Thursday, April 26, 2012

3-minute prep Italian-style bread from your bread machine.

I had been wanting a bread maker for quite some time but couldn't bring myself to purchase one because I felt like I wouldn't use it frequently enough to justify the cost. About 3 years ago I was lucky enough to receive a gently used bread maker from a coworker who swore he never had luck with it. He told me that he was confident I could make great things with it. I immediately set out to prove him right.

I had read through many recipes and they all varied so much that I thought that it would be best to start simple to gauge my machines abilities and decided on a pre-prepared bread mix in a box to rule out any errors I might make with measurements. I have read in a lot of reviews that adding 1/4c of powdered milk will give your machine made bread a smoother texture and improve the overall flavor. I agree and always add it in to all of my bread recipes now.

My prep time was about 3 minutes from box to baking:
  • I added a cup of warm water to my bread machine pan per instructions on the mix box.
  • I added 1/4 c of powdered milk.
  • I emptied the contents of the dough ingredients pouch on top of that (most bread machine instructions have you add your wet ingredients first and then the flour and other inclusions).

But I couldn't stop there! We were having an Italian themed meal that night and I wanted something that could accompany the dinner so I added about a teaspoon each of the following dried seasonings and then added the yeast packet:
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Basil
  • Rosemary
  • Oregano
  • Crushed Red Pepper (increase or decrease to taste)

I placed my bread pan into the machine and started it on a 2 lb loaf with a light crust setting. As the machine started to mix the dough I realized the mixture appeared slightly dry and wasn't forming a ball.
I drizzled in a little bit of water until the dough formed into a ball. After that I closed the lid and walked away. The machine whirred and kneaded and then spent 2 hours filling my kitchen with the most amazing smell.


When the machine beeped to let me know the bread was ready I could barely contain my excitement. The top was perfectly domed and lightly browned. I tipped the loaf onto my oven rack to cool (but couldn't wait the entire recommended cooling time!) and sliced into it to reveal an herb speckled, creamy textured bread.  I was amazed. The flavor was strong enough not to overlook but mild enough not to overpower the meal.


The next morning I took what little remained of the loaf to work for my coworker to try. He was not easily convinced that I had used the same bread machine that he had given me.

With the success of my test bread I have gone on to experiment with other recipes from various websites and bread machine cookbooks. It is a wonderful medium that lends itself to a variety of uses above and beyond slicing and eating. This particular recipe makes amazing croutons and bread crumbs and tastes great when cubed warm from the machine and dipped in olive oil for snacking. A grilled cheese or turkey sandwich made with this bread may ruin you for life. Try it out for yourself and share your leftover (hah!) ideas for this recipe. Thanks!

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