I'm telling you all this so you'll know we did not become bread gluttons. Until the last couple weeks, that is.
I've found all my best bread recipes on allrecipes.com. I settled on THIS ONE as my white bread recipe, and THIS ONE that has a little whole wheat flour. Both of them produce good results, but never matched the bread I used to make by hand all the time, back in the 60's and 70's.
And then I found perfection, a machine-made bread that folds over on itself and tastes great!
Actually, I found what I considered a rather imperfect recipe, read everybody's comments about it, and learned from them. Then I added a little of my own knowledge from the past and changed things. Here's how the recipe looked when I discovered it:
"This recipe is easy and foolproof. It makes a very soft and tasty loaf of bread with a flaky crust."
First of all, I wondered why the yeast had to sit for 10 minutes in the water. That's how I used to do it making bread the old-fashioned way, but all the machine breads I've experimented with have risen nicely without doing this. I read through the reviews and ratings and found some advice from someone who obviously knows her bread:
"The basic recipe is good but has some issues: 1) "Bread Machine Yeast" is just another name (purely for marketing) for "Instant Dry Yeast" (IDY) which is INSTANT and therefore does not require pre-proofing in water. Simply add it to your dry ingredients and continue without the "dissolve and foam" step noted. There, you've save 10 minutes! 2) Active Dry Yeast is not Bread Machine/Instant Dry Yeast and it *does* like to be pre proofed as noted in the original recipe. Active Dry yeast is in little round beads about the size of a pin head. Instant yeast is very small and more like little threads of yeast, much smaller than Active. You would need about 25% more Active yeast than Instant. 3) Salt: Salt is normally 2% of a recipe's flour amount. Here we have 410g of flour (check the metric version) so we want 8 grams of salt, or about 1 1/2 teaspoon. The recipe as given is therefore missing 33% of the required salt which is more than just a "taste" problem. Salt will not only improve the taste of your bread (this or any other) but is needed to help the gluten's strength by tightening the gluten strands a little. Bread with too little salt will not only taste bland, it will also be too soft."
I took her advice not to waste 10 minutes soaking the yeast, but I ignored the advice to add more salt, even though she gave scientific reasons for it. I might try it in the future, who knows. Another change I made... I traded melted lard for the vegetable oil. It has to be melted, of course, for ingredients to mix well. During Cliff's years of working at the butcher shop, lard was free, because nobody wanted it. They'd come to get their pork, but leave the lard. So Cliff brought it home if I asked him to. Who knows, that may have contributed to Cliff's heart problems, because I used it in cookies, pie (excellent crust), cakes... everything I baked. Shouldn't I be concerned about using it now, in the bread? Nope. I'm sorry, but we don't have an eternity to spend on this earth, and I intend to eat things that are good. I told Cliff yesterday, "I guess I should feel guilty for not feeding you the right stuff." He didn't answer, so I don't know if he was thinking I'm trying to get rid of him, or if he's on board with my "eat, drink, and be merry" attitude. ::shrugging::
Back to the bread recipe. My friend Brooke gave me some packets of powdered whole milk when I visited her last year, and I remembered my old recipe in the 60's used milk rather than water. So I dumped a couple tablespoons of powdered milk in with the dry ingredients. That's it for my changes, although during the first mix of the ingredients in the machine, I peek in and see if I need to add a bit more water. Sometimes I need to add a tablespoon full, sometimes not.
The bread rose so high the first time, it touched the top of the bread maker! Obviously it hadn't hurt anything to do without the 10 minutes soaking the yeast. When it was done, Cliff and I were amazed at the result. That's how home-made bread is supposed to taste! And yes, you can fold a slice over on itself for a quick sandwich.
But. There's always a BUT, isn't there? It's so good, the two of us somehow were going through a loaf of it every three or four days. My weight, which has stayed gloriously the same for the last several months, began to creep upward. Cliff's too.
"It's the carbs," said the grandson. "No," I said, it's the fact that there are 143 calories in one slice of this home-made bread, and only 40 in the fake store-bought bread that goes by the name "Wonder". Plus the fact it's so GOOD! Yesterday, after resolving not to make bread more often than once every other week, I was fixing dinner for the daughter and her husband and the grandson and his wife. It occurred to me that some nice, hot bread would go great with our meat loaf and mashed potatoes.
I can now tell you that our four guests all raved about the bread, so it's unanimous. It really is that good. Here's my advice to you: Do not make this bread. Once you taste it, you will be able to think of nothing else; the knowledge of warm bread you can make any time you choose will fill your every waking moment, and haunt you in your dreams. Pardon me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard.
That's it for today, except for this item: We bought a camper. It's old and has lots of problems, but it was in our price range. Actually, I wouldn't have bought it due to some of the issues it had, but Cliff liked that it was so small, and he especially liked that it has a gooseneck hitch instead of a fifth-wheel. You see, Cliff often uses other trailers around here, and it would have been a big chore to remove a fifth-wheel hitch in order to hook up another trailer. For my part, it was cheap enough that I consider it a disposable item. If we get two years use out of it, I'll be plenty happy and maybe I'll make a chicken house out of it. It doesn't stink inside, it isn't filthy. If we end up not using it, Cliff thinks we can sell it and get our money back. I'd still buy a cheap slide-in camper, even now, if I found one cheap enough. That's what I really want. All we need is a bed, a table, and a potty, and room to stand up inside.