Well a couple of posts ago I did allude to the fact that we make our own bread. We've been doing it for nearly 3 years I suppose and only have to resort to buying bread very very rarely, usually when guests are here and we just can't keep up the supply!
I use to think bread makers were a bit wanky, but after the birth of the boy-child I think the urge to make bread was the beginning sign of my suzy hausfrau metamorphosis. At first we made it and baked it in the machine, but apart from the odd specialty loaf which doesn't need to rise too much we found the shape of the machine baked bread hard to manage. So we now use the bread machine to mix, knead and rise (who has time to knead it and wait etc- not me, not every day at least) and then bake in specialty tins in the oven.
I thought I might write down a few hints I've picked up over the last 3 years.
1. Very important - make sure your yeast is FRESH. I keep mine in the fridge in a very airtight container.
2. The order that you place ingredients in the machine is critical. In my machine it goes water, oil, sugar/salt, flour, improver and yeast.
3. Use warm water so that as soon as the yeast hits it the process can begin. Extra important in winter and colder climates.
4. When you place the yeast in the machine, don't let it touch the water until you're ready for mixing to officially begin.5. Don't preheat the oven for white loaves. Grain/wholemeal/rye loaves DO need the oven to be preheated.
6. Don't wash your bread tins (this annoys my father no end), just a quick spray with some oil before you put the dough in is all you need.
7. Make sure your bread flour is high in proten, >10% is the rule.
In ever increasing attempts to decrease the cost of bread (my TA tendencies again) I buy my ingredients from a place called "Simply no Knead", you can buy it retail or online. I also get unbleached baker's flour from the health food store at my local markets. The other day we bought some "plastic bread" from Woollies to feed the birds at the lake with the boy-child and the man of the house nearly passed out at paying 4 bucks! We can bake a loaf of yummy bread for about $1-1.50 dependant on the ingredients.
We also use the bread maker to mix dough for pizza, takes 50 mins and freezes really well unbaked for a quick dinner; pasta dough and for hot cross buns at the right time of year.
I do sometimes use pre-mixes, but mostly make bread the old-fashioned way - flour, yeast, water etc...the bread improver is usually ascorbic acid (or plain old Vitamin C), here are the ingredients for today's loaf...
It is a loaf of pasta dura which is now kneading away so I will post later on with a picture of the result...cripes pressures on now!