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Paul's Grains rye field, July 2006

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Bread Machines
We are often asked how to use whole grain flour and cereal in a bread machine. Because we do not have a bread machine ourselves, we asked a customer, Elaine Carr of Oregon, to share what she has learned in her many years of using a West Bend bread maker (unfortunately, these are no longer being built) and a Welbilt bread maker.

Here's what Mrs. Carr had to say:
We got a breadmaker in the first place because we both like homemade bread, and I was simply not home long enough at a good time to make it. I worked part time in our local library for some years, and a rushing schedule isn't compatible with the care one needs to give to bread making. We figure the machine has more than paid for itself in actual dollars and cents over buying ready-made bread.

You get a little better bread product when using conventional pans in a conventional oven, but machine-made bread is quite acceptable. I have an Oster Kitchen Center with dough hooks with which I made many wonderful half-whole-wheat loaves in the past. But one needs to be around to be watchful and punch the dough down at the right time, so I haven't made bread conventionally for quite a while.

I checked a Consumers Guide on breadmakers -- the book was a year or so old. It did not recommend machine-made breads "in less than an hour" as the quickly-raised bread is not a real good quality. It mentioned that many manufacturers have dropped out of the bread machine market. It said Salton is owner of Breadman, Toastmaster and Welbilt, thus dominating the market, and is also maker of Sears' and Walmart's Magic Chef. They advised checking for counter space before buying, as most machines are 12 or 13 inches tall, 10-11 inches deep, and 10 to 19 inches wide. They said more of the bread pans now are a more traditional shape. I see on the internet that West Bend has come out with a 9 inch high machine which makes a 3/4 pound loaf (it is small!) baked in 45 minutes. Perhaps this small loaf would be better quality than some.

My favorite machine's loaf pan is a tall one -- 5 x 5" bottom, 7" tall; and white bread may rise an inch or so higher. My more "traditional-shaped" breadmaker pan is about 7" long, 5" wide, and 4.5" high, white bread rising an inchor so above the top. Each of my bread makers makes about a 12 or 14 slice loaf. When our son's family visited there were 8 of us around the table, so I set the bread machine to bake twice daily. It is only a 10 minute job to drop the ingredients into the machine.

Practical tips:
Anyone using my recipes should add them into their bread pan in the order which their machine maker recommends. My machines require liquid first, then other ingredients in the order I have them. Other machines may have other instructions. Each machine will have different "quirks" and you'll have to experiment to see what works best.

If the ingredients are put into the bread pan in the evening to finish for breakfast the next morning, do not use a recipe requiring egg as spoilage could occur. Also, yeast should not touch salt -- put them in opposite corners because the salt would weaken the yeast.

After the dough is well mixed, I touch it lightly with a finger-tip to be sure of amount of liquid in the recipe. In regular white bread, the "feel" should be like hand-mixed dough which has risen some -- this is for my better machine. If too dry, I add perhaps a teaspoon or so more water. If too wet, I add a tablespoon or so of flour. For my other machine, the dough needs to feel a little drier, because the dough will fall some if too moist. For a machine which a relative of ours has, which seems to bake too quickly, more oil and water seems to help, so the dough in that case should feel pretty sticky. Dough containing egg will be more moist to the touch after being mixed up.

Exact measurements are extremely important with bread machine use. Flour, for example, must not be dipped up with a cup from the sack. It should be spooned into the cup with a tablespoon (I use a serving spoon), so that the flour is somewhat lightened, though not sifted. Do not shake cup of flour to level it. Fill a little over-full, then level off with knife blade.

I save money by purchasing yeast in the 2-pound sack and keeping it in the freezer. I take it out of the freezer only long enough to measure out the quantity I need, then pop it right back into the freezer. That quantity lasts me several months.

I use only sunflower oil in recipes requiring vegetable oil, as I prefer the flavor. I haven't been able to find it everywhere in recent years, so a person might need to search around a little if they wish to use it.

More tips (these adapted from a book about the West Bend breadmaker):
Adapting bread recipes for the bread maker requires some experimentation. Here are some general rules which will help:
For each cup of flour used in the recipe, use:

  • tablespoon sweetener (sugar)
  • teaspoon salt
  • tablespoon fat (butter or margarine)
  • 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast or teaspoon bread machine/fast rise

Breadmakers vary. One of my machines requires a tablespoon or so less liquid for a satisfactory loaf.

If you don't get a successful loaf the first time, remember that the "failure" can be used in bread-and-milk to make a good snack or satisfying supper. And don't forget old-fashioned bread pudding with its healthful eggs, milk, and delicious touch of cinnamon!

When using grains which do not contain as much gluten as white flour contains, a tablespoon of gluten for each cup of flour and/or other grain may help. The gluten powder can be purchased at some grocery stores, and our health food store has it in bulk.

I have small cups for my blender, which are good for grinding small amounts of rice, oatmeal, flax seed, etc.

Some of Mrs. Carr's favorite bread machine recipes:

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