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  • Your new ABM- Where to begin
  • Advice about recipes
    ---- Size
    ---- Bread machine recipes
    ---- Adapting conventional recipes for your machine
    ---- Liquids
  • Other Ingredients
    ---- yeast............................---- honey, fat
    ---- flour.............................---- cinnamon
    ---- gluten...........................---- commercial bread boost
    ---- ginger...........................---- lemon juice
    ---- salt...............................---- raisins, dried fruits, nuts
  • Order in Which to Place Ingredients in the Machine
  • Delayed Start Feature
  • Crust and Crumb
  • Bread Machine Books

    Your new ABM- Where to begin...

    When you first get the machine, the best thing to do is read the manual! (Later, after you've made a few loaves, read the manual AGAIN, highlighting things you'd forget with a yellow marker.) Then try an "easy" loaf- either plain white bread recipe or use a good-quality bread machine mix. Pay attention to the dough. After the mixing starts, it will form one cohesive ball. As the kneading continues, the ball will get smoother- it will not crack (too little liquid) nor will it smear on the bottom or sides of the pan (too much liquid). If you touch it (go ahead, it's ok!) the surface will feel slightly tacky. If you poke it, it will give a little.

    If your first loaf doesn't turn out good, first go to the "troubleshooting" section in your manual and try to figure out what went wrong. Then definitely get a mix (perhaps from another store in case the whole batch was bad) and try again. If it still doesn't work, call the company. If you can't get any help, bring the darn thing back. Get another model of the same machine, if you like, or another brand if you can. Don't waste your time with a machine that doesn't work with an easy bread!

    Getting the paddle out: (of the finished bread, of course)! Just stick a chopstick in the hole in the paddle and pull it out of the bread.
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    Advice About Recipes

  • Size. A recipe that calls for 2-1/2 c or so of flour will give a small (1 lb) loaf; 3 c flour is a medium/large loaf (1-1/2 lb). Some machines make 2 lb loaves but most recipes give the 1 lb and/or 1-1/2 lb versions.
  • Bread machine recipes. Recipes for other bread machines might need to be adjusted for yours, the most common adjustment being in the ratio of liquid to flour. For bread machines, it is best to keep the flour constant and adjust the liquid. Use the recipes in your manual as a starting point. The guide that I use for my Toastmaster is 1 c liquid to 3 c white bread flour. If I see a recipe with more liquid than that (including eggs) I hold back about 1/4 c and watch the dough. If it does indeed need more, I add it a tablespoon at a time. If the recipe is still too wet, I carefully add flour. Keep note of any additions so the next time you can get it right from the start. After the kneading stops, watch the dough for a while. If it spreads out in the pan bottom, there was too much liquid and the finished bread probably have a sunken top. Your manual will tell you other symptoms of too much liquid. Next time cut the liquid back further.
  • Conventional bread recipes. I haven't had any trouble converting for use in my bread machine. Often the conventional recipes will call for approximately 5-6 c flour for two loaves of bread. I just cut the recipe in half using 3 c of flour and adjust the other ingredients the best I can, often by comparing to a similar bread machine recipe that I know works. As mentioned above, I also reduce the liquid disproportionately the first time I make it. If the recipe calls for less than one egg just add a whole egg and cut down on the other liquid even further. Most recipes will work with your machine's basic cycle but if the bread has more sugar or honey than usual, or if the bread rises but not as much as it should, you might try using another cycle such as the sweet cycle.
  • More about liquid. Other things that will affect the amount of liquid for the dough include: - the humidity in the air. Some, not all, recipes are affected. I have had a tried-and-true potato bread recipe overflow the pan in the summer due to the humidity
    - the moisture content of the flour and/or whether the flour has settled. The amount of liquid seems to vary from brand to brand of flour, and even season.
    - use of delayed start feature. My manual says to cut down on the liquid by 1 T if the delay feature is used. This is a good idea, as I found out by experience! Remember, bread with too much liquid will rise too much.
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    Other Ingredients

