Bread Machine

So, we decided to try a bread machine. The brand we settled on is the Cuisinart Convection Bread Maker (cbk-200).

Bread

by name

Basic White Bread-Machine Bread
Blue Cheese and Olive Bread
Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Granola Bread
Oatmeal Bread
Pesto Bread
Rosemary Bread
Sun-Dried Tomato and Mozzarella Bread

Bread

by favorite

Rosemary Bread
Cinnamon Swirl Bread
Oatmeal Bread
Pesto Bread
Basic White Bread-Machine Bread
Blue Cheese and Olive Bread
Sun-Dried Tomato and Mozzarella Bread
Granola Bread
Mistrealm
Update on our bread recipe (2013/02/19).

Commercial white bread

The bread we buy in the store can often be rather lackluster. Much of the flavor seems to have been lost in mass production, or perhaps, we are just used to how it tastes. It has the advantage of being affordable, at least the generic white bread brands.
Average Nutritional Information for a cup of white bread.
Don't ask me about all of the info on this link, some of this sounds made up.

Other commercial breads

If you look for new brands in search of better flavor, your price can easily double. At first this seems like a good solution, but the alternatives can also get boring, as well as expensive.

Intimidated

At first, it was daunting. Page (13) of the instruction booklet says
Important Note: The MOST important rule of making bread:
Use exact measurements. This is the key to successful bread baking.
So, we ran off and bought a full set of measuring cups and spoons. I think the measuring set was a great investment, but this particular "rule" is overrated, do NOT let it get in the way of trying things.

Loaf Size

So... At first, the 2-lb loaf sounded like the best answer, make a lot of bread, and so forth. We discovered that 2.0-lb loaf is not the way to go if you want sandwiches. The 1.5-lb loaf creates sturdier slices, but the winner is definitely the 1.0-lb loaf. You not only do you get a decent crust all around your slice, but the bread's texture is very sturdy. The bad news is that we nearly gave up on the bread maker before we figured this out.

Crust Color

Not much to say about this, I've leave it at medium. Some times the bread comes out darker than others (probably due to sugar levels).

I keep meaning to try light crust. I think that we were so relieved to finally get a decent slice of bread, we just left this setting alone.

The Paddle

So when inserting the paddle, I put a drop of olive oil or a spritz of spray release, then pop it on and off a few times to make sure it is properly lubricated.

This makes paddle removal easier.

Serrated Knife

You need one.

The Trick

The dough will often be soggy. Probably due to the fact I use honey instead of granulated sugar. So first, I will use a paddle thingy (I am told these are silicone spatulas) to shove the flour from the corners into the dough ball. (This is somewhat optional, the machine will eventually mix the flour into the dough.) Once the corners are incorporated, while the dough is kneading, I open the lid, poke the bread, and add flour until it is relatively dry. It is hard to explain, but the correct dough will not be very sticky to the touch. I also like to hear it skating around on a bit of flour. After that I pretty much leave it alone.

Paddle Removal

I have learned that it is helpful to oil the sides of the pan after removing the paddle. It will extend the life of the nonstick coating of the bread pan, and it will help the bread come out easily.
After baking,

Let the loaf rest

If you cut it right away, it tastes GREAT, but has a tendency to shred.

We picked up some cotton bread towels, wrap the bread in the bread towel, and set it on the cutting board for an hour.

The crust get softer, and the serrated knife cuts through the bread with a minimum of destruction.

We then store the bread in our rubbermaid bread box, leaving the slices in the bread towel.

Basic White Bread-Machine Bread

At last, real bread. We made this 12 times in a row after we got our first decent loaf. Rating: 10 of 10 at first, then it drops to 8 out of 10 after you eat enough of it.

Water, 80 to 90 degrees 3/4 cup
Unsalted Butter 1 and 1/2 tablespoons
Granulated Sugar or Honey 1 and 1/2 teaspoons
Salt 3/4 teaspoon
Bread Flour 2 cups
Nonfat Dry Milk 2 tablespoons
Yeast 1 teaspoon
Optional, Vital Wheat Gluten1 teaspoon

Water

So, we picked up this awesome
Infrared Thermometer. We probably bought it after watching too many cooking shows on the Food Network.

The approach I used was to run water until the thermometer said it was warm enough. I felt the water, to see how warm the water felt. So now I do not need the thermometer, I can tell just by feel. So, the answer is relatively warm, but not quite hot.

Unsalted Butter

The book suggests letting it come to room temperature. This would require planning. I have always added it from the fridge, and never had a problem.

So, you might ask yourself, what does the butter do to the bread?

When making bread, what effect does the "fat" have on the bread structure?

Short answer, it keeps the bread from being too chewy. The less fat, the more chewy your bread will become. I've found that adding a little more fat does not seem to impact the bread greatly. I've tried as much as double the amount called for without a lot of impact. The book asks us to chop the butter into 1/2-inch pieces.

I did toss it in whole once, just to see what would happen. The dough was lumpy at first, but the bread machine won that battle, and the bread turned out fine.

