Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A new breadmaker..

Six-and-a-half years ago, we bought a breadmaker. After some trial and error, I figured out how to make pretty good bread.. and gradually we went over to using it almost exclusively rather than buying bread from the bakery. Admittedly Cyprus bakery bread is extremely good, but it's also rather expensive. We worked out that the breadmaker would - effectively - pay for itself in about six months if we used it regularly.

It lasted not just the six months, but another six years on top of that with continued regular use. Richard had to fix the pan a few times - something at the bottom worked loose - but the machine itself was reliable, and we had a lot of bread from it. While I used various recipes on occasion, I eventually developed my own standard basic mostly-wholewheat bread recipe which I made, on average, two or three times per week (depending on how many people we were feeding).

And it continued going strong until last week. I had put on some bread, and added the seeds after the beep while the second kneading was happening... then suddenly some horrible graunching noises started. I peered into the pan, and saw that the paddle was no longer going around.

I stopped the machine, I turned it off, I took the pan out and replaced it... but nothing helped. So I left the dough to rise for the second time in the pan in the still-warm breadmaker, then removed it, punched it down, and put it in a bread tin to rise again, and then baked it in the oven.

It came out very well:

... but this was not something I wanted to do regularly.

Richard said that something in the motor had gone and it would be difficult (and probably expensive) to replace. We thought that six-and-a-half years wasn't a bad life for a breadmaker, so decided that we would buy a new one later in the week.

I spent some time reading breadmaker reviews online. When we bought our Morphy Richards machine at the end of 2005 they were quite rare in Cyprus, but they're much commoner now. I thought it might be useful to have some idea of which were the better machines.

However, I didn't find that I was much the wiser. Pretty much every breadmaker I looked at, on Amazon and elsewhere, had mostly good reviews, and a few bad ones. Some of the bad ones were because of poor instructions, and some were evidently due to impatient people expecting perfect loaves the first time. One or two were due to faulty machines which had been replaced.

So in summary, it appeared that pretty much any breadmaker will produce good bread so long as one is prepared to spend some time and effort working through its quirks... but most of the instruction booklets leave much to be desired.


I didn't want to order from Amazon despite fairly good prices, because if by chance anything did go wrong, it would be difficult to replace from Cyprus. And postage costs are high.

Since I refuse to go to Orphanides these days, and Metro doesn't have many electrical appliances, our first stop was Carrefour. And it had exactly two kinds of breadmaker. Both offered long thin style pans rather than the tall thin ones, but one was much wider than the other. We weren't sure that the wide one would fit in the space where we had our old breadmaker.

Besides, the wide one was white (while the other was a smart black that would go with our other appliances) and the wide, white one was also 15 euro more than the black one. Neither were brands that I had looked at online, but both were guaranteed for at least a year. Oh, and the black breadmaker had some extra little pans, intended for baking baguettes.

So we bought the cheaper, smarter, narrower version with baguette pans - it was a Carrefour own brand - and brought it home.

Then we discovered that when the lid was open, it was too tall to fit under our cupboards... so our expected breadmaker slot wasn't any use. That meant that we had to move appliances around... and we decided that the coffee machine would go well in that slot:

Indeed, less than a week later it feels as if it's the correct place, and looks absolutely right. 

The only place without high cupboards was near the sink, so that's where the new breadmaker went: 

The instruction manual explained how the  various buttons worked, but was pretty useless otherwise. So I started with my tried-and-trusted recipe, and it came out pretty well: 

So far, so good.

On Sunday, with our friends coming over in the evening, I thought I'd experiment with the baguette pans.  

Unfortunately, the instruction booklet didn't tell me anything useful.  However, I gathered that I would have to make the dough in the breadmaker - set on 'baguette' setting - then take it out at some point, punch it down, divide it in two, and put it in the little pans.  

I did that, but unfortunately must have pressed a wrong button at some point because the baguette dough rose... and rose... and rose.  The electronic display thing didn't help me much - 'bake' was flashing, but it evidently wasn't doing any baking. 

Then apparently I hit the correct combination of buttons and it started baking. But the huge over-risen dough sagged over the edges, so that by the time I took it out, this is what it looked like: 

When it had cooled a little, I did manage to turn it out of the little pans:

It looked very odd... but, happily, tasted just fine. I made a regular loaf too, which sunk a little, and a banana loaf, which sunk a lot.

So I looked in my favourite book about breadmaking: Fresh Bread in the Morning - and remembered that sunken bread often means that the ambient temperature is too warm. It was, indeed, pretty hot in our kitchen so the following morning when I made yet another loaf for the writers' group that was meeting in our home, I used water from the fridge rather than at room temperature. 

It came out perfectly, although I didn't think to take a photo until after it was sliced:

No comments: