I know it is time that can stop you using a bread machine. I admit that I sometimes put the machine back in the cupboard for a while before it comes out again. My bread machine came out of the cupboard when the price of a large sliced loaf went up from 75p to £1.23.
Did you know recent research has shown that not all breads you buy are as low in fat, as you think. Many breads have fat added in the form of hydrogenated oils, added to improve taste and to keep the loaf fresher longer, the research showed three slices of some brands had more fat than a Mars Bar. It is best to check the bread wrapper and choose loaves with less than 1g fat per slice or make your own.
I was bought my first machine ten years ago and did actually wear it out, but not before having several failures. I really should have worked out in the beginning that it was not always me getting it wrong. My machine included a recipe book with guidelines on the ingredients required to make a white or wholemeal loaf. The instructions state, "many external factors can affect the taste and texture of the bread e.g. yeast type, flour type, sugar type, kitchen temperature, even air pressure and height above sea level" - yes even that one surprised me. Some comfort I suppose when you take out a mess from the breadmaker that you may be too near the beach!.
The other suggestion the instructions give is that you follow the recipes in their booklet until you have got the hang of the machine. Also it's important that you add the ingredients in the right order. If the yeast gets wet it may activate too early, and if it comes in contact with any salt in the recipe, it may not work properly.
One discovery I have made is that the flour plays a very important part in the success of your loaf. All flour is graded in accordance with the wheat quality and mix, but the required information on how high the grade is I can never find on the bags of flour I buy. The best is to buy flour that states "bread" or "strong" flour. If you can find a locally milled flour that is even better. I have managed to find a farm shop that sells strong flour that has been ground on a stone. I have successful bread every time now.
My recipe is a very simple one for a 1.5lb size loaf. Put the ingredients into the machine in this order
1 teaspn dried semi-skilled milk powder
1/4 teaspn of salt
375g of strong white flour
1 and half teaspns of dried yeast for bread machine (sprinkled on top of the flour)
You will note that I do not use any fat and very little salt.
The Russell Hobbs Breadman Pro has other uses, making cakes and jam, and an important feature is a memory clip, so if you accidentally switch the machine off while it is baking, or you have a power cut the program will carry on afterwards.
I was brought this bread maker as a joint Christmas present a few years back by my parents in law, and I was really chuffed, as it was something I had wanted to try out for ages.
The first thing that took me a back was the size of it. Once out of the masses of packaging the actual machine is very large. Unless you have a huge kitchen this is not one you will be able to keep out on the work surface to use whenever you fancy it. In my case it takes up a large chuck of the space and I have to store it in a large cupboard when Im not using it, as space is a premium in my kitchen. You are looking at around 30cm high x 40cm wide and about 24cm deep. In line with the large size it is actually very heavy and you need a good grip on it when transporting it from cupboard to work surface.
The actual aesthetic side of the Breadman is great though and it does look professional even though Im sure professionals dont use Bread Makers! and I love the smooth curved look of it. It is very ergonomically designed with the lid cruising into a pointed corner, where you can slip your fingers underneath to lift up easily. The buttons are all placed in one area together on the top of the machine and are extremely simple and straightforward to follow in terms of setting up the machine. Also included is an excellent Instruction & Recipe booklet which I have used every time I get this machine out, not to follow instructions on how to turn it on as this is very easy to master, even down to memorising the codes for the various settings, but the recipes in the back of the book are great and actually are the types of bread I make most often so are extremely useful.
##WHAT CAN IT DO?##
Well, in my opinion it can do everything I need it to in terms of cakes and breads. For instance the most popular breads that I make in this machine are the Basic White Bread and the 100% Wholemeal Bread, both of which are so simple to do. The recipes at the back allow you to follow them easily by listing the ingredients in the order you place them in the baking tin, which is easily removed using the handle from inside the machine. For instance on the Basic White Loaf you need Water, Oil, Salt, Sugar, Dried Milk Powder, White Bread Flour and Yeast. It lists the amounts and if you follow the order it says in the book your bread will come our perfectly. This is due to the fact that the liquids must be added first, then the salt and the remainder of the powders and finally the yeast. If the yeast gets too wet too early it may activate it before you are ready and again it should not come into contact with salt until the kneading process begins. Yeast is very temperamental and it makes a huge difference in the end results.
But this machine doesnt stop at loaves, it can also make rolls, cakes, dough & jam. I have tried to make the rolls using the tray rack they supply with the machine but found this to be extremely fiddly and it was hard to judge the amount of dough to put on each section to make the individual rolls and I always seem to use far too much, making them emerge from the bread maker all hard and over sized. I frequently make cakes though and I have never been happier or had better results when doing home made cakes than when I use this. Again you follow the recipe instructions and put the ingredients in, in the order of the list to ensure perfect results. I regularly make Madeira Cake and have done it for the School Summer Fair Cake Stall, and everyone seems to be happy with the results. The thing I like about this is that it does all the mixing and stuff for you. All you really need to do is throw in all the ingredients and push a button. I have experimented too in terms of adding things to plain cake recipes to see how they turn out. This is a great way of finding your own versions of traditional ideas and starting a new family recipe.
