Wednesday, January 9, 2008

How to Bake Bread in a Bread Machine

Having exhausted all possible choices of what bread I wanted to eat -- it has to be whole wheat, but I love white French bread, it has to be chewy, it has to have some, say, raisins and some seeds, you know, the sophisticated organic kind -- I decided to make a loaf of bread myself.

I used to bake bread in my bread machine once a week. I used to be able to make a perfect loaf. Perfect because it was just what my palate wanted.

So, after having eaten a humongous brunch and gone on a too long hike, I rushed to Whole Foods, late, to buy the flours, the yeast, the gluten, and the sunflower and flax seeds. Whe nI got home and looked at the recipe, I realized I was missing the powdered milk. Raced off to the store, realized when I got there that I had forgotten my wallet. Raced home, left the car running with hazard lights blinking, raced back to the store and couldn't find the powdered milk for hours.

Returned home I carefully measured out all of the ingredients. The recipe calls for putting everything into the baking pan in order. Water, salt, honey, then the flours, then shortening, then yeast. I decided to put all of the flours together mixed in a bowl. But then I decided that I should hold back on the yeast so it wouldn't hit the water first and start fermenting before being thoroughly mixed in with the flour. So I scooped out a teaspoon full and set it carefully aside. Then I joyfully poured all of the flour into . . . the bread machine itself, not the baking pan.

Freakout time! What HAD I done? How was I to fix it? Holding the machine in my arms to keep it from banging to the floor, I held it up first to pour the flours into a bowl and then to shake the flour out from behind the heating elements, trying to keep it all flowing back into the bowl. After transferring it all into the bowl and wiping out the machine I started to look for the yeast. I looked everywhere. No yeast to be found. That meant it must have found its way back into the flour mix in the bowl. But, since the flours by then were looking peaked and spotted with 5-year old stale crumbs, in a paroxism of decision, I poured the whole mix into the garbage. And started all over again, with the flours, gluten and yeast.

Of course, the bread came out at midnight, but it was truly delicious. Worth it? My hope next time is to avoid dumping the mix into the wrong container. Of course, some new and unexpected calamity is sure to creep in around the corner. Perhaps a cat will jump up on the counter and land in the carefully set aside butter.