My Bread Machine Routine

Last week I posted 3 of my favorite bread machine bread recipes.  

I promise you, the breads are phenomenal, but, if you don't own a bread machine, you're going to be S.O.L.  I am here today to change that.  

Consider it a public service announcement for homemade bread.  

Yes, its true - you do not need a bread machine to make bread [audible gasp!].  Turns out people have been baking bread since as way back as the ancient cultures of Mesopotamia [a shout out to every world history teacher that never expected the word Mesopotamia to pop up in a lifestyle blog post].  

And it also turns out the Mesopotamians did not own bread machines.  

But I love my bread machine and I am not ashamed to say it. 

It makes baking yeast-rising breads about a hundred times simpler and over the years, I've perfected a bread machine routine that makes it even easier to bake fresh bread at home in bulk.  

So to make this transition to your new friend extra easy [or maybe it's an old friend that just needs to be pulled from the cabinet and dusted off], I am here today to share this bread machine routine with you!  

Try saying 'bread machine routine' five times really fast - I'm not sure it can be done].

For starters [sourdough bread pun intended, bahahaha], my machine is nothing fancy.  

I acquired it from my grandmother when I found it still in its box, brand new, in one of her closets.  She had no idea who had given it to her and she wasn't going use it [hello, grandmas are cool because they do everything the hard way - and they do it well], so she told me I could have it.  

I was stoked.  

And I think maybe this is a testament to how much of dork I was back in the day [ok fine, probably now too], because I'm pretty sure I was still in college at the time and this new bread machine was as cool to me as underage drinking on Northgate at Texas A&M [which I swear I never did, and at the time I acquired it, I was totally of-age to be using this bread machine]. 

So I had my machine.  It was a Betty Crocker, model BCF1690 which is no longer in production.  It is similar to this one, though waaaay less fancy.  I'm sure when it was purchased, it probably cost less $40.  

Bread machines tend to be pretty bulky and large, and I don't know about you guys, but we do not have a ton of space to spare in our kitchen [few cabinets and no pantry].  I store this guy above the refrigerator in the cabinet where most appliances go to die.  When I do go through the hassle of getting it down, I want to make it worth my while.  

I leave it out on the counter baking bread through the course of about a week. Bread is a perishable so as I bake, I am also wrapping up loaves to freeze for the future.  

My basic practice:

Choose 2 to 3 recipes you'd like to make over the course of the week/weekend.

Gather your ingredients to make 2 or 3 loaves of each one.  You'll be making a total of 4 to possibly 9 loaves.  And since you'll already have to buy the 5 lb bag of bread flour, you might as well use it.  I can usually get 4 to 6 loaves out of a 5 lb bag of bread flour depending on the recipe.

Make sure you have plastic wrap and freezer bags.

Pull out all your ingredients and start baking the bread.

5.  When the first is finished, place it on a rack to cool.  After it has cooled to room temperature, you can either pre-slice it with a bread knife [you can use any kind of knife really, but a bread knife works the best] and wrap it in plastic wrap or just wrap the loaf whole.  Place it in a freezer bag with a label of the type of bread and date and pop it [or in my case, shove it] into the freezer.  

The frozen bread standard is about 3 months, but I frequently go longer than that.  The beauty of pre-slicing it is that you only have to take out exactly what you need rather than thawing the whole loaf.  The downside to freezing and thawing bread machine bread is that it can dry out quickly.  Many of the recipes will state that the bread is the freshest if eaten on the day it was made.  Well, duh, but unless your the Duggars, I don't know many families that can consume a whole loaf in one day.

Wipe down/wash your pan and move on to the next loaf.   

Don't let the amount of words fool you, folks, because this process is ridiculously easy.  

Now for my secret bread-baking weapon - my bread bible.  

One day the sky opened up, and the bread gods dropped this book on my kitchen counter and it changed my bread-baking world forever.  Just kidding.  I read a blog about bread making and the author relied on this book and so I bough it off Amazon.  I wish I knew who the blogger was so I could give a shout out, but it was so long ago, I have no idea anymore.  

Anyway, the bread bible.  

 I love this book because the author not only includes TONS of recipes, but also troubleshooting issues like a collapsed bread tops and what to do if your dough is too sticky, too hard, etc.  She also has an extensive list of ingredient resources since some can be hard to find.

Which brings me to my next topic - ingredients.  

Bread making, even in the bread machine, can be a bit finicky in regards to the ingredients.  At its core, bread making is basically a chemistry experiment and with any experiment, you have the get the formula right.  

Expired yeast?  Probably not going to work.  Rancid gluten?  Eh-eh.  Even different brands of yeast can make a difference on your outcome.  

While you do not need to use the exact brands I use, this will at least provide you with a jumping off point.  

Here are the staple ingredients I use when bread making:

Bread flour - Gold Medal Bread Flour found at most grocery stores

Yeast - Fleischmann's Active Dry Yeast also found at most grocery stores

Whole Wheat flour - either Gold Medal or King Arthur's - if your standard grocer doesn't carry King Arthur [mine actually does], a specialty market will or you can order online.  

Salt - the standard Morton iodized salt - other salts like kosher will not fit the measurements the same

Gluten - I use Bob's Red Mill Vital Wheat Gluten.  If a recipe calls for gluten, this is the stuff you need and one little bag goes a loooong way.  It adds a bit of, shall we say, jene sais quoi to the bread.  Actually, no.  It's just a vital ingredient to the structure of the bread.  There are some recipes that do not require gluten such as some sweet breads and gluten-free breads of course, but many do list it in the ingredient list.

I recommend storing all the above [expect the salt] in the refrigerator.  It will increase the shelf life of the product and keep it fresh.  

So who's ready to have a killer bread-making fest with their bread machine this weekend??  This girl.  And hopefully you too!

This post appeared first on Everyday Enthusiastic.  All ideas in this post are of my own opinions including any mention of companies and/or affiliate sites.  No sponsorships were involved in the creation of this post.  Photographs taken by Meredith Wheeler using a DSLR Canon Rebel T3 and edited using Photoshop CC.