Saturday, January 20, 2007

the folly of automation



Quick quiz: this is a) my brain on beer; b) a relief map of some mountain range that Calvin made for geography class; c) my first bread machine failure.

If you guessed "c", you are correct. Usually when I try a new recipe, or mess around with a recipe as I did here, I watch the machine for a while to see if more liquid or more flour needs to be added as it mixes. In this case I was making a whole wheat flour bread and I optimistically substituted ground flax seed for oil, as the flax seed package claimed I could do. What the flax seed package did not tell me was I may need to increase the amount of water during the first kneading. And, because I followed directions and set the machine for the "whole wheat" cycle, there was a thirty minute warming/resting period which supposedly allows the whole wheat flour to absorb the liquids, which supposedly makes for a lighter product. But during that thirty minutes I got distracted, went away from the cook shed, and did not return until some time between the first and second kneading. What I found then looked a lot like what you see here; a mound of crumbly, dry dough. I added more water, but by then it was too late to affect the texture of the bread. It still smelled nice as it baked, however, and the birds or squirrels or rabbits or deer might enjoy it.

Ideally, I would not leave the task of making homemade bread to a machine. In the kind of life I want, I would not spend nearly fifty hours of my week away from home, earning enough money to buy my bread from the store. I would knead the bread by hand, and gradually learn the intricacies of bread making.

Despite what they say, machines don't always make life easier or simpler or create more free time.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

If the birds don't appreciate this loaf, let them eat cake!

But, in general is the bread machine pretty handy or just one more gadget to store?

pablo said...

We finally got rid of our breakmaker after it sat idle on the countertop for years and years, taking up valuable real estate. I'm not sure what was wrong with ours, but our loaves would ALL come out like the one in your picture. The would never rise. We used commercially available mixes designed for the machine, and we even supplemented the yeast sometimes, but nothing made a difference. So after a few dozen hockey-puck loaves of dense bread, we sold the machine at a garage sale with an admonition to the buyer that it seems to have a problem.

Deb said...

FC- something sure appreciated the loaf, I didn't see any chunks left out there today. Of course, those outdoor cats will eat anything...that is, anything they don't have to hunt for. They're lazy.

That's a good question, and I'm not sure I know the answer yet. In the beginning I was making a loaf or two every weekend, then around Christmas I got away from it, and I'm finding it hard to get back in the habit. I do like some of the breads I've made, and I like to have control over what ingredients go into them. But 99% of the time it is taking up a lot of space, which I don't have.

pablo- Something must have been wrong with your machine. I've had pretty good results up until now, although I still haven't found the secret to making a whole wheat bread that rises as much as I'd like. I did make a great tasting loaf of "corn bread" last night; it was actually more of a white bread with a little corn meal thrown in, and I added garlic and sesame and quinoa seeds for a little something extra. I can't stand the thought of making a pure white bread without extra "nutritionals" thrown in!

Anonymous said...

I found that making sourdough forces me to get a loaf going. I can't let my starter die, can I?

The NYTimes recently had a recipe for no-knead dough (no machine required!). I heard it was pretty good, texturally like an artisan loaf (good crust, big holes). I think it required a couple of days, but most of the time in the fridge. Might be worth checking into. :)