There are, of course, rules that must be obeyed: Breadmakers are not flexible – they do what they do. Because of this, they rule, not you, so you can’t be casual about it and not follow the manual precisely. In fact, once you get to know the ropes, you will begin to use it on automatic pilot, without even thinking about it. To familiarise yourself with the process, its best to start with the manufacturer’s own recipes, then move on to others (including mine). The most important rule of all is to add the ingredients in the correct order according to the manual – that one is not negotiable.
What’s going on in there?
Of course, it’s like putting a cake in the oven: the suspense is killing you and you’re dying to know what’s going on. Well, it’s okay during the mixing to lift the lid and have a peek – in fact it’s better If you do so after about 10 minutes, as it might need a bit more flour if the mixture is too soft, or a bit more water if it’s too stiff. After that, when the dough is rising and baking, peeping is strictly not allowed, as it can drastically affect the temperature and spoil everything.
Flour and yeast
The good thing about a breadmaker is producing bread with no additives from the best-quality flours. (I’ve discovered that Carrs Flour Mills the clever people who invented sauce flour to prevent lumps in sauces, have developed a range of high-quality mixes specifically designed to be used in breadmakers, which come complete with their own sachet of yeast.) There is also a special powdered yeast suitable for use in machines.
Yes, if you don’t follow the rules! Also, bread doesn’t like extremes of temperature, which can kill the yeast, so ingredients need to be at room temperature before you start. They must all be weighed accurately, too, so if you’re not the weighing type, don’t buy a breadmaker. Lastly, if you’re going to leave the machine on a timer, when you place the ingredients in, make sure the yeast is not in contact with the liquid.
To sum up, I think breadmakers are great – the natural flavour of wheat in freshly baked bread with a crisp, crunchy crust is one of life’s simplest and pleasures. Add to that some creamy Normandy butter and home-made preserves and, believe me, eating doesn’t come much better.