    Read your manual for general advice about ingredients. These are my impressions and opinions.
  • Yeast. Some people get passionate about the yeast used. I have tried the major brands- SAF, Fleishmann's, and Red Star, and variations on each- active, dry (the foil packets in the grocery store), instant (also sold as "bread machine yeast"), and others. I suppose if I took one basic white recipe and ran a number of controlled tests, I might detect differences. The fact is, I haven't seen any remarkable differences that I could attribute with certainty to the brand of yeast. I'm not denying that other people might; maybe their source of one yeast is more reliable than their source for another so they often get bad batches of brand X. In particular, I've read people who claim Red Star or SAF is better than Fleischmann's. But I've used Fleischmann's in foil packets, in jars, and now in bulk from King Arthur and never had any trouble. As always, YMMV.
  • Flour and gluten. For most breads, you should use bread flour. It has a higher protein content, which forms more gluten during kneading. However, I have made bread with all-purpose flour and prefer it once in a while. The bread doesn't rise as high, but it certainly rises. The bread is denser and not as fluffy. So we're not talking about the difference between rousing success and abject failure here (at least not with the flours available in the U.S.); to my way of thinking, it's just different. If you can't get bread flour and your bread doesn't rise enough, try adding gluten (vital gluten, available at health food stores). You will need about 1 tsp per cup of all-purpose flour and 1-1/2 tsp per cup of whole wheat flour. By the way, you can also make bread with 100% whole wheat flour. It won't rise very much, but it is good in it's own way. You can add gluten, as above, to increase the rise and soften the texture. Mixing it with bread flour is another way to go.
  • Brands of flour. There probably are differences but the only thing I've noticed is that I have to adjust the amount of liquid depending on the brand. The most extreme example was for A&P's America's Choice all-purpose flour for which case I had to add over 1/2 c extra flour for a given amount of liquid! (I weighed several cups of flour and the weight was the same as other brands.) Many people swear by King Arthur bread flour. I found a bag locally and tried it; didn't seem to be remarkable. Again, I'm sure if I made a basic white bread with various brands of flour and compared them side-by-side I could detect a difference (it won't be a big one, that's for sure). But with most of the whole/multi-grain and flavored breads it probably doesn't matter in the flavor. (Of course, as I don't notice differences among yeast or flour, it might just be that I'm not as discerning as other people!)
  • Honey, fat (oil, butter). In addition to providing flavor, these ingredients will help keep the bread fresh for a longer period than without.
  • Cinnamon. The manual for my machine says too much cinnamon inhibits yeast. Something to consider if your cinnamon bread doesn't rise much.
  • Ginger. Rumor has it that a little ginger (1/4 tsp/loaf) enhances yeast action. I haven't seen any authoritative word on this though.
  • Lemon juice. Contains vitamin C (ascorbic acid) which works as a so-called dough conditioner. My Toastmaster manual calls for it in most of the recipes, so I use it. Pillsbury and Gold Medal bread flours have ascorbic acid already (read the bag!).
  • Commercial "bread boost". Has gluten, ascorbic acid, and perhaps another additive. It's awfully expensive and fortunately, I see no need for it myself since I'm satisfied with the rising of my bread. The sourdough bread boost was interesting though in containing sourdough solids for flavor.
  • Salt. Controls yeast activity (you don't want them to run out of steam before the second rising!). Don't increase it much, but you can leave it out of most recipes if you need to. If the bread rises too much, cut back on the yeast a little next time.
  • Raisins, dried fruits, nuts. Most ABM will pulverize these during the kneading process so they are added at a later point to minimize this effect. Some machines will beep when it's time to add the fruit or nuts. Mine doesn't but I just set a timer to go off 10 minutes before the end of the second kneading, i.e., I set the timer for 30-35 minutes as soon as I start the machine. If you find that the fruit or nuts don't get picked up and incorporated into the dough, next time make the dough a bit softer... i.e. add a little more liquid.
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    Order in Which to Place Ingredients in the Machine

    Your manual will suggest that you place the dry ingredients in first with the yeast on the bottom in a pile (older and lesser used method) or to put the liquid ingredients in first, then the flour and other dry ingredients, with the yeast on the top. The important thing is to keep the yeast away from the liquid and the salt until the bread-making begins; this is especially important when the machine won't start mixing the dough for several hours. I follow the liquids-first-then-dry method, but instead of putting the sugar and salt on top of the flour, I add them to the liquid. I've never had problems with inconsistently rising loaves. In a discussion on rec.food.cooking, someone mentioned that they did have rising problems until they switched from placing the salt on top of the flour to adding it to the liquid under the flour. It is likely that this method helps dilute and distribute the salt to that it doesn't hit the yeast in a mass all at once. So I recommend placing ingredients in the pan in the following order: Return to the Table of Contents

    Delayed Start Feature

    This is a great innovation. It allows you to put the ingredients in the machine in the morning and have hot bread waiting for you when you get home, or to put the ingredients in the pan at night and wake up to hot bread. I do advise that you: - reduce the amount of liquid by 1 T when using delayed-start
    - use only a tried-and-true recipe; this is not the time to experiment!
    - even with tried and true recipes, test a new batch of flour first to make sure the amount of liquid will be OK
    - be especially careful when the inside atmosphere changes from dry to humid. For example some (but not all) recipes will require less liquid in the summer compared to winter, especially when heating systems dry out the air.
    - have a machine with a "cool down" or "keep warm" feature so the bread doesn't get soggy if you can't remove it from the machine as soon as it's done (what if you don't get home on time?).
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    Crust and Crumb

    My machine makes perfect crust for me. The nature of the crust will depend on the recipe: a typical white bread will have a thin and crispy crust, that with whole wheat will be a bit thicker and tougher. I have read complaints from owners of other machines that the crust of their bread is too thick and tough. I'm not sure what the difference is- perhaps the timer, heat, or even thickness of the bread pan. You will find that the crust can be softened if you like by putting the cooled bread in a plastic bag. Leaving the bread out in the air (cut side down to keep it fresh) will keep the crust crispy. The crumb will also depend on the ingredients- flour, milk, eggs, fat, gluten, etc. will all affect the density of the crumb as well as its tenderness and fluffiness.
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    Bread Machine Books

    There are a number of highly recommended books for beginners. Look for those by authors' names of Rehberg, Conway, or German (e.g. Bread Machine Magic, Linda Rehberg & Lois Conway). I don't have any of those myself but those who do really appreciate them. I only have two right now:
  • The Best Bread Machine Cookbook Ever: Ethnic Breads. Madge Rosenberg, Harper Collins, 1994. The source of my beloved Welsh bread recipe. For that alone it would be worth the cost. But there are many other nifty international breads, including a lot of sourdoughs.
  • Electric Bread. Suzan Nightingale, Innovative Cooking Enterprises *I.E.C., Inc., Anchorage, Alaska, 1993. Beautiful photos of interesting breads, as well as sources of supplies (which they sell via their "Accessory Hotline"). The book is pricey but Barnes and Noble counts it as a hardback and gives 20% off. This is the source of another of my favorites- Honey Mustard bread. "Absolutely Apricot" bread is delicious, too.
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    Updated: May 10, 1997
    Comments or questions? Write to me at suemaster@interport.net . ( NOTE: remove "master" from the address)

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