I usually use a little more than called for, and chop it somewhat randomly into the mix.

Granulated Sugar or Honey

I use honey.

I use a bit more than is called for in the recipe, mostly as it difficult to measure, and the yeast needs the sugar to grow, so I would rather have too much than too little.

I used up the honey we had from Walmart (originally from Brazil), I went through the Kroger store brand (I forget, somewhere central USA, maybe Illinois), and I have tried some from Davis Apiary (Mascot, Tennessee). The Tennesee honey does seem to the best of these, but honestly, all types of honey work well in bread. There is some buzz about local honey having a health benefit. I have no idea, I found some articles that also said this was not the case. I figure, my money going to a local business is better than my money going out of state, or out of country.

Maple Syrup

I've had some odd results with Maple Syrup.

The first bottle of pure maple syrup worked great, but it went bad. I did not realize that it requires refrigeration after opening.

The second bottle of pure maple syrup seems to be a dud, when I use it as my primary sugar, it fails to rise. The bread tastes fine, but is very dense. I have taken to using the maple when called for, then adding an equivalent amount of granulated sugar.

Pro Tip

Use spray release on your measuring spoon.

If you do this when measuring honey or maple syrup, it comes right out.

I found this great tip in the article titled "56 kitchen tricks, tips, and timesaving ideas" in the The Old Farmer's Almanac 2013!

Salt

Salt makes food taste better, and it slows the yeast action. So, too much would be a problem.

I am not sure what type of salt they expect me to use, I have kosher salt handy, so I use that. The grains are larger, I suspect I actually use less than if I were using iodized salt.

This is an ingredient that I measure closely.

Bread Flour

I am told you use more flour in the summer and less flour in the winter due to humidity. I have only cooked in the summer so far, so I am not sure.

Update: This has been confirmed. The dough is soggier on humid days, and dryer on cooler days. Your milage may vary.

You can use AP flour instead of bread flower, and your bread will have less volume. If you are just running low on bread flour, you can try half bread flour and half ap flour.

Flour Basics: All-Purpose Flour, Bread Flour & Cake Flour

Are Whole-Wheat and All-Purpose Flour Interchangeable? (in short: Sorta, you have to tweak a bit).

Yeast

So, it comes in jars (or packets) and a few varieties. I typically use the bread yeast from the jar, it works fine.

There is also a fast yeast. One time I ran out of bread yeast, and used the fast yeast instead, that worked.

I am told that you can always add more yeast, but typically not less yeast.

Nonfat Dry Milk

For the flavor? I am sure it brings some nutrition to the table as well.

Vital Wheat Gluten

I have a box of it, I nearly always toss a teaspoon into the mix. In theory, it makes for bigger loaves.

Oatmeal Bread

Buttermilk, 80 to 90 degrees 3/4 cup
Unsalted Butter 1 tablespoon
Salt 3/4 teaspoon
Maple Syrup (not pancake syrup)1 tablespoon
Bread Flour 2 cups
Old Fashioned Oats 1/2 cup
Yeast 2 teaspoons
Optional, Vital Wheat Gluten 1 teaspoon
Our pure maple syrup went moldy before I could try it, so I swapped it for honey with no problems.

I picked up some buttermilk just for this recipe. I tried to microwave the buttermilk to get it to the right temp, and I went a bit long, it jumped to 130 degrees. Next time I plan to microwave it just 30 seconds, and see if that is better. I just used the butter milk, when I poured it into the pan and waited until the temperature dropped to a reasonable amount. Did I mention my
Infrared Thermometer?

Currently, 32 seconds seems to be the ideal amount of time to microwave 3/4 of a cup of refrigerated buttermilk.

News: I occasional get requests for this bread, so this one is popular with the family.

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

So first, you mix
Granulated Sugar1/4 cup
Cinnamon1/2 tablespoon
Raisins (optional)1 and 1/4 cups
I did not have rasins, so I used dried cranberries. Swirl this stuff together. Then make some bread:
Milk, 80 to 90 degrees 3/4 cup
Unsalted Butter 1 and 1/2 tablespoons
Egg, room temperature 1 large
Salt 1 teaspoon
Granulated Sugar 1 Tablespoon
Bread Flour 2 and 1/2 cups
Yeast 2 teaspoons
Optional, Vital Wheat Gluten 1 teaspoon
So yeah, there some instructions that confused me about this one. The book referred to a pause sound, and there is not really such a thing. I finally decided that meant the paddle removal beep. I did learn about the neat pause button.

So, when the paddle remove beep happens, you pause the machine, pull the bread out, stretch it (I did not have a roller handy), and dump the stuff you mixed earlier on. Then you roll it up as best you can, and put the behemoth back into the machine. And then unpause it.

Let me tell you right now, my cinnamon bread does NOT look like this, but the flavor is AWESOME. This is my favorite sweet bread so far.

