Once upon a time we had an elderly breadmaker, which a friend gave us because she couldn't get it to work. I managed to make some quite good loaves of bread with it, and also had some terrible results. Particularly in the winter and summer where Cyprus temperatures can be extreme. To make it worse, the machine had only one setting that worked (the basic loaf - no variations) and only one possible size (about a 500g or 1lb loaf) which wasn't really big enough for the four of us, even if the bread was successful.
Time passed and we gave up trying, and the breadmaker sat on a shelf gathering dust. I did try making bread by hand a few times, but it was so messy and such a lot of effort that I didn't bother. We have a perfectly good Perseus bakery just around the corner, so it was much easier to buy bread there for lunch each day.
Nearly two years ago we bought a second-hand food processor, and found that it could make and knead dough. So for a while I baked bread again, the hard work done by the food processor. Although even then it was a bit of a hassle, as it meant I had to start before 10am and stay around all morning to deal with the rising and punching down and baking. But it was great bread...
Then the food processor started making graunchy noises whenever I made bread dough. Perhaps we were working it too hard. And life got busier, or I got lazier, and we went back to buying bread at Perseus. Not so tasty or nutritious, but still very good.
Then I found myself pondering breadmakers again. A new one, with lots of settings for different types of bread, and different sizes. Perhaps it would even be better temperature-controlled, to allow us to make bread in extreme temperature conditions. I read reviews, and noted the ones that sounded the best. We were given quite a lot of Christmas money from various relatives, and I thought about it some more. On the Thursday before Christmas we went to a party, and the hostess had baked some wonderful bread, using a Severin breadmaking machine. I was so impressed, I thought we might go and look for one for ourselves.
Christmas Eve, and I had to buy one or two last-minute ingredients which I'd forgotten. We went to Orphanides, not our usual supermarket, but a bigger one with two upstairs floors containing clothes and electrical goods. We went to have a look at breadmakers. There were only three in stock: two Morphy Richards fastbake machines, and one Severin, like the one we saw on Thursday. Similar price, similar capacity. Both machines that did well in reviews. I would quite have liked the Severin... but there were no English instructions. Only a short booklet in German. We could have waited until January for some new stock, but Richard decided we'd get one there and then. Probably wise, or we might not have got around to it for ages.
So we bought a Morphy-Richards fastbake, complete with clear instructions and a guide with lots of different recipes. I studied it carefully.
On Christmas Day after church I found a power socket (rather lacking in our house) in our bedroom, and put in ingredients for a wholemeal loaf, exactly as described. I set it off, then forgot all about it until mid-afternoon. It had evidently risen, and then sunk again. It was like a loaf with a crater. It tasted all right, but rather dense. The troubleshooting guide wasn't much help. Yes, I did measure the ingredients successfully. No, it certainly wasn't too hot in the room.
On Tuesday I tried again. This time I did it in the kitchen, and it barely rose at all. Indeed, it didn't even mix the ingredients in properly. So we ended up with a floury brick. It just about made toast, but was chewy and generally not very nice. Perhaps the kitchen was too cold... the booklet did say that under 15C results weren't necessarily very good. It wasn't sunny on Tuesday, and the kitchen could well have been colder than that. It might explain the lack of rising, but I've no idea why it mixed so badly. Again, the troubleshooting guide was no help. Yes, I DID measure accurately!
So I went to play.com and ordered a book about making bread for breadmakers. One of the reviews I read of this machine said that the only problem with it is the recipe guide.
On Wednesday, I tried the dough setting. I used my favourite wholemeal honey recipe from my food processor bread days, did the kneading and first rise in the breadmaker, then turned it out, punched it down, rose it in a bread tin, and baked in the oven. This time a beautiful loaf emerged, just like we had previously. Very successful.
But I really wanted the breadmaker to do the whole thing, so today I tried the same recipe (ie NOT one of those in the machine booklet) on the ordinary setting. I kept an eye on it. The sun was shining so the kitchen was warmer. And it came out well. Rather taller than I expected, and the top - which rose beautifully during the rise cycle - made a little crater. But it was good bread and we were pleased with it.
Tomorrow I may try a smaller size, since it was actually too big for us. It might be a better shape - since the same baking pan is used for all sizes - as it wouldn't be so tall. Or we might eat the leftovers (currently in the freezer) from the last two loaves, and wait until the recipe book arrives.