There’s Something About Bread Machines

For years I went around denouncing bread machines. How could you ever substitute a rolling pin and kneading dough for a box with a plug?   Then my youngest son gave me a bread machine one Christmas!  What to do?

It stayed in the box for about four weeks following Christmas. Kelly inquired, “Are you ever going to take it out of the box?  I love cinnamon bread”.  Then he added, “Keara says it’s real easy”. My daughter in law uses a bread machine?  She says it’s easy?

So I took it out of the box and put it on the kitchen counter. I began reading the instruction booklet. Honestly, if you start reading  instruction booklets you may never get to the point of plugging something in. A few more weeks went by.  Our friend Luther noticed it and mentioned how his fiancée Vera just loved her bread machine. She used it all the time and said “it’s a piece of cake” to operate. Vera thought operating a bread machine was a piece of cake?  How hard can it be?

So, the next time Kelly told us he would be visiting, I decided to make apple-cinnamon bread, following the directions in the booklet.  The machine boasts that it bakes a loaf of bread in an hour; what it doesn’t tell you is that it takes about four hours from start to finish, for it to knead, rise, and bake the product. But in any case, I made my first loaf of bread. It was disappointingly….compact.

“Keara’s is bigger and fluffier than this,” Kelly said (as he was stuffing his face). He and Bob ate the loaf of bread—well, most of it. I gave the dog, what was left and I think he buried it somewhere in the back yard.

So, for my next attempt I bought a box of bread mix made specifically for bread machines – you put water into the container, add the mix, then the packet of yeast, and turn it on. Voila! Pumpernickel bread. We had it with homemade soup and—admittedly—it was delicious.

I was feeling kind of cocky at this point so I made another loaf of bread the next day – again, from a mix. Cinnamon raisin.  When the machine signaled that the loaf was finished, I lifted the lid—anticipating a wonderful loaf of cinnamon raisin bread, but what I found was a lot of flour and underneath, a sticky mess.

“Something went wrong with this loaf of bread,” I told Bob.
“Boy, you’ve got that right,” he said, staring at the gooey mess.

I stood at the kitchen sink contemplating bread machines and life in general, wondering – what went wrong?  I mean, how wrong can you go with three ingredients?  Then I spotted the little kneading gizmo, the piece that goes into the machine to make it knead your bread….in the sink drainer, where I had left it after I washed it the day before.  (Kind of hard for the machine to knead the dough if the gizmo isn’t in it).

Kelly came down the following Friday night and had dinner with us; I made another loaf of pumpernickel bread. He agreed it was tasty, especially warm from the bread machine and slathered with butter.

“Don’t you remember how I used to make bread all the time from scratch?” I asked him. “I made rye and sour dough and white bread and pumpkin –?”

“No,” says he, buttering another slice of bread. “But mom, Keara would do this thing with the bread – roll it out and spread it with cinnamon and sugar…

“I used to do that too!!!!” I cried. “Don’t you remember….back when, before I went to work full time?”

He doesn’t remember.  Ok, he was only seven when I went back to work full time.

So I haven’t worked up enough nerve to make another loaf of bread from scratch, but I am doing pretty well with those mixes.

By my calculations, (if you don’t include the cost of four hours of electricity), it’s about fifty cents cheaper to make a loaf of pumpernickel bread in the bread machine than it is to buy it at the supermarket. And, of course, we won’t include the cost of my buying a bunch of bread machine cookbooks…..meantime, the bread machine is back in the original box and packed in a closet. Those machines take up way too much space on the kitchen counter.

(Originally printed in Inky Trail News,  reprinted with permission)

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