Granola Bread

Milk, 80 to 90 degrees 3/4 cup
Unsalted Butter 1 and 1/2 tablespoons
Honey 1 and 1/2 tablespoons
Salt 3/4 teaspoon
Granola 1/2 cup
Bread Flour 2 and 1/4 cups
Yeast 2 teaspoons
Cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon
Optional, Vital Wheat Gluten 1 teaspoon
I used Muesilix instead of Granola. This produced my least favorite bread so far. Dry, and not much flavor.

This may be worth another shot with actual Granola.

Rosemary Bread

Trying it tonight. Sounds interesting, wish us luck.
Water, 80 to 90 degrees 1 cup
Olive Oil 2 tablespoons
Salt, Sea or Kosher 3/4 teaspoon
Bread Flour 2 cups
Dried Rosemary 1 1/2 teaspoons
Yeast 2 teaspoons
Optional, Vital Wheat Gluten1 teaspoon
I misread this recipe, and used 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of Rosemary, and the bread still turned out great, I suggest that the given amount of Rosemary is actually low.

The first thing I noticed is that the loaf that comes from this recipe is very pale. Looking over the recipe, the reason becomes apparent, there is no sugar added to this recipe. The more sugar a recipe has, the darker the resulting bread. I made this recipe a second time, just to be sure, and it seemed to rise as much as any other loaf we have made. I am confused... But this is a great bread.

This bread has a lot of flavor, and I would guess a very healthy bread.

Can someone explain the science here please? Is dried rosemary that sweet?

PS - Rosemary can get a bad rap for being stickly. In this bread, the Rosemary is reconstituted during baking, and being jabbed by sharp bits of rosemary is not a problem. I imagine the time in the dough softens the herb, and then the bread baking step itself acts as a steam bath.

Update: I am getting reports that this bread is too "floral" for making good PB&J sandwiches. I am not sure I agree, but you might.

Pesto Bread

So, we finally found some pesto, and picked up some basil leaves as well. The pesto was relatively expensive, so we probably will not make much of this bread.

Water, 80 to 90 degrees 3/4 cup
Olive Oil 1 tablespoon
Pesto 3 tablespoons
Salt, Sea or Kosher 1/2 teaspoon
Bread Flour 2 and 1/4 cups
Granulated Sugar 1 teaspoon
Yeast 1 and 1/2 teaspoons
Optional, Vital Wheat Gluten1 teaspoon
This created a decent, greenish loaf of bread that we ate rather quickly as grilled ham-and-cheese sandwiches. Not bad.

As a further experiment, we are planning to make our own pesto, and see how that goes. I am not convinced this will be as tasty, as the fresh basil leaves we have in stock have a rather strong flavor, but we shall see.

Update: We made the pesto. It was MUCH better than I expected, and a lot better than the expensive imported pesto. The bread we made from this pesto was not as green, but it was tasty. The pesto itself did not last long, as we used it on pretty much everything.

Blue Cheese and Olive Bread

We made a lot of substitutions on this one, and created a tasty bread. Not quite worth the expense, but a fun experiment that we repeated a few times.
Water, 80 to 90 degrees 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons I suspect these are metric conversions. These almost never seem to be the right amount of fluid.
Dry white whine at room temperature 1 tablespoonSo, not in stock, so I substitued vinager. I tried rice wine vinager, and red wine vinager. They both worked.
Unsalted Butter 1/2 tablespoonAs per my usual policy, I used more like a tablespoon, or maybe a bit over.
Egg, large, at room temperature 1If you dunk your egg in warm water, supposedly it comes to room temperature in like 10 minutes.
Salt, Sea or Kosher 1/2 teaspoon
Honey 1 tablespoon
Bread Flour 2 and 1/2 cups
Nonfat dry milk 1 and 1/2 tablespoons
Yeast 1 and 1/2 teaspoons
Blue Cheese 1/2 cupWe used Feta. It had better stats, and has a good flavor.
Green Olives, Drained, patted dry 1/2 cupWe skipped this ingredient once, then another time we just doubled the cheese. Both methods worked.
Optional, Vital Wheat Gluten1 teaspoon
The bread created from these recipes was flavorful.

Getting the dough consistency right took some doing, depending on how you handle your substitutions, you are either adding a lot of liquid, or a lot of flour to make it right.

Fun, but in the end, not a good candidate for your daily bread.

Sun-Dried Tomato and Mozzarella Bread

We found sun-dried tomatoes at our Fresh Market, not in oil.
Water, 80 to 90 degrees 1/3 cup + 3 tablespoons I suspect these are metric conversions. These almost never seem to be the right amount of fluid.
Salt, Sea or Kosher 3/4 teaspoon
Granulated Sugar 1/2 teaspoon
Bread Flour 2 cups
Italian Seasoning 3/4 teaspoonWe substituted Fines Herbs for this. I also went a bit over the asked amount.
Yeast 2 teaspoons
Shredded Mozarella Cheese 4 ouncesA half a cup
Oil-packed Sun-dried Tomatoes1/2 cupSkipped the oil, and this worked fine. We did add some butter / olive oil to make up for the lack of oil.
Optional, Vital Wheat Gluten 2 teaspoons
A tasty bread with a tomato taste. This loaf is not easy to slice thinly due to the tomato pieces.
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