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It Kneads the Dough

Nick JohnsonNick Johnson

I like bread. I like it lot. So I was quite pleased when my parents gave me their bread machine and associated recipe book a couple of years ago. Their reasoning was (believe it or not) that I was the only one actually able to make bread with it. Their own attempts closely resembled articles suitable for construction, rather than ones suitable for mastication.

So I've used it on and off since then. Sometimes the bread was good (the sweet potato bread, for example, is awesome), sometimes it was bad (chick pea bread: no, no, no). Just lately I've been using it with renewed vigour, since I've resolved to avoid mass produced bread. Why (you might ask)? The short answer is that the methods used are damaging to the environment, in some respects the economy, and also to the digestive tract of the person who consumes it (which in my case would be me). The long answer is here.

Out of curiosity I decided to have a crack at the San Francisco sour dough recipe in the book. This takes about a week to make in total, uses no yeast (none that _you _add, anyway), and only uses the machine for the kneading and some of the mixing.

On the whole I'm not that impressed with it. I don't actually know what sour dough is supposed to taste like (oops), but this one doesn't taste that great and didn't rise very well. That last one could be my fault, since I definitely messed up some of the timing.
Ahem.

Usually with a bread machine, the timing goes something like this:

  1. Put ingredients in the machine and push go.
  2. Wait a couple of hours (about four in the case of my machine, depending on the recipe).
  3. Remove bread from machine.

That, you see, is the brilliance of it. It's very simple and requires a distinct lack of effort on your part (aside from a scrupulous accuracy in the measurements). With the sour dough it's more like this:

  1. Mix some stuff in a bowl.
  2. Wait three days.
  3. Add some stuff to the bowl.
  4. Wait two days.
  5. Add some more stuff to the bowl.
  6. Wait twelve hours.
  7. Put the contents of the bowl and some other things in the machine and push go on the dough setting.
  8. Wait the time it takes to start mixing plus ten minutes.
  9. Turn off the machine.
  10. Wait eight hours.
  11. Add some more stuff to the machine
  12. Run an complete dough cycle (about two hours).
  13. Take the dough out of the machine and knock it back.
  14. Wait two hours.
  15. Put it in the oven.
  16. Wait twenty-five minutes.
  17. Turn the oven down.
  18. Wait ten minutes.
  19. Remove bread from the oven.

Couple this small amount of added complexity with the fact that I discovered I was missing a key ingredient around step 11 (which due to the timing was at 6 am)*, what you end up with is a near complete loss of the simplicity, an inferior product, and a dirty flappy paddle bread tin thing which is even harder to wash than it would have been if you'd actually baked the bread in it.

The point, in case you were starting to doubt that I had one, is that from now on I shall only be making relatively simple breads in the machine (and they can bloody well cook in there, as well). For fancier, more exciting breads I think I may well tread the same path as Dougal (who pointed me in the direction of the above video), buy myself a copy of this and prepare to get my hands dirty.

* Erm... and fell asleep for an hour too long around step 14.

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