Like most women out there who have husbands obsessed with kitchen gadgets and garden gadgets and brewing gadgets and just plain ol’ gadgets in general, I am the proud owner of a bread machine.
And like most women out there who have a bread machine, I was irritated at the ridiculously shaped loaves that our bread machine produced. Who on God’s green earth wants a loaf of bread that is 4″ wide and 9″ high? What kind of sandwich does that make? And where can you even store such an oddly shaped loaf?
So I did a little research and a little experimenting and I figured out how to make bread in the bread machine that is actually useable and store-able.
*But wait, BrewsterMama! Why don’t you just make bread by hand if you’re set on making homemade bread for your family?! Well, the truth is – I’m a lazy kneader. I hate it. It hurts my wrists. If the recipe calls for 10 minutes of kneading, I’m lucky to make it to 3. And since kneading is what helps develop the gluten that makes bread light and airy, my handmade bread could hammer nails. I knew there had to be a better way!
If you want to make oven bread in your bread machine, the first step is to make sure your machine has a simple dough setting. This usually gets you through a good long knead and the first rise.
Then, add your ingredients to the bread pan in the order specified by the recipe. My go-to bread for our family is this Light Whole Wheat Bread.
For a 2 lb loaf (that I make into 2 x 1 lb loaves):
-1 1/2 cup warm water
-1 Tbsp vegetable oil
-3 Tbsp honey
-1/2 tsp salt
-2 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
-1 1/4 cup bread flour
-1/3 cup gluten
-2 tsp active dry yeast
Once you’ve added the ingredients, start the dough setting on your machine. (For my machine, it’s a 1 1/2 hour process.) When it beeps, it’s time to do a little work to make this bread your own.
Take the dough out of the bread pan and separate it into two equal pieces. Roll each piece out on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle approximately 6 or 7 inches by 9 or 10 inches.
Idealy, it will be about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Then, begin to roll your dough up from the short side, stopping to seal it along the edge every complete rotation or so.
Once you’ve got the whole loaf rolled/pinched, place it seam side down in a greased loaf pan.
Repeat the process with the other half of the dough. Then, cover your loaf pans with a clean kitchen towel and leave them somewhere warm until your dough is doubled in size and pretty much fills the pan. (This takes about 30-40 minutes, depending on how warm your house is.) Don’t skip this step or rush it, as you’ll end up with super dense loaves otherwise.
Once your dough has risen again, pop the pans into a preheated 350º oven and bake for 30 minutes. I would check at 25 minutes, though, as sometimes the bread is done early.
I almost always end up with one loaf that is bigger than the other, as shown in the photo above. I’m apparently incapable of evenly dividing a hunk of raw dough.
But size non-withstanding, this is our family’s favorite method to get homemade bread with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of usefulness.
If you’ve got a bread machine gathering dust in the garage or in a cupboard somewhere, haul it out, dust it off, and give homemade bread a shot. It’s better and easier than you remember!
*Note: The only place I have been able to find gluten for baking around me is Whole Foods Market, though I know you can order it from Amazon. Also, I use whole wheat bread flour instead of white bread flour, but this recipe works just as well (and is a little lighter and more like standard white bread) with the regular bread flour.*