Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Beautiful Blue Mixer

So my breadmaking adventures continue. My beloved mother bought me a professional 600 Kitchen Aid mixer for my birthday, which I really really wanted (primarily to make bread). Well at first I was kinda upset (a little) b/c they are really expensive $300 +. But after she told me she got it on sale at Williams Sonoma half off b/c of the color. And it's really not a bad color, it's b/w pastel blue and seafoam- a nice shade really. Maybe I'll post a picture of it whenever my husband helps me figure out how to post pictures- technical difficulties.

I am really really thankful to own a lovely piece of kitchen equipment that performs so well. Really you should hear to motor- it really sounds like it has some power. I finally got around to making bread in it last friday, kneading the bread in there was so quick. I have actually kneaded bread by hand (MESSY!), but this was a nice medium b/w hand kneading and a bread machine. The bread machine is a closed system allowing little input from the use. The mixer on the other hand requires some thought to knead bread. It is up to the baker to decide if the dough has a good consistency- too wet or too dry. And the baker must decide when the dough has been kneaded adequately and it's pretty quick in a mixer so I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to overknead some bread (adversely affecting it's ability to rise).

My first attempt at bread baking using my pretty blue mixer went well, I can't take too much credit. I followed a recipe and the bread turned out pretty and tasty. If anyone has tips on whole grain baking (100% ) I'd love to hear them.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The death of my breadman

So article title catch your attention? Well it is just like it sounds: I killed my breadman, breadman breadmachine that is. I became interested in making my own whole grain breads about a years ago. My dear husband (fiance at the time) gave me the bread machine, I selected after much research, for a Christmas gift last year.

I tried for half a year to make bread in that bread machine. There were a few loafs that came out, most were hard as a brick. Now many home bakers out there probably have good results with their breadmachine. But the trick is making whole grain bread in the bread machine. It just doesn't work most of the time, and the loaves don't turn out as well if you make them by hand.

What am I suggesting you do all that messy kneading by hand, not really. I just received a kitchen aid mixer as a birthday gift after reading rave reviews (and hearing some in person) about it's ability to quickly knead yeast dough. I haven't used it much yet, but I'm very optimistic about the results.

I will say I have made rolls and several loaves of bread outside of my bread machine. I did all the kneading by hand and it was messy but my kitchen survived. The resulting bread (100% whole grain) was light and very tasty. Even the best whole grain bread is not white bread, it is not white and super spongy. It tends to be denser, heartier, and more flavorful.

I have some thoughts on why whole grain breads work out better not baked in a bread machine:
1. Whole grain breads are far denser, the dough is heavier- most motors in breadmakers can not handle this load of work

2. Whole grain breads need to be kneading for longer periods of time, I found my breadmachine was not kneading the dough a sufficient amount of time. I have read a suggestion to run the knead cycle twice, but I couldn't tinker with the cycle of my breadmachine. When I did run it twice it ended up overheating, leading to its demise

3. Whole grain breads needs a longer rise period, the dough should double in size this is not always a exact time. It really takes a person there to monitor when the dough is ready to go to the next stage.

Now I'm not knocking the breadmachine without reason, I love the idea of load it up, walk away, and have beautiful bread 4 hours later. But the reality is whole grain bread baking is best done away from the bread machine. These have been my experiences, too bad I had to learn the hard way. Many brick hard loaves of bread later I've learned good whole grain bread is worth the effort and time it takes to make it by hand. Try it for yourself and tell me if you agree or don't :)