Oh the glories of the breadmaker. How I extoll the virtue and practicality of my little white machine. Many hours of hard manual labor have been diverted from my arms to my little whirring friend who not only kneads and rises my bread, but also bakes it too (though I rarely use the last option - I prefer my bread irregular, as if I kneaded it myself!).
It seems that while every housewife in the mid-90s scrambled to acquire one of these gems, they slowly were discarded along with Gigapets, Pogs, Oprah's Book Club, the Spice Girls, Tickle Me Elmo, Saved by the Bell and other 90s fads. My own machine was given to me by my mom, who used to constantly bake bread but left it in the closet covered with dust and large wolf spiders as soon as the ball dropped on the advent of the millennium.
When I sneakily grabbed this dust collector off of my mother's shelf, I attempted to teach myself the lore of the machine. Most breadmakers are 1.5lb loaf makers, though 2lb-ers are known to exist. They don't do well with a really watery dough (like the lovely ciabatta, though I have found they work quite well for focaccia) or non-wheat flours (sorry to all those afflicted with wheat allergies!). Although you should always read the instructions that the makers kindly provide with the machine, it is pretty standard that liquids go in the bottom and dry ingredients on top - with a little well in the very top to place the yeast in.
So with a sniff (I think I am getting a cold) I decided to bake some bread today. And a loaf, though I never count it as completely healthy, that attempted to win some points with Healthcheck (the little red check from the Heart and Stroke Foundation that appears to approve some foods . . . but not others).
But wait - bread on its own? That is a travesty (even though this loaf feels like a full meal). I needed something else to supplement my main meal of bread - what is better with a crusty loaf of steaming bread than homemade chicken soup? (that is a rhetorical question, don't worry).
So, armed with a loaf of bread (baked to perfect loveliness), and a bowl of liquid gold to accompany, I sat down to a perfect meal. However, the soup was like the sauce to my bread - I ate nearly the whole thing. The subsequent stomach ache was worth it. And the machine that helped with it all sat in the corner of the kitchen and beeped - I think it was congratulating me on a job well done.
Thanks mom for buying a 90s fad. This is way better than a rerun of Saved by the Bell.
12 Grain Loaf
Bread machine, 90s style. Way better than the Spice Girls.
1 c. water
1/4 c. honey
1 1/2 c. bread flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. mix of "the grain" (medley of cracked cereal, millet, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds - heck, whatever grains you want to throw in)
2 tsp. dry active yeast
- Add ingredients according to manufacturers instructions (mine is in the order that I've written it, but you never know - your machine might be different). Set to 'dough' setting. Allow it to work its magic. Leave for a while, perhaps read a book, do some laundry, go brush up on your curling abilities. Dang, what a neat machine.
- After about an hour and a half (my dough setting is precisely 1 hour 20 minutes), fetch your dough from the machine. I like to place my loaf in a greased round 9" pan with 3" sides, but each to their own. This recipe would also make great rolls - however, the baking temperature would be 350 F for about 30-35 minutes. Makes 12 little handfuls of delight.
- Preheat oven to 375 F. Allow for second rise, covered, in a warm environment* until doubled - I find this is usually about 30 minutes.
- Place in preheated oven for 45 minutes. Check to see if done by inserting a skewer and whether it comes out clean. The top should also be a dark brown colour. Bring out and let cool (I always have a tendancy to cut my bread right as it comes out of the oven, causing it to mush into itself and deaden my enjoyment of fluffy bread. I really cannot help myself - don't make the same mistake!). Enjoy in a timely manner.
*If your house is cold in the winter months (as in BC) and there is not a lot of sun (again, as in BC), a useful thing to do is to set the temp in the oven to 200 F and let it warm for about 2 minutes. Then turn off and place the covered dough inside. Just remember to remove before preheating!!
**As I always just 'eye' this loaf to see if its done, this time may vary considering how warm your oven is, etc.
It sounds plain but, seriously, 'chicken soup' epitomizes childhood, sickness, health, mothers, cold winter days, and home all in two common words. There is no equal.
1 chicken (rinsed of course!)
2 onions (one cut in half and left unpeeled, the other peeled and chopped)
1 head of garlic (half of the cloves just smashed, and the others minced)
1 bay leaf
pepper to taste
salt to taste
1 tsp thyme, marjoram, sage (add more if you like the flavorings a bit stronger)
4 stalks celery (tops reserved, stalks chopped)
2-3 medium carrots (chopped)
parsley (for garnish)
- In a large pot place the chicken (breasts down - up would be scandalous!), the onion cut in half and unpeeled, the smashed cloves of garlic, bay leaf, the tops of celery, the herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Add enough water to cover the chicken. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for about 45 minutes.
- Remove chicken and debone, discarding skin while reserving meat and bones. Return the bones to the stock and continue to simmer for another two hours.
- Remove stock from heat and skim fat off the top. Run stock through a colander and discard solids (such as bones, onion, garlic, etc.).
- Put stock back on stove and add chopped onion, minced garlic, chopped celery and chopped carrot. Shred chicken meat and add to pot. Add more herbs, salt and pepper to taste if you want. Cook until vegetables are tender. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.
* I have a habit of just throwing things in a pot and 'eyeing it' (drives my friends crazy - they ask for a recipe and I give them a bunch of 'umms', 'handfuls', 'pinches' and 'bunches'), so just bear with me.
Note: I've added cooked rice, pasta, or barley to this soup before and it is d-lish. Also, home-made dumplings are divine in this soup, but that recipe is for another post - if I had potato on top of this bread. . . I loathe to think what would happen.