Ain't Nothin' Like the Smell of Homemade Bread!
I went home over the summer and brought back my mom's Welbilt Bread Machine Model ABM2H52. I've never made bread with a bread machine before - come to think of it, I've never made bread with my hands before either. Regardless, I had been itching to try it for some time now. You see, a few years ago I finally made my first pie crust from scratch and it turned out great! So I've been trying some new things and making bread is one of them.
The above photo is my second loaf of the Ultra Fast White Bread recipe located in the instruction manual that comes with the machine. There are some interesting things I learned about bread machines. The first being that you're supposed to place the ingredients in the machine in the exact order they are listed in the recipe - i.e. add all of the liquid ingredients first (unless you use dry milk as a substitute for milk, which I'm guessing you mix with water first and then add to the mixture as you would fresh milk), then add dry ingredients, and lastly the yeast.
While you have to be careful to follow the order of ingredients, you don't necessarily have to follow the amounts given. For example, I add a few more teaspoons of water to the recipe so that the tackiness of the bread is just right. I find that if I don't add the additional water, the consistency of the bread is too dry. Beware not to add too much water - only add in a teaspoon at a time!
There are also many substitutes for certain ingredients. For instance, my sister-in-law, Jacki, uses half wheat and half white bread flour when a recipe calls for white bread flour. My mom uses olive oil instead of vegetable oil because it's slightly healthier for you. She also replaces dry milk where a recipe calls for milk - as dry milk supposedly allows bread to rise more than fresh milk.
It's important to note that different types of flour can be used. Just know that if you use wheat flour you have to add other ingredients as well - I think gluten (obviously I haven't tried wheat bread yet). Flour is key to good bread and I only use King Arthur Bread Flour (do not use all-purpose flour as it won't rise properly). Bread flour is specially formulated for, well, bread. I recently purchased King Arthur Italian flour and artisan flour to try as well. I'll let you know how those turn out once I make them.
Other basic bread facts worth mentioning: use warm water, store yeast in the fridge after you've opened it, make sure your yeast is active (basically not old).
It's really not difficult to make homemade bread and at first I thought, this seems so easy, why not just make it without a bread machine? Well, I think the benefit of using a machine is that you don't have to kneed the bread, wait for it to rise, transfer it to a pan, constantly monitor it while baking, and stick around to turn the oven off - everything is timed just right with the machine. You can just dump the ingredients in, turn it on, set the machine to the correct setting, leave your apartment to do laundry (if you aren't blessed to have a washer and dryer in your home), and come back to fresh bread!
Ahhh...ain't nothin' like the smell of homemade bread!