At some point when early woman got home from chasing a wildebeest across the Serengeti and still had to knead her bread dough, she stopped and thought, gee there are a lot of steps to making bread. It would be much easier if I had a machine to do all this for me.
Thus was the breadmaker created.*
* It’s possible this isn’t precisely what happened. Not likely, but possible.
I have such a breadmaker, a gift from a relative whose faith in my ability to make bread without a breadmaker is… fairly accurate.
Unfortunately, it turned out my ability to make bread with a breadmaker is not much better.
I think a lot of this can be blamed on my height, but I’m getting ahead of myself.*
* To be clear, I’m not short, it’s just that much of the world is designed for people who are ridiculously tall.
When I recently switched up my diet to improve my fitness for monster hunting, supermarket bread became a problem. I live in New Zealand, which is a tiny market, so we miss out on all the best brands of healthy foods. Like bread that doesn’t contain added oil, milk, or white flour, all things that science tells me are going to turn me into monster fodder.
It wasn’t too hard to figure out healthy substitutions for these ingredients. Mashed banana works for oil, soy milk for cow’s milk, and wholemeal flour (whole wheat flour for you Americans) for white flour.
Anatomy of a breadmaker
Then I had to figure out how to use the breadmaker.
I downloaded a pdf of the instruction manual to my laptop and was good to go.
For some very good reason that entirely escapes me, the instruction manual separates the description of the steps to use the machine from the list of ingredients with half a hundred pages of slow-loading and entirely irrelevant information.
And as you may be aware, pdfs are not designed for flicking from one page to another.
But I was up for the challenge. I just had to avoid getting too much flour–wholemeal or otherwise–inside my laptop keyboard as it sat on the kitchen bench.
In case you have the skill to make your bread the original Serengeti way and have never come across a breadmaker, let me describe one for you. It’s essentially two buckets that sit one inside the other. The outer bucket is square with a lid and is full of wonderful electronics that perform the bread magic. The inner bucket is literally a metal bucket with a mixing blade in the base. It’s where one ought to put the ingredients.
Inside the outer bucket (but outside the inner bucket) are a heating element and other important electronicky things that–and keep this in mind because it will be important later–prefer not to have flour tipped all over them.
And did I mention that the blade inside the inner bucket is removable for cleaning purposes? Keep that in mind too.
The first attempt at baking healthy bread with a breadmaker
Okay, so I was set. The outer bucket of the breadmaker was set up on the bench, in reach of a power outlet and nowhere it would melt anything too important if excessive heat came out the back.
The inner bucket was on the bench beside the ingredients, all ready to be filled.
Just a few disagreements with the pdf file, and I weighed the correct amount of flour.
That was when the “not short” part came in.
You see, when the outer bucket is sitting on the benchtop, its rim is at my eye level, so I can’t see inside it. It’s not that I’m a total incompetent.
I was ready.
I tipped my flour into the bucket.
The outer bucket, that is–the one with the element.
Then I went back for yeast and found the inner bucket, the one that should have been a cosy bed for the loaf.
It’s not as easy as you’d think to upend a breadmaker and get all the flour out. Plus I’m not sure they appreciate being shaken.
The second attempt
On my next try, things went better, or so I thought.
All the ingredients went in the correct bucket in their correct quantities. The inner bucket went inside the outer bucket. I found the right menu setting, and pressed start.
My bread would take five hours to cook, but that was fine. I had things to do.
Two-and-a-half hours later I entered the kitchen to a delightful mixing sound.
Clearly my breadmaker was doing his bread magic.
I pulled a mug out of the draining rack and found, artfully concealed beneath it, the breadmaker’s mixing blade.
I paused the breadmaker and opened it to find, after two-and-a-half hours, an entirely unmixed slop of flour, water, and other things that go in bread.
And floating in the middle was the desiccant packet out of my flour.
And so on it went
Once I fully cooked a packet of desiccant into my loaf of bread. According to the internet, they’re not poisonous.
So many times I lost count, I forgot the mixing blade. Yes, it got so bad I made my own copy of the recipe, and added a first ingredient: mixing blade.
I also had my fair share of failures to rise, compression upon slicing, and escapes of pterodactyls.
But eventually I learned to make bread and it has no added oil. Now if someone can just tell me what wheat gluten is and whether I should avoid it.
Have you ever failed so badly at following simple instructions? Share your fails and make me feel better about my life.