Saturday, October 28, 2006

Weekend Cookbook Challenge #10: Neglected Kitchen Appliances/Gadgets

If your kitchen is like my kitchen, lurking in the back of one the cabinets, in the "junk" drawer, under the sink or maybe even in the laundry room is at least one kitchen gadget or small appliance you just HAD to have but now never use. It might be a waffle or rosette iron. Maybe it is a micro- microplane that promised to give the finest zest and all it really did was mangle the skin of the orange and your knuckles. Or you felt bad at that "kitchen party" your mother in law's best friends daughter was giving and bought that never have to measure again measuring cup. Yup, I own them too, unused and unloved kitchen gadgets. So, for this month's Weekend Cookbook Challenge, hosted by the ever gracious Sara and co-hosted by yours truly, the theme was to not only cook from a neglected/rarely used cookbook but cook a recipe using an appliance or gadget that you rarely use.

This was a hard installment for me. Not only because I had no idea how much pressure there is to come up with a really good post as co-hostess (Sara, my hat is off to you as you do this every month...whew), but because every drawer I opened all month reveled yet another implement I don't use nearly enough. After much gnashing of teeth and changing of my mind, I finally settled on a small kitchen appliance I don't use very much at all, my bread machine.

I have a love/hate relationship with my bread machine. I love the idea and convenience of a breadmachine. You throw all the ingredients into a pan, plop the pan into the bread machine, push a few buttons and in a few hours with little effort, Voila! Fresh baked bread. If you have a "fancy" bread machine, you can even hit a time delay and come home from work or wake up in the morning to a fresh, warm loaf of bread. The problem with bread machine bread is that it isn't really all that good when compared to hand made fresh bread. Yes, they smell the same when they are baking BUT there is always this slightly yeasty taste to bread machine bread that I just can't ignore and the texture just isn't the same; not to mention the therapeutic value of hand kneading the stress of your day away.

Recently, both MBH and I have had very hectic schedules that start very early in the morning and don't end to very late in the day. My crockpot has never been neglected and has recently seen action at least one or two times a week. A few weekends ago, while pulling the crockpot down from my appliance cabinet yet once again, I spied behind it my Sunbeam bread machine. I had used it for the first time in over two years about a month ago when I made Clam Chowder for the last WCC but back up to the top shelf of the cabinet it had promptly gone, to be forgotten about once again. This time the thought of fresh baked bread to go with our meal that I didn't have to come home from work to make was too good to pass up. So, down came the bread machine. I decided to make a whole wheat loaf from Bread Machine Magic to go with the pot roast I was fixing in the crockpot and decided to be really brave and use the delay bake function. Heck, I thought if I leave the crockpot on all day so why not have TWO appliances fixing dinner at the same time. It would be like having Rosie the Robot Maid from the Jetsons in my kitchen. So, with the mental image of us walking into the house to the lovely smell of pot roast and fresh, homebaked bread, I put all the ingredients into the pan. Using some weird complex math, I figured out the loaf needed 3 hour and 50 minutes to go through it's cycle and if I wanted the bread to be done about the time we were walking through the door which was 14 hours later I needed to add that many hours to the time and then subtract the cooking time to account for the baking time. I ended up using my fingers to count up hours and imagined the bread machine having some diabolical overload and the house burning down so decided to do a test run of the timer and have it bake the loaf overnight to be done about the same time we got up to start our day. The next morning, MBH and I woke up to the smell of fresh baked bread. "mmmm...that smells good", I thought. MBH came out from his shower and told me he thought the machine had "misfired or you figured wrong". The bread was good but not great. The loaf was a bit heavy since 100% wheat flour doesn't develop gluten the way good bread flour does and this was even more noticeable in the breadmachine loaf. The final consensus from MBH was "it was ok but I wouldn't want a lot of it. I liked that round loaf you made a few days ago better".

The very next night, I decided since we both like waking to the smell of fresh baked bread and I was fixing spaghetti for dinner, to try a loaf that should be closer the boule MBH liked so much. The manual that came with my bread machine had a recipe for French Bread. Once again, I put all the ingredients into the baking pan, used my fingers to count out how many hours I needed to delay based upon the machine cycle time for a crusty bread, and turned the machine on. Like the morning before, we woke to the smell of bread but the results were even more disappointing. The loaf was crusty but the flavour of the bread was extremely yeasty. We both ate the bread but the loaf was not finished. "You know", MBH told me, "I really like your hand baked bread better" and I agree.

Thus, I suspect that once again, my bread machine will find itself back behind the crockpot to languish and gather dust until the next time I'm too lazy to make bread by hand.

Heavenly Whole Wheat Bread
from "Bread Machine Magic"

Makes a 1 1/2 pound loaf

1 1/8 cup water
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoon butter softened
2 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup potato flakes
1 1/2 teaspoon bread machine yeast

Place all liquids in pan (including butter), combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and place into baking pan, make indent on top of dry ingredients and place yeast into indent. Select Light crust, whole wheat setting on machine. After bread is done allow to cool for one hour before slicing.

French Bread
Sunbeam Breadmachine User Manual

Makes a 1 1/2 pound loaf

1 cup + 2 tablespoon warm water (75-85 degrees)
2 tsp. butter softened
3 1/4 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp bread machine yeast

Place the ingredients (except the yeast) into the baking pan in the order they appear in the recipe. Make an indentation into the dry ingredients and place yeast. Select crust color and if your machine has a French bread selection use this (machine cycle should be 3 hours and 50 minutes). If your machine doesn't have a setting for French bread or one that is
3 hours and 50 minutes, select the dough setting. If using dough setting, preheat oven at 400 degrees. Form a large baguette, boule, or torpedo, let rise until double for 30 - 45 minutes in a warm, draft free place and bake on a lightly greased and floured baking sheet.