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My Breadmaker

Itís March 2013. Iíve been making my own bread for the last nine months!  I had wanted a breadmaker for a very long time but I was worried that it would become one of those kitchen gadgets that never gets used.  Plus theyíre not cheap, and we donít have a large kitchen.  I love the simple food of life, like cheese, sausages, beer etc. and I love bread, lusting after rustic loaves in shop windows.  Last summer, facing redundancy I started assessing the range of breadmakers availablke and decided on the hundred-pound plus top of the range model from panasonic, critically acclaimed everywhere.   Then something made me decide that it was physically too big, and started looking at smaller models. Eventually I chose one from Russell Hobbs at about fifty pounds.  Most of my decision-making was based on Amazon reviews.


Itís been one of the surprise success stories of recent years. Itís easy to make breadmaker bread, easy to clean and weíve saved a small fortune as a result. Iíve occasionally bought bagels, and I once bought a dense rye loaf, but apart from that weíve eaten home-made bread all the time.  I usually bake twice a week, and I start suffering a sort of withdrawal if I leave it more than three days between loaves.  The house fills with the wonderful smell of fermenting yeast, then cooking bread. Itís always looked and tasted sensational, with cheese or dipped in hot soup, or coated in roast pepper hummus.


I must give a big thumbs down to the Russell Hobbs customer service department.  Iíd read one review which mentioned that a small section of the Teflon coating on the inside of the pan had come off.  This happened to mine, about a week after I started using it. It was only a small area about a quarter of an inch across, but bread did stick to it.  I contact the company and they asked if Iíd used metal kitchenware on it.  I told them that I hadnít (I really hadnít) and they wanted me to send it back to somewhere up north.  I said, that I wasnít very impressed, and that I thought they should just send me a new internal pan, which would have cost them sixteen pounds, and I wouldnít have had to write this paragraph. They were adamant, and not even that courteous about it.  I then contacted Amazon, the supplier, and they agreed to give me a 15% discount. No more of the coating has come off, and Iíve almost put it behind me.  I just didnít want to be without the breadmaker for a week or two while they assessed it, and we arenít particularly close to the post office.


I quickly discovered that the measuring cups that weíve had for years werenít accurate, so I bought a fifteen pound (cost) digital scale. You put the breadmaker pan on the scale, switch it on, add water (about 330ml), press the zero button on the scale, add the flour (usually 500g), press the zero button on the scale, then add a teaspoonful of yeast, a small teaspoonful of salt, 20g of oil, a teaspoonful of sugar or honey, then put the pan in the breadmaker, close the lid, and then 3 hours and twenty minutes later you remove a wonderful loaf.  Smaller denser loaves can be made in 80 minutes on a fast setting. They make a pleasant change, as the loaf is quite different.


Initially I used ready mixed 500g bags which contain bread flour, seeds or flavourings, yeast, salt and sugar. You just add water.  These cost less than a pound, but then I discovered a range of seeded flour from Waitrose in 1.5kg bags for two pounds, and I almost only use those now.  Iím not paid to say this but they are wonderful. Iíve discovered that quickly-taken photographs of a freshly-baked loaf donít do justice to the product, but I am being seriously distracted at the time!  Putting seeds on top does add a rustic touch to ther finished product, but poppy seeds get EVERYWHERE so I put them inside instead.  Iíve added 6 shredded sun-dried tomatoes and a couple of teaspoons of ready English mustard in the current loaf (not currant loaf...).  I tried one loaf using a tin of chopped tomatoes instead of most of the water. Iíve added a couple of spoonfuls of spiced chutney in the past.

Further to what I said in the last paragraph about about using ready-mixed Ďkitsí, they are really good for bread-making newcomers, especially those like me, who didnít know one end of the kitchen from the other until I started breadmaking.  Purists will probably want to have total control over what ingredients they use, especially when itís controlling salt levels, but Iíve had 100% perfect results from flour mixes every time, although 100% wholemeal loaves never stay risen as well as white loaves. 

My favourite mix is Wrightís Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia, currently (May 2013) only widely available from Sainsburyís, which is truly unbelievable. I was actually so impressed that I wrote and told them. (I now have a Wrightís Flour calendar in the kitchen, which they sent me as a thank you!) It was wonderful with grilled halloumi cheese and crispy bacon (Focaccia, not calendar!).  They say that if you are trying to sell your house, be sure to make fresh coffee, but my advice would be to try the focaccia, and perhaps even offer it to prospective buyers. They wonít want to leave.

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