Top positive review
20 people found this helpful
One for my collection
on 30 April 2012
I have made bread for more than 20 years starting with manual methods which, for some recipes, can be extremely tiring and consume many hours although usually in several stages. About 12-15 years ago I saw a TV program where a well-known TV baker and bread-maker was answering a viewer's question and it concerned the use of a bread-making machine. As a professional baker, he did not use one but did admit that machinery is extensively used for some tasks in his bakery - would you want to work 25 kilos of flour into a dough by hand? He thought that they were a good idea and he used two on-air, one started about 2 or 3 hours in advance so that it would be finished on time. He had made another a day earlier so that it would be cold and easy to slice. He admitted that the results were actually very good and I then set to buying one.
My first was relatively basic and very inexpensive and I outgrew it within a year. Its replacement was to have been a Panasonic but the store was out of stock and they substituted a Breadman model, then the top of the range and normally slightly the more expensive. It was very good and had some features that the Panasonic did not have and it lasted until about 2 years ago when the seals around the rotor wore out and it leaked. A new pan cost only £20 less than a new machine so I bought a Panasonic!
Bread-makers should not be despised as they can mix, knead, warm to rise, and then bake. With many, they can be set in advance to have warm (not hot!) bread ready for breakfast if that is what you want. As indicated above, making bread can be time-consuming and require much effort, especially during the kneading process. The bread machine removes all that and allows you to do something else during the 3 hours or so most need for a loaf. Most machines will also allow the dough to be mixed, then removed and some ingredients mixed in, finished with seeds, nuts, salt or sugar and a glaze and placed in a tin or shaped and placed on a tray for oven baking.
When making bread by hand, you normally start with the flour, add a little salt and sugar and the yeast and then start adding water, perhaps half of the total to start and then little by little until you reach the desired consistency. With bread machines, it is different. Most fall into the 'liquids first' group where you would normally add water (or milk) and oil, perhaps egg, and then the dry ingredients and the yeast last of all. The other group is the 'dry first' where it is the liquids that are last into the pan. Either way, the ratio of liquid-to-dry will need to be adjusted to the flour and other variables and you may need to add the equivalent of a few teaspoons of water or a few additional grams of flour for the best consistency. The ratios will vary slightly from one bag of flour to another and from one brand to another.
There is a slight difference between a machine-made dough and a hand-made one; the machine requires a little more liquid to be used (it is boiled off during steam-baking) and it takes a little experience to know when there is enough, too little or too much. There will be a slight difference in results for an oven-baked loaf when compared with a machine-baked one using the same dough mix. The machine steam bakes at a rather lower temperature than the oven would use. You will get a deeper and stronger crust in the oven than is possible in the machine.
The book contains a typical range of about 120 main recipes with most having a variation, as is common throughout the growing series. This is the only one I know that deals with bread, and although intended for machine-made bread, there is no reason why you could not use its recipes and modify them, with a little knowledge and imagination, for manual preparation. I have done that with certain recipes and also turned some others from manually-made to bread-maker use, although you cannot do that in every instance.
The variety of recipes is wide and includes white, wholemeal, speciality and sweet breads, in fact something for just about everyone. The book is well illustrated and is excellent value for money. It is a very good companion for any bread machine. As the machine takes over the responsibility, there is little skill needed other than to know when the dough consistency is correct. The recipes are all very UK-friendly. At the price, you will probably not find better.