Yak's thoughts & tips on breadmachines vs. mixers
The highs and lows of breadmachines
I think bread machines are great - they're what introduced me to the joys of homemade bread. But I thought I'd share the following tip since breadmachines have their pitfalls too. Most breadmachines have a set rising time - so if you live in an area of variable weather (like most of the eastern seaboard and midwest, for example) it can be tough to judge the sugar/salt ratio and the flour/water ratio in order to get consistent results (if you can't change the rising time, you can play with these two variables to affect how quickly the dough will rise). A lot of folks blame themselves when their dough doesn't come out right in the breadmachine because breadmachines are marketed as 'foolproof'. But this is really unfair to the cook - variations (due to environmmental conditions or quality of yeast) between batches for the required rising time are the most common reason for variations in results. Changing the above-mentioned variables can help adjust the rising time... but it qualifies as high art and is dicey even for the most experienced baker. It's much easier to simply adjust the rising time... something you can't usually do in a breadmachine.
One way to get around this is to make the dough in the bread machine, and then do the final rising in a bread pan... putting the bread in the oven once you visually observe that the dough has risen sufficiently.
This is an excellent technique that will increase your success rate dramatically - and at this point, you should be asking yourself... "isn't my breadmachine just acting like a programmed kitchenaid mixer?" And the answer is a resounding, "Yes". If you're lucky enough to own both a mixer and a breadmachine... well then kiddo... you're in luck! (Btw, no affiliation with kitchenaid - I just happen to have a profound love for my mixer. Standard disclaimers apply.)
How you can use your Kitchenaid mixer as a breadmachine substitute?
And why would you want to?
Here's how to use the mixer for bread-making:
- Use the same bread machine recipes - but buy a nice large sized bread pan to bake the loaves. The large size usually accomodates the typical breadmachine recipe.
- Do what you normally do for the bread machine - i.e. add all the dry ingredients first and then add the wet (p.s. I always find my breads come out better if I proof the yeast first).
- Use the dough hook attachment (for the appliance-challenged, that's the white ceramic-over-steel single-arm hook, not the batter attachment).
- Lock the head of the mixer and set the speed to 2.
- Mix for about 2 minutes - or until the dough is consistent. You can add flour or water as needed as you mix.
- I do my first rising in the metal mixing bowl (unless I'm making more than one loaf at a time) - unlock the head and pull it up out of the dough. Scrape off any stragglers. I turn the oven on low for a few minutes to bring it up to about 80 F or so... and either drape a very wet (but not drippy) paper towel over the top of the bowl, or put a glass measuring cup full of water in the oven beside the mixing bowl full of dough. Let it rise for about an hour - it doesn't really matter much how long since this is just the first rising.
- Put the mixing bowl back on the mixer after rising, and let the mixer punch down the dough by mixing it again as above for 2 minutes.
- At this point, dump the dough out of the bowl and put it in the pan. I usually use a butter spray or veggie oil spray on the pan before putting the dough in. If you want to get a little fancy to make a really smooth loaf, roll the dough out flat with one dimension the same as the length of the breadpan, and roll it up in a tube. Place the tube seam side down in the pan. This isn't necessary, tho... you can just put the lump of dough into the pan then and smush it out so it's fairly evenly distributed... it'll come out just fine despite what those old sticks-in-the-mud in the original _Joy of Cooking_ say.
- Put the pan back in the oven and let it rise for the second rising... usually somewhere in the neighborhood of 45 minutes to an hour and a half... depending on the weather and type of dough you're using. Use your judgement as to how long it needs to rise - it should usually double in size.
- If you're lucky enough to have a double oven - set the other oven to 350 F about 10 minutes before you think the loaf is going to be ready for baking. When you're ready - pop the loaf into the hot oven. If you don't have a double oven - don't despair. Just remove the water dish (DON'T FORGET THAT!) and turn the oven on to 350 F. (The advantage to the double oven is just that some of the more delicate doughs will collapse if the heat rises gradually - but it's not usually a problem, and can be combatted a bit by thickening the dough from the outset.)
- Baking times are usually 25 - 40 minutes - you can tell by the color of the bread.
There are 5 reasons for using a Kitchenaid instead of a breadmachine for kneading dough:
- The kneading time is cut down dramatically. Typically, breadmachines have kneading times of 20 - 25 minutes... because the kneading hook is so small. A kitchenaid mixer can do the same job in about 2 - 3 minutes on speed 2.
- A lot of breadmachines bake the kneading hook right into the loaf and you have to remember to remove it - which also sort of messes up the loaf. (I've once given my kneading hook away by accident - but got it back of course!)
- Generally, the kitchenaid is easier to clean up - the dough hook can go right in the dishwasher as can the metal bowl... which has the added advantage of having no crannies for you to spend hours digging out crammed in dough.
- You can make more than one loaf at a time... the mixer motor can't usually handle a double batch at once... but since the kneading time is only 2 minutes... you can stagger two batches easily.
- If you keep kosher - you can just buy another mixing bowl and dough hook for your pareve or fleishig recipes - it's a lot less $$ than buying another bread machine, or kitchenaid for that matter. (For the record, I realize this arrangement may not fly with every orthodox rabbi, but it would be considered okay by conservative Jews - if orthodox you'll have to consult your rabbi.) I like to make desserts with my mixer too - and the best ones always call for at least 2 sticks of butter -g-.
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