Have Dental Floss, Will Travel

Mapping the world, one waxy strand at a time…

Cue the Fool

I thought bread machines were supposed to be foolproof.

Over the past 24 hours, I’ve tried to take advantage of my new used bread maker two times. Well, three times if you count the one that never even made it into the machine.

Attempt #1 – Rosemary Whole Wheat Bread (allrecipes.com)

I placed all the ingredients save for the yeast into the mixer. Never having baked bread before, I wasn’t well-acquainted with the usual yeast measurements, and somehow, reading through the recipe, I got it in my head that I needed six packets. So, off I went, back to the grocery store, to stock up. “Man, baking bread is expensive,” I thought to myself as I wandered down the baking aisle.

Luckily, I realized my mistake before placing the mixer into the machine; it turns out that each packet of yeast contains several servings, not the one serving as I was led to believe.

So, that batch went into the garbage, and I started over.

Attempt #2: Rosemary Whole Wheat Bread (allrecipes.com)

This time, I put all the ingredients – properly measured – into the machine, and turned it on successfully. I scrolled to the ‘whole wheat’ setting and pushed ‘start.’ And waited. For four and a half hours.

I checked on it periodically. It was clearly going through each of the different stages, but nothing was happening. The ingredients weren’t mixing together. The bread wasn’t rising. It smelled good, but it was still a gooey mess.

When the buzzer sounded at 10:30 last night, I turned off the machine and pulled out the mixer. I looked at the final product forlornly and left it in a tupperware container to cool so that I didn’t melt the trash bag.

The recipe called for regular flour and I’d used whole wheat. Maybe that was the problem. Maybe it was that the whole wheat I used was ‘stone ground’ whole wheat, rather than run-of-the-mill whole wheat.

I went to bed feeling like a failure. But when I woke up and came downstairs to clean up the mess, I realized the problem. When I’d thrown out that very first batch, the mixing blade went into the trash with the rest of the flour and milk concoction. So even though the second loaf had gone through the full cycle, there was nothing in it to turn it into dough. Hence the gooey mess.

Problem solved! I dug through the trashcan, found the missing link, and scrubbed it clean.

I went through the rest of the day, eagerly awaiting my third attempt this afternoon. I even went to the grocery store to buy regular old whole wheat flour.

Attempt #3: Honey Oatmeal Bread (allrecipes.com)

Today I decided to try something different, after yesterday’s rosemary fiasco. I had all of the necessary ingredients, so I threw everything into the machine in the proper order, put it to the ‘whole wheat’ setting, and pressed start.

This was another recipe that called for regular old white flour. Again, I substituted whole wheat – I just can’t rationalize baking white bread. But it was the new whole wheat flour, rather than the stone ground.

After I pressed start, I looked at some of the comments on the recipe, and several of them mentioned that the recipe should have called for extra yeast and an additional quarter cup of flour.

Oh well, I thought. Too late now. Maybe it’ll surprise me.

I went out for a run while it baked, and had a glorious five mile tempo workout with a friend. A nice confidence boost after falling off the speed workout wagon over the past couple weeks.

When I got home, the bread still had a couple hours to go before it was done, so I puttered around, did some work for a conference this weekend, and peeked under the lid every now and again. Maybe that was the problem. Maybe I shouldn’t have opened the lid.

When the timer beeped, I pulled out the mixing container, and my face fell along with the loaf. So much for fluffy homebaked bread. It was better than yesterday’s slop, but as the user comments suggested, it was a dense, doughy square. Little rise and no fluff. And the stupid mixing blade was stuck in the bottom of the bread.

What am I doing wrong? Has it just been bad luck combined with bad recipes? Is it the $10 bread machine I got off of craigslist? Have I started off too ambitious? Am I destined to be a subpar bread baker?

Tomorrow will be attempt four. Or maybe I’ll call it attempt three, since only two have actually made it through a whole baking cycle so far.

Here’s hoping that third time’s the charm!

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10 responses to “Cue the Fool

  1. RunningLaur March 20, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I know what your problem is! You need to add gluten to the mix in addition to the yeast (I figured this out the hard way in the last month as well). Because whole wheat isn’t processed as much, the gluten in the whole wheat flour either is not as present or not as free to make the bread rise, thus the little brick loaf. You can find gluten at most grocery stores. I don’t have the amounts perfected yet, so anything I’ve made with whole wheat dough is still a bit more dense, but much better with the gluten. I have you signed up for six miles too!

  2. Nobel4Lit March 20, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Sorry to hear you had trouble. I haven’t dared to go bread machine yet, so one time I made this focaccia (http://www.recipezaar.com/The-Easiest-Bestest-Focaccia-Bread-Ever-27968) bread, and it was very good!

  3. E.C. Friedman March 20, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    If you want to bake whole wheat bread, you REALLY can’t just sub it in. I had a steep learning curve until I realized that yes, baking IS very exact and unforgiving.I would put some training wheels on:1. use specifically bread machine recipes2. use specifically whole-wheat recipesI swear by King Arthur Flour recipesOh, also? I buy jars of yeast and put it in the fridge, and try to use recipes that only call for specific measurements of yeast. And don’t mix up the various KINDS of yeast…

  4. Denise March 20, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    I can’t help you out at all, but I’m eager to see how the next attempt goes! Good luck!

  5. P.O.M. March 20, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    You must have the patience of a saint. After a failed 2nd attempt, I would have thrown the breadmaker across the room, opened a bottle of wine and called it day.

  6. Bert March 20, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Whole wheat is a horse of a totally different color when it comes to baking bread, machine or no. It just doesn't act like 'regular' unbleached white flour. I'd suggest trying to bake a basic white bread first – hey it is still better than the stuff you buy off the shelf. You know, with 36 ingredients & all…

  7. Ali Wish March 20, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    As everyone’s said here, whole wheat is definitely a different animal, but more than anything, baking is much more science than art. It’s all chemistry. Unless you know precisely how an additional ingredient here or an alteration there is going to effect your stuff, it’s tough to improvise. I’ve discovered this after many a botched cookie attempt! šŸ™‚

  8. aron March 20, 2009 at 5:55 pm

    good luck!!! i would totally have given up already šŸ™‚

  9. I Run for Fun March 20, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    I give you credit for trying so hard! These bread machines were sent to try us. I’ve always been scared to own one, after seeing the trouble my cousin’s breadmaker gave her. Good luck on your next attempt. Great workout!

  10. Natalie D March 20, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    Oh no! I missed this post! glad i saw the successful one! You were very determined to keep going – it was hopefully worth it in the end!

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