Around the world, people are in varying degrees of lockdowns due to the Coronavirus. Baking your own bread is one way to cope.
It’s a difficult time for everyone and even the simplest tasks seem to be a challenge. This includes going to a store simply to buy food. In some countries the shelves are often bare especially for staple foods like bread. And then there’s the risk of going to a crowded grocery store in the first place. It’s at a time like this when baking your own bread with your bread machine can solve a complex dilemma. Better yet, the aroma of fresh baked bread filling the kitchen has a comforting factor that you and your family are sure to appreciate.
First, Some Bread Machine Basics
If you have a bread machine on the shelf, now’s a good time to dust it off. If you don’t have one and think it’s a good option, you can easily order one on Amazon.com. We have numerous reviews of bread machines on our website and articles offering advice on how to choose the bread machine that’s right for you. If you’ve used one and haven’t had success, here are a few tips that should get you better results.
- There’s a yeast product called Bread Machine Yeast. It comes in a jar and always delivers a good result.
- You should always refrigerate your yeast when you get home from the store. If you can’t or don’t want to go to the store, we’ll cover some options in a bit but if you have some yeast on hand -put it in the fridge. It will stay more active with refrigeration.
- Active dry yeasts are usually sold in packets and fast rising yeasts are also sold in packets. Both do a good job and if you have either one on hand, don’t hesitate to use it. We have an article with advice for using fast rise yeasts with the rapid rise cycle on many bread machines.
- If you don’t have yeast, you can make plenty of recipes with your bread machine using baking powder and/or baking soda. They’re typically referred to as batter breads and we have numerous batter bread recipes you can try.
- If you only have one packet or a little yeast left and are worried you won’t be able to buy more for a while, you can make a sourdough starter that will grow and rejuvenate your yeast for quite some time. The same sourdough starter for the Boudin Bakery in San Francisco has been growing and giving rise to bread since 1849. We cover how to make sourdough breads and other items and how to make a sourdough starter on the website.
- There are a wide range of flours you can use in your bread machine. In a pinch, all-purpose flour is exactly what it says: good for all purposes. Bread flour has a little more gluten than all-purpose flour and can give a better rise, but all-purpose flour does just fine as well.
- Wheat flours, rye flours, corn flour and gluten free flours will also work in your bread machine and many bread machines have gluten free and whole wheat settings to give you a better result. By the way, corn flour is gluten free.
- If for some reason you don’t have any flour and you either can’t or don’t want to go to the store, you could always order it from Amazon.
We mention water temperature because it’s a critical success factor for successful bread baking with yeast breads. Yeast likes warmth and any liquid you add to your recipe (Water, milk, beer) for a yeast bread should be as close to 110 degrees Fahrenheit as you can get it. That’s 43 degrees Celsius.
An easy way to do this is to microwave your water in a Pyrex measuring cup for 45 seconds. It won’t always get you exactly to 110 degrees, but it will be close enough.
However, you don’t need warm water for batter breads. They’re made with baking powder or baking soda and rise in the oven while baking, not before.
Baking is like alchemy. A combination of magical processes occur driven by chemistry, physics, and even the biology of yeast. In case you didn’t know, yeast is a living organism that’s sold in a dormant state in packages. It’s actually a form of fungus and when the conditions are right, it springs to life and multiplies. As it grows it gives off a waste product in the form of carbon dioxide. This is what causes the bread to rise.
Baking powder and baking soda also cause a bread or cake to rise while baking. This is a chemical process rather than a biological process but regardless of the process, precise measures have a significant effect on the outcome of anything you bake. Keep these tips in mind:
- Use measuring cups designed for measuring dry ingredients. These usually have a flat surface at the top of the cup. Use the back of a knife to level off any dry ingredient to get a precise measure.
- The same is true for measuring spoons. Level off the surface to get the exact amount.
- Measuring cups for liquids usually have a spout and are clear so you can see the amount in the cup. Make sure you hold the cup at eye level to get the exact amount. Don’t try to eyeball it on the countertop.
Our recipes are measured in cups and spoons. If you want to convert those measures we have an article that makes it easy.
The Alchemy of salt
Some bread recipes call for very small measures of salt. Sometimes as little as a ¼ teaspoon. Don’t skip it because you think it won’t have any affect on the taste of the bread. It’s not about taste. Salt acts as a governing agent to manage yeast growth so your bread doesn’t inflate like a giant mushroom. It moderates the yeast growth, so it causes the bread to rise slowly and throughout the dough. Don’t add too much either. Measure it precisely.
How to Plus Up the Nutrition
Any bread recipe makes a great foundation for the addition of other ingredients either incorporated into the dough or as a topping. Many of these added ingredients can add an extra boost of nutrition, vitamins and minerals beyond the nutritional profile of bread itself. Here are some possibilities to consider if you want to bake bread with extra nutrition and maybe a fun surprise for the family.
- Fruits and Nuts
- Spices from dill to pepper to cinnamon and sugars
- Honey and syrups
We have numerous bread recipes on the website that cover these options as well as instruction for when and how to add them to the bread machine bread pan. We also have a search engine that you can always find in the upper right corner of every page.
It’s Not Just About Bread
Every bread machine has a setting called the “dough cycle.” This setting mixes and kneads your ingredients so you can finish it in the oven. But the dough setting lets you do more than just make dough for bread. Here are some of the recipes we have on the site that use the dough setting with instructions on how to set the machine to get the best result. All are finished in a conventional oven or cooked another way.
And Jams and Jellies
Many bread machines have a jam and jelly setting. You’ll never have to buy jam or jelly again. We feature some recipes on the site and your instruction manual should also have some recipes if your machine has this setting.
What About the Kids?
This is a very confusing time for children. They know something’s very different. They’re wondering why they don’t have to go to school but still do schoolwork at home. Wondering why Mom and or Dad are home all the time. Why they can’t go outside and play with the friends. It’s a distressing burden on parents and any time you can spend with them is time well spent. A bread machine can help a little by saving you some time for the kids. It’s particularly helpful for a single parent. But it has a secondary benefit as well.
Have the Kids Help you Bake Something
It’s easy and safe to have the kids help you make a recipe using your bread machine. You can teach them how to measure and pour the ingredients into the bread pan. If you want, you can use the dough cycle and make and decorate everything from cookies to cakes, soft pretzels, even top a pizza crust with their favorite toppings. The best thing is when they get a chance to try their creations. If you’re looking for something to do with the kids and their starting to fuss about all of the homework, maybe it’s time to bake.
There’s a lot you can do with bread beyond using it for sandwiches. Here are some of the recipes we’ve developed using leftover bread from your bread machine.
And for The Experts…
Once you’ve learned the various settings and have had a chance to experiment with recipes, you’ll quickly become expert at making everything with your bread machine. Here are some trending recipes that you can try if you want to explore the world of baking beyond the basics.
And if you have time on your hands, you can take the time to take a
look at the full list of recipes on our website. Your family will appreciate anything you bake for them and your bread machine can really help to at least make everyday a little bit better.