneath my art desk.
Of course, when you find stellar stoop giveaway items, like bread machines, the instruction manual is long gone. In attempts to understand more about my find, Google delivered me to the Hillbilly Housewife who kindly took my anxiety level down a number of notches.
She did not, however, answer three dilemmas I encountered as I assembled my recipe:
- Do I proof the yeast before putting it in the little spoon indentation atop my flour situation?
- Do I whisk the wet ingredients together before putting them in the bread machine pan? same for dry ingredients?
- What setting do I use on the bread machine for this recipe, which also happens to be gluten free?
I decided to scope out the yeast company’s website, thinking surely they’ll have info on how to use the blasted stuff. No clear answer to my yeast dilemma, but they solved #2. Red Star Yeast has a Gluten Free Recipes Tips page on their webpage! Bingo. Yes, whisk wet ingredients thoroughly before adding to machine. Same for dry, sift the GF flours together well since they’re so fine; they should be well blended.
I used the same recipe as my first bread from scratch encounter, Gluten Free Millet Oatmeal bread. Luckily the Gluti Girls blogger gave the recipe a whirl in her bread maker; the comments (and her corresponding answers) were so helpful to solving dilemma #1 above. No need to proof the yeast, great.
The answer to #3 wasn’t so straight forward. I used the semi-scientific method consisting of a combination of Google and guessing. I figured (since my last go round produced so much bread) that the two-pound loaf setting on my machine would be about right. As for bread type, I selected Basic Rapid, which ends up being about 2 hours and 15 minutes. Several websites said that GF bread needs only one rise session (as opposed to two for regular bread) so shorter settings work best.
Soon enough in my research, I encountered conflicting directives in that the yeast people told me to keep the yeast away from sugar and salt so it doesn’t prematurely activate. If I thoroughly mixed the dry ingredients like they also suggested, then as I dropped my yeast into the little spoon-backed indentation in my dry mix, the yeast would be in direct contact with sugar and salt. Hmmm. So, I improvised. I mixed the brown sugar and salt that my recipe called for in a separate little bowl and dropped it into the bread maker pan immediately after the wet mixture. Then I layered on the dry mixture, a safe buffer between sugar and yeast.
I found that bread machine baking is only as complex as you’d like it to be. Simply done, you basically layer in the pan your wet ingredients, then the dry mixture and then the yeast. Press a button and drink sangria on the stoop while you wait.
When you find a recipe you’d like to try out on your bread machine, here are some basic steps I’d suggest:
- Pull out all the refrigerated ingredients (especially the eggs) first thing. You’ll need these to be room temp before you can do anything, so get a head start on that.
- Combine all your dry ingredients in a big mixing bowl. Check out the Hillbilly Housewife’s outline of the different types of ingredients that go into bread machine baking to get a good idea about what goes where and why.
- Melt the butter (if applicable) before you add it to your wet mixture. Some places say just to chunk it up, but I figured I’d do my little Breadman machine a little favor in the name of consistency.
- If altering recipes, keep in mind the wet/dry ratio so if you add something liquid drop in some extra flour, and likewise with extra dry ingredients, add some extra water or another wet substance. For example, I added some soupy yogurt and omitted 1/4 cup of the water my recipe said to add.
If you don’t have a bread machine yet, don’t rush out and buy one new. People get rid of them all the time; they get newer models, they move or don’t use them enough to warrant taking up valuable kitchen real estate. Check Craigslist or your local garage sale circuit on a Saturday morning. Or, just borrow a friend’s machine (and be sure to return it spic and span!)
I discovered that technology is the best kind of friend when it comes to bread making since traditional baking methods mean an entire afternoon tending to the whims of yeast and heat, and bread machine methods mean about a half hour of prep and two hours of doing other stuff.
I’m closing this Impressive Act of Domesticity with the words of my upstairs neighbor, Virginia, upon tasting the fruits of Breadman’s labors:
This tastes like princesses!