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The Warm and Easy Joys of Electric Bread

There's a reason why bread machines have been such a hot gift item these past few years. Low-carb diets notwithstanding, there is something about the smell of a yeasty loaf baking in the kitchen, ready for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. A slice of warm, fresh bread is the perfect accompaniment to a healthy soup and salad.

Healthier Eating

So, why bring that bread machine out of storage, or go to the trouble of getting one now? Breads can be very healthy, and they are certainly satisfying. The trick is to choose your recipes to match your lifestyle. With whole wheat and oatmeal as ingredients, breads can give you a healthy kick of fiber. Superfoods Rx: 14 Foods That Will Change Your Life by Dr. Steven Pratt and Kathy Matthews explores 14 multi-nutrient foods that can significantly contribute to healthier living. Oats is one of the key foods, but the often forgotten pumpkin is another. It provides loads of provitamin A, which is essential for normal growth and preventing night blindness.

Look for other recipes in the library and online that use oats, nuts, berries, and whole grains to get the most nutrition out of your healthy loaves.

Special Event Baking

Warning: this section does not contain whole grains, vegetables, or unrefined sugars! Consider this the sugar and spice part of the bread machine's personality.

Holidays are a perfect time for friends and loved ones to "break bread" around the table, whether it be loaves, wreaths, buns, or crescents. A number of holiday favorites have been adapted or can be adapted to your machine. As with all cooking, children can be a big help when it comes to measuring ingredients. A standard bread machine recipe that bakes in the pan can seem like magic to young ones, but these Easter treats take only a little more time and make for a sweet memory.

For Mardi Gras, try to make your own King Cake, a sweet bread glazed with icing and sprinkled with colored sugars. For Passover or Easter, the bread machine makes Challah and Hot Cross Buns much easier.

Tips for Better Baking

Bread machines are easy to use, but the right ingredients can make the difference between success and failure. Here are a few tips to make your baking go better.

  • Note the differences in ingredients listed. Bread flour has more gluten than all-purpose flour and will give your bread a bigger rise and a different texture. Likewise, rapid rise yeast is not the same as regular active yeast. Don't try to substitute!
  • Salt is part of the chemical reaction that goes into bread's rising and can not be omitted from recipes that call for it.
  • If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of yeast, it means that much and no more. A standard packet of yeast may contain as much as 2 1/4 teaspoons.
  • Store your flour, dried fruit, and yeast tightly in the refrigerator or freezer after opening. Whole wheat flour in particular has a tendancy to go off flavour if it's not carefully stored.
  • Try softening a stick of butter for about 8 seconds in the microwave before adding it to your recipe.
  • Keep your pantry stocked with basic ingredients such as oats, honey, molasses, yeast, applesauce, nuts, and dried fruits.

Below are a some titles on bread machine baking from the Central Rappahannock Regional Library. Click on any book or video to go to our catalog for the full listing. Our patrons may request that an item be sent to a favorite branch.

The Best Bread Machine Cookbook Ever: Ethnic Breads by Madge Rosenberg
Has more than 200 recipes for breads enjoyed throughout the world. The author is the owner of Soutine Bakery in Manhattan, and these recipes represent twenty years of her creativity.

The Best Low-Fat, No-Sugar Bread Machine Cookbook Ever by Madge Rosenberg.
"Most of these aromatic loaves contain 5 percent or less of fat. On top of that, these fresh-baked doughs contain absolutely no sugar or artificial sweeteners. All that is added are natural fresh and dried fruits, vegetables, and grains for extra flavor and vitamins, minerals, and fiber."
Don't miss the chapter on dessert breads: Biscotti with Dried Cherries, Chocolate Tea Bread, Tart Tatin, and more!

The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook: A Master Baker's 300 Favorite Recipes For Perfect-Every-Time Bread--From Every Kind of Machine by Beth Hensperger.
"Can the incomparable taste and texture of handcrafted bread from a neighborhood bakery be reproduced in a bread machine?"
This James Beard Award-winning author thinks so! More than 300 recipes, everything from crusty ciabattas to coffee cakes to tangy sourdough.

The Gluten-free Gourmet Bakes Bread: More than 200 Wheat-free Recipes by Bette Hagman
Bread machine recipes can also work for those on special diets. Bette Hagman is an authority, providing expert advice on how to use abread maker to make gluten-free bread.

Pizza, Focaccia, Flat and Filled Breads From Your Bread Machine: Perfect Every Time by Lora Brody, with Lynne Bail, P.J. Hamel, and Cynthia Salvato.
The grande dame of bread-making delves into old and new American favorites. Some recipes use the dough cycle only; others bake in the pan.

Rustic European Breads From Your Bread Machine by Linda West Eckhardt and Diana Collingwood Butts.
"With a bread machine to do all the hard work, and experts Linda West Eckhardt and Diana Collingwood Butts as guides, anyone can turn out a perfect sourdough, raisin pumpernickel, focaccia, or any one of a myriad varieties of classic European breads. The trick is to use the machine for what it does best - mixing and kneading the dough that produces the loaves we all love so much. Then leave it in the machine to rise, shape it by hand, and bake it to perfection in the oven."