Monday, May 26, 2008

Screw you! I love my bread machine!

The bread machine, once thought of as a boon to people who didn't have the time or counter space for "real" baking, has taken quite a beating lately. Now that foodies have returned to making things the old-fashioned way, this appliance has become the redheaded stepchild of many cooks and Food Network stars. I even found this quote from Mark Bittman: "You can buy mediocre bread easily enough, or make the real thing without much practice." Pfft.

My trusty Oster, that replaced my trusty Black & Decker of ten years ago, finally gave up the ghost. I noticed it was making a wretched noise, and then one day the little kneading apparatus just froze. Mid-cycle, of course. Ever see an unmixed loaf of baked bread? I don't even know why I bothered chiseling it out of the pan.

So, with the promise of a bonus plus a $600 check from Dubya, I decided it was time to make some kitchen purchases. Things like new oven mitts, silicone spatulas, a waffle maker (oh, we'll have fun with that), and a new bread machine. This time I wanted something that wasn't going to up and die, and wasn't going to cost me a million dollars (what up, Zojirushi?). I finally settled on the Sunbeam. Inexpensive, good reviews, and a trusted name. Also, hello? Free shipping!

The first loaf was a disaster. I got the recipe from a cookbook I had used many times as an omnivore. I flipped through a couple more books, and decided that this particular recipe just blew, and that after years of reading other recipes, I could probably make my own. So I made this one this morning. It's a spicy and tender loaf with a nice crunchy crust. I recommend it for a hearty tempeh reuben or muffuletta sandwich. Or just plain with Earth Balance and a bowl of minestrone.

Spicy Sun-Dried Tomato Bread
makes one 2lb loaf

1 cup hot water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp salt-free Italian seasoning
1/3 cup leftover mashed potatoes
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
6-8 sun-dried tomato halves, snipped into little pieces
a few twists of black pepper
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

handful of desired nuts/seeds. I used a mix of pine nuts, slivered almonds, and pepitas.

Put all ingredients except the nuts in the machine according to the manufacturer's instructions. Set the machine for basic, medium crust. 2lbs. Add nuts or seeds at the raisin cycle beep. Cool finished loaf on a wire rack.