The Bread Maker

by Tina Holmboe 2th of November 2013 (archive)

Not that long ago I finally, after quite some years of not–knowing–what–to–do, surrendered and bought a bread–baking machine.

Yes, a machine to bake bread. My dear old mum would rotate in her grave … no, she wouldn’t. If there was one thing she hated about the otherwise beloved task of baking bread it was the kneading. It didn’t do her shoulders any good either.

A bread–baking machine, for those who do not know already, is an automated kneading–raising–and–baking thingamajig. You pour ingredients into a bowl, put the bowl in the machine, and it, theoretically, do the rest. The best bit, however, is that it can normally do so on a timer. The possibilities for pipin’ hot bread for breakfast was too good to overlook.

Add to it a certain disinterest to keep paying 28 SEK (about 3 quid, more or less) per loaf of bread (good bread is hard to find!) in order to get non–sweetened high–fibre stuff, and you’ll probably understand my choice.

  • It saves my shoulders
  • It gives me fresh bread in the morning
  • It saves ££. It actually save quite a lot of £, when all is said and done.

I’m loath, these days, to get the cheapest whatchamacallit on the market, and so spent a little bit of time smurfing the web. A few details soon became apparent:

  • Not all bread–bakers are equal. Some are more so than others.
  • They all tend to have holes in them. The kneading spade. No surprise.
  • Some are darned cheap. From about 30 quid and up.
  • Some have very interesting designs. Chinese interesting.

It was also surprising to find that locally there’s no such instrument costing more than 200 pounds (or thereabouts).

In the end we decided to support our local industry: Electrolux EBM 8000N, 680W, 15 programs, 3 weights, 3 crusts (light brown, dark brown, carbon). It has a very nice spade, too, which detach and leave a comparatively small hole in the middle of the loaf. The highest price for this machine in Sweden at the time of writing is 1895.00 SEK (182.50 GBP).

The thing isn’t exactly pretty, but neither is it quite as ugly as the modern faux industrial kitchen design trend might have made it. It is rather heavy, tho solid. Overall a reasonably well put–together instrument.

Installation was simple enough: put the lid on the hinges, close, use. As always, clean everything before first use. Industrial manufacturing processes, and human, cleanliness is normally not up to scratch.

Expect first use to go badly — I did, and it did. Luckily I have a most excellent friend who has done this before, and she made it quite clear that this sort of baking takes some getting used to. My first loaf was ready for the bin — not least due to a certain rustiness on the side of the baker. Dry yeast in cold water. ’nuff said.

As I got back into the habit, in particular of measuring ingredients, the result improved. I could also mention that the «quick bake» setting does not include pre–heating the liquid. The normal program does. This feature is important when using dry yeast.

The Electrolux machine arrive with one bread bowl, one baking bowl, one spade, instruction manual and a book of recipies. It is possible to make both jam and pizza dough in it, although it is worth noting that it boils the jam. For what Wikipedia refer to as «raw–stirred jam» (aka. jam made by stirring berries and sugar, with no heat) or, in swedish, «rårörd». I can’t recommend it. It works, but the taste is quite different.

The dough setting is just that: a setting for kneading and raising a dough, without baking it. For pizza it worked well.

Recipes

A drawback to the bread–baking machines is the need to follow fairly specific recipes; tossing in some stuff — the traditional method for many people — does not work out well. Adjusting the base recipes is possible, of course, but one need to take care, do so carefully, and measure precisely. It’s less an art and more an industrial process baking with a machine.

Over the last months I’ve adjusted a fibre–rich recipe I found in the accompanying cook–book until it suits us well. The following produce a 500g high–fibre, non–sweet, bread perfect for all sorts of topping:

  • 300ml water. Pre–heat to 40 degrees C if using dry yeast. Which we do. If the machine you use can pre–heat on its own, let it do the job.
  • 15ml olive oil. As always: use the good stuff. No need for the very best, tho.
  • 15ml dark syrup. I say «dark», as there is a «light» one here. With salt. Avoid this variety.
  • 5ml salt. Use the low NaCl (reduced sodium, in the UK) variety, and cut down to taste. We’re at 75% ☺
  • 275g coarse rye flour
  • 120g fine wheat flour
  • 37g (one deciliter) rolled oats
  • 10ml dry yeast.

In more traditional recipes, 15ml liquid is called a «table spoon» in Sweden (matsked); roughly one dessert spoon in the UK. 5ml is a «tea spoon» (tesked).

Mix in the bowl that come with the machine after inserting spade. Add water, oil, syrup and salt first. Measure out flour and add on top. Finally add yeast — if on a timer, make sure the yeast does not come into contact with the liquid. Select program, weight, and crust if this is offered by your machine. Start. Wait. Enjoy.

The actual preparation work takes no more than ten minutes. If you pre–measure ingredients into suitable, separate containers this could be cut to even less. Baking time may be as long as five hours, but unless you have a very, very queer machine you don’t need to be involved at all.

A few things were learnt during the process …

  • When adding the flour mix, try to make a pyramid–shape in the middle of the bowl, and place yeast on top of this. The spade, by its design, have trouble reaching the corners of the bowl. This may, of course, be different on your machine.
  • Do not try doubling the recipe. I’ll spare you images of the resulting mess.

Economy

An important, if not the most important, factor of the bread baker is economy. It’s not, however, entirely easy to break down. What cost should I assign to freshness, better ingredients and tighter control of salt intake?

In this section I’ve decided to ignore those bits, and focus on the per loaf cost as compared to the bread we normally purchase. All numbers are in Swedish crowns; all conversions to British pounds using an exchange rate of 1 SEK == 0.0962871 GBP (1 GBP = 10.3856 SEK) as retrieved from the XE Currency Converter at 10:28 on the 29th of September 2013.

Ingredient Amount Cost
Dry yeast 10g 0.59
Olive oil 15ml 0.60
Syrup 15ml 0.30
Rye flour 275g 3.11
Wheat flour 120g 1.32
Rolled oats 37g 0.31
Salt - -

The final cost, per 500g loaf, is 6.23 SEK or roughly 0.60 GBP. A week’s worth of four loaves means 24.92 SEK (2.40 GBP). Compare this to the store–bought bread we normally eat (a high fibre variety called «Äntligen») which comes to 25.95 SEK (2.50 GBP) per loaf. We purchase two per week.

A saving of 26.95 SEK per week, or 1401.40 SEK (134.93 GBP) per year.

At the end of the day we get high–fibre, low–NaCl, zero–preservatives bread at a good half the cost per week. In roughly a year, the machine is paid off.

All in all I’m quite happy with the purchase.