Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Year in Bread: The First Bread Machine Bread

On Monday, I decided to take my new bread machine for a spin and see what it can do when it bakes a loaf directly in the machine.  Since it was a test drive, I used the most basic white bread recipe in the book that came with the machine.  This wasn't a fancy bread--water, flour, sugar, dry milk, salt, butter, and yeast.  It's the type of bread you use for peanut butter and jelly.  Or grilled cheese.  Or anything kid-oriented. 

I was happy with how the bread came out.  I like that this machine bakes "sandwich loaves" that are horizontal, versus the tall vertical ones my last machine made.  One side was higher than the other.  I guess the two-paddle system doesn't always result in even loaves.  It also took a lot of shaking to get the bread to release--and one paddle came with it.  That's okay, though.  It wasn't a big deal.

Overall, the bread was everything you would expect a good white bread to be.  Fine-grained and chewy.  A good canvas for peanut butter and jelly.  It will probably be made again and again in our house, since peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are a staple here. 

Not bad for a Monday morning--tossing ingredients into the machine as the kids eat breakfast.  As usual, the best thing about making bread in the machine is how well it fits into our family's busy schedule.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Year in Bread: Cinna-buns

Just baked

Slathered in icing

Last night was the first night of Hanukkah.  It was a big day in our house.  We held Jasper's third birthday party in the morning (a little early--his birthday is not until the 17th, but this season gets so busy).  Then it was time for a nap, and it was already getting dark around here when everyone was up. 

It was Kassidy's first night of Hanukkah ever.  She really enjoyed her activity cube.  And it was the first year that Jasper really understood the whole concept of Hanukkah.  He was very excited about the candle lighting, the gift giving (a little too excited--all week, he was trying to tell Kurt what he was going to give him for the holiday), and the gift opening.

I received a new bread machine from everyone.  Not just any bread machine.  The bread machine.  A Zojirushi Supreme.  I've had my eye on it for a while, but I had a bread machine that I had been using for years.  Lately, it has been pressed into frequent use these past few months, and the results have been getting more and more unpredictable.  I can't complain--it's about nine years old now, and never went through years of hiatus, the way many bread machines do.  It served us well.  But, now that we are going through two to three loaves of bread--easily--per week, it was time to upgrade and what better occasion to justify it than a holiday?

Unfortunately, I woke up this morning with a tightness in my throat and a fogginess in my head.  This is not a good time to get sick.  I have my co-op day at Jasper's preschool on Tuesday, my in-laws coming over to celebrate Jasper's birthday/the 6th night of Hanukkah on Thursday, and my parents flying in for a weekend visit on Friday.  Not a good week for this at all.  But, I still really wanted to test out my new toy.

So, I've had a pajama day today, and spent the morning making Cinna-Buns, using my new machine.  Once the ingredients were in the pan (and at room temperature, thanks to some gentle coaxing from the microwave--I really didn't plan ahead for this one), the machine made quick work of the dough.  A little less than 2 hours later, I was able to roll it out, fill it with generous amounts of butter, brown sugar,and cinnamon, roll them up and have them on the second rise by 9:15.  The house smelled amazing.  Everyone had fun playing with their new gifts while the cinnamon rolls were being made.  But, they totally stole the show as our mid-morning snack. 

The recipe works beautifully--which is generally my experience with anything King Arthur Flour publishes.  Sure, they were super (super super) rich.  But, they are a "sometimes treat."  The kind of thing you make when you have a whole Sunday in pajamas stretching out before you.  The kind of thing you make when it is cold outside, and you can feel the hot cinnamon and bread warming your belly.  Warming your belly so much, in fact, that everyone's nose starts to run a little, the way it does for hot soup.  These cinnamon rolls are a little like blankets on a plate.

Since I got a new bread machine for Hanukkah, and have been baking so much bread, I have decided to embark on a new project.  No, it's not the new year yet.  But it's never too early (or just way too late?) for a New Year's project, right?  I invite you to join me as I bake my way through the year.  It is my goal to bake the vast majority of my family's bread products this year.  Since I love to write, and have not done nearly enough of it since Jasper was born, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to combine these two things I love.  Happy holidays, and happy baking!

Being enjoyed