Thursday, April 12, 2012

Better Bread in the Bread Machine

I made bread for a long time by hand before I broke down and bought a bread machine. It has been a great investment because it allows us to make all of our own bread even now that we have the time constraints of caring for two small children. I still love to make the occasional bread by hand - it is such a soothing, enjoyable process and the bread is always so much more delicious - but for our weekly loaves, our bread machine gets very heavy use.


When we first bought our machine, I was rather disappointed. The bread was always extremely dry and crumbly...or it would rise too much and sink into something dense and rock hard. Most of the time it was okay, but nowhere near the quality of the homemade bread that I was used to.

I was using the recipes that came with the machine and thought this might be the problem. We live at elevation (3300 feet) and in a pretty dry climate, so this definitely affects the quality of our baked goods. But I have talked to plenty of other people who lived in very different climates and who had similar problems with their bread machine bread, so I know that climate and elevation were not the only problems. So, I started playing around with the recipe, trying to get a more reliable and tastier bread. The recipe I use now is almost infallible. I get a perfect loaf of bread every time.


In case you are having similar problems with your bread machine, do not give up. Chances are that it is probably the recipe and not the machine itself. Here is my recipe for a basic wheat bread and a comparison chart to show you what I changed from the original one that came with the machine.


Basic Wheat Bread for the Bread Machine

2 cups water (add this to the machine first and layer the other ingredients on top so the yeast does not touch the water)
4 cups flour, any combination (I usually use 3 cups whole wheat and 1 cup bread flour)
3 T. sweetener (I like maple syrup the best, but you can use anything. If you use a dry sweetener/sugar, just add an extra tablespoon or two or water to the dough.)
1/4 cup wheat gluten
2 t. salt
2 T. butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 t. yeast
Optional: Nuts, seeds, herbs, etc. can be added as desired. I usually just add them straight out of the jar while the machine is mixing. A precise amount does not really matter, so just add to your heart's content.

Our bread machine has the option of saving memory settings. I saved one for our bread that is almost the same as the machine's wheat bread setting, but the bread bakes about 10 minutes less. My saved setting looks like this:
  • Knead 15 minutes
  • First Rise 45 minutes
  • Stir Down
  • Second Rise 20 minutes
  • Stir Down
  • Third Rise 30 minutes
  • Bake 55 minutes
Here is how my recipe compares with the one that came with our machine. I imagine that our climate and elevation would have a lot of influence on these changes, so you might not need to use the exact same amounts as I do to get amazing bread.

6 comments:

  1. We never used our bread machine for the reasons that you mentioned: the loaves always fell and we ended up with dense, hard bricks. We got rid of the machine and I do it all by hand now. Thanks for sharing your recipe, though! It will come in very handy should we decide to add a bread machine back to our kitchen. :)

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    1. Really handmade bread is always better, but the bread machine does allow me to make our bread even when things are crazy. Sorry you couldn't get yours to work for you.

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  2. Very informative! Thanks for sharing.

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  3. I am crazy in love with my bread maker! Isn't it the coolest thing EVER!?

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