Once you have kicked the bread maker off to cook your bread or whatever the length of time taken to cook depends on the setting. There is a facility to choose normal or rapid for all the various settings, so for example if I wanted to cook a basic white bread I could chose setting 3 for a normal cook, which would take 3 hours 10 minutes or setting 4 for a rapid cook which would take 2 hours 10 minutes. I very rarely use the rapid cook facility as I am home all day and usually make bread around my plans. However occasionally I have started a loaf off, then realised I have to go out and it would have finished whilst out. This is not a problem in terms of still having fresh bread as it keeps the bread warm for an hour after the cooking process has finished, so you can still come home to that gorgeous freshly baked bread smell and a warm loaf. The other benefit of the keep warm feature is that if the bread is left in the machine after cooking has finished and it is not kept warm the moisture from the heat will soak into the bread and you will end up with a soggy loaf.
There is also a timer feature where you put everything in ready to cook and set the timer button (up to 18 hours in advance) which is great as you can set it on Saturday night so you wake up to that delicious mouth watering smell of freshly cooked bread. Perfect with a Sunday breakfast. A word of warning on this though and that would be to make sure you add the ingredients as instructed and keep the yeast well away from liquids and salt to avoid it activating too early and spoiling your Sunday treat.
##OTHER THINGS I HAVE FOUND##
This is a great Bread maker and I have used it countless times with fabulous results, however there are a couple of things that are really annoying and a pain in the dough!
The first being the kneading arm. This is the small bit of metal that fits into the bottom of the tin and once the Bread Maker has been started it is this that mixes everything up together. There are a couple of problems with this, the first being that once the bread has cooked and finished it ALWAYS gets stuck in the bottom of the loaf and is almost impossible to get out without wrecking the bottom of the loaf. This is fine if the loaf is just to be eaten for tea with your family as who really cares if the bottom middle part looks a mess, but if you have made it for a dinner party or for a more impressive reason this really is a bad feature. The more you use the bread maker the more it will lose its non-stick on this part and this just heightens the problem ten-fold.
The other problem I have had is that it doesnt always seem to mix everything up adequately. Peeking inside the lid after the mixing process has taken place you can quite often (especially on the cakes) see a lot of dried ingredients, like the flour, in the corners of the baking tin. This is easily mixed in by using a wooden spoon to flick it out and into the centre where the kneading arm is rotating, but I feel this should be something that was addressed in the designing of this machine, as I would like to just throw in the ingredients and go away until it beeps to signify it has cooked.
Despite the couple of annoying things I have found with this bread maker I am overall very happy with the product. When we first got it I made fresh bread nearly every day and loved the feeling of being able to make something that without the aid of the bread machine I would never have a chance of producing at home. I have found with a couple of the recipes that the bread turns out to be slighter sweeter tasting than I would like but I have adjusted this by adding less sugar than they recommend and the results were less sweet tasting bread but no adverse side effects so it does pay to experiment with the tastes and textures you like.
There is a facility to chose the type of crust you would like on the loaf and I have tried all of them through the three options of light/medium/dark and personally I prefer the medium setting as on dark it makes the corners of the loaf very crusty and my teeth cant take that, where as on light it leaves the crust pretty anaemic looking and not so appetising. Medium is definitely what it says and is the perfect crust for us.
I do struggle to get the baking tin out once the loaf has been cooked as the handle is obviously very hot and there is not much space to get a grip on it when your hand is covered in an oven glove or tea towel and again trying to turn the loaf out can be fiddly but this is something that you will find a technique for through use.
As you use the bread maker, if like me you are not super careful of the sides of the tine it will lose its non-stick and this will cause problems turning out the loaf or cake. On cakes I have combated this by a few squirts of Fry Light around the edges before adding the ingredients and this aids turning out very well. I have tried this with the bread but it seems to leave an aftertaste on bread that is not present on the cakes. I usually just poke down the edges of the tin with a wooden spatula now before attempting to turn out but it does still stick sometimes on the bottom and coupled with the kneading arm problems this can become a rather messy job.
As this was a present I am unsure where it was brought from or for how much but this was also a good four years ago so the detail is probably not helpful now anyway. I have searched for the product online and found it only to be available on eBay for around the £50 mark. Amazon did sell it but are currently out of stock. This version has obviously been updated since we got ours but if you are looking for a simple to use bread maker that makes loaves up to 2lb in size then you really cant go far wrong with this one, so if you can get your hands on one I heartily:
Short name: Russell Hobbs 10008