Back before I had kids, I used to bake all my own bread. No, I was not like Ma Ingalls, kneading and shaping and rising dough for hours on end – I had a bread machine. They were popular back in the 90’s, but you really don’t hear of too many people using them anymore. When I was sorting through some things in my basement I found my bread machine stored forlornly in a dark corner. I brought it up to the kitchen, cleaned it off and decided to put it back into use.
A bread machine is a really cool piece of kitchen equipment. If you’re not familiar with how it works, you just put all the ingredients for your bread into the machine, push a button or two and voila! – 4 or so hours later you have a fresh, homemade loaf of bread. And your house smells wonderful while it is baking. The bread machine mixes, kneads, rises and bakes the loaf of bread. After the initial measuring of ingredients and dumping them into the machine, there is nothing more to do. Unless you want to – the machine can stop after the kneading and rising phases so you can shape your dough into rolls or fancy breakfast pastries.
I realized that making bread in the machine would be a great thing to do with my daughters, particularly the little one, who is 7. We gathered together our ingredients and with just a little help from me, my daughter was able to measure everything out and start the machine. Not only did she feel a tremendous sense of accomplishment from making the bread herself, it was also a great lesson in math (fractions with the measuring cups and spoons, counting), science (how does yeast work? what does gluten do in bread?) and reading (following the recipe).
The advantage to making your own bread (or own anything, for that matter) is that you get to control exactly what goes into it. You can make your bread 100% whole grain and you know that you are not adding any dough conditioners or other chemicals. And fresh, homemade bread is such a treat, you may find it hard to go back to store bought. The bread machine is great for people who don’t have hours of time to devote to bread baking, but who like to eat homemade, minimally processed food. I am surprised that with as people become more aware of the benefits of eating whole, minimally-processed foods the bread machine has not made more of a resurgence. Or maybe it has and I just haven’t heard about it. Do you use a bread machine? Or do you bake bread by hand? Or do you buy yours at the store?
- Try this recipe book to get started. Each of the recipes are excellent and a majority use whole wheat flour.