Today, Kate shares a compact, frequently used favorite solution for achieving fresh baked bread at home:
Years ago, my mother bought me my first bread machine. We were shopping together and it was an impulse purchase; one that I treasured simply because my mother -- who was suffering from serious health problems at the time -- had given it to me. After a period of using it, however, I made the dispiriting discovery that bread coming out of the machine all tasted kind of the same, all appeared in an unnatural cube shape, and all featured a peculiar hole at the bottom left over from the kneading blade. And so, I left the bread machine behind while packing for one move or another, thus ending my career as a bread machine user.
That is, until last year, when an ad for the Zojirushi Home Bakery Mini Breadmaker in my beloved King Arthur Flour catalog caught my eye, reigniting my interest. Zojirushi is a Japanese company and a top-notch maker of bread machines, rice cookers, and other kitchen electronics. And as promised, the Mini Breadmaker is an ideal size and shape for small kitchens with limited counter space -- like mine -- and easy to use with a large range of features.
Given my first experience with a bread machine, I now never use the machine to actually bake bread, but instead have it do all the labor-intensive work of kneading and rising. The machine is particularly valuable for eliminating the vicissitudes of the rising cycle, a delicate temperature-sensitive operation that can be difficult to manage with exactitude in a New England apartment. When the dough is finished, I bake it in the oven in a regular-shaped pan and the results are fantastic. (No unnatural cube shape and no funny holes in the bottom of the loaf!)
I've also found good friends in two cookbooks, both of which offer a fine selection of recipes designed for small-sized bread machines: Rehberg and Conway's solid More Bread Machine Magic and the encyclopedic The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger. I now use my bread machine at least once a week, and am happy each time with the loaves I produce and the many types of bread with which I can experiment.