Bread While You Loaf
bread makers are mouth watering deals
by Jim Bray
"I never thought
I'd live to see the day you bake bread!"
I can still
remember those immortal words, as my wife buttered her first slice and
chowed down. It was good. Okay, it was a little funny looking, but it
That was when
Panasonic first introduced its "Bread Bakery" bread maker. This, however,
is now, and time and technology march on. Panasonic is now trying to outflank
the many pretenders that have come onto the market since their first little
gem, and the price has also come down steadily.
turn making bread or dough from a yucchy experience in which one must
get one's hands dirty into an easy, joyful delight, with a tasty reward
at the end. How easy? All you do is throw the ingredients into the little
bin, place it in the machine, put yeast into the container, press "start"
and leave. No foolin'!
When you return,
it's to that heavenly smell of freshly baked homemade bread, a smell that
can't be described, but which everyone knows and loves.
Memories of yeast gone by
To put into
perspective what life's like with a bread maker, let me tell you of my
experiences when we tried out Panasonic's first machine, ostensibly to
review, but we ended up refusing to part with it.
I still remember
that first loaf, which I made on the timer that let us delay the arrival
of our baked bundle of joy for up to thirteen hours. That loaf came out
a little strange to say the least; how would I have known that ignoring
the directions and putting in as much yeast as the little container would
hold could possibly cause me trouble? What am I, a baker?
you know, the thing bubbled up inside the machine and baked all over the
inside top of the bread maker, ending up looking more like a little brown
chef's cap than a loaf of bread. Smelled good, though! Emergency surgery
was necessary and the huge, bulbous "chef's cap" of bread was cut from
the top, leaving a normal looking, though decapitated, loaf underneath.
Then came the
taste test. Ambrosia! Pretty good bread, too. We dove in like fiends and,
when we finally surfaced for air, the loaf was gone. Including the bulbous
a horrible experience because of the mess I'd made. Even an expert cleaner from a NY cleaning service would have been shocked at the mess! Once the unit was
carefully scrubbed, however, we tried another loaf. And another. And another.
We ended up
trying so many loaves you'd think it would be enough to put one off fresh
bread, but it didn't. On the contrary, after Panasonic took back the demo
unit (pried from my clenched fingers) I paced impatiently, waiting for
them to hit the market, then ended up rushing out to the store in a buying
We still love
it and use it regularly, but now, of course, there's newer, better ones
that sell for hundreds less and doesn't that just figure?
Oh, sure. Now
you get features like "Light" and "Rapid" settings for those on a diet
or a tight schedule. There are settings for whole wheat flour and different
types of dough (though not long green dough).
And you can
be as creative as you want. Though I'm as comfortable in a kitchen as
a lawyer is comfortable discussing his own integrity, I've made garlic
bread, cheese bread, and the world's finest pizza dough (Though my wife
argues that last point).
You can make
California Raisin bread, which is great except I guarantee you won't sleep
for all the singing coming from inside the machine!
The cloud around
drawback to these things I'm raving about like they're cures for cancer
is that the loaf is only about half as long as the ones you buy in the
store, though it's taller. Of course, they're now offering machines that
make traditional sized loaves, too, but we haven't yet tried one.
But ending up
with a junior-sized loaf can also be an advantage, because the bread doesn't
get stale. The small size makes the loaves ideal for a couple, or a single
person, because you don't end up with half a loaf (which is still better
than none) hanging around, breeding all sorts of disgusting things. On
the other hand, our family of four can wipe out a loaf fresh from the
machine in less time than it took Saddam Hussein to head for his bunker
a few years back, so it can be nice to have a spare around in case of
emergency. Or try the new, giant sized economy model mentioned above.
even with the pint sized loaves, the next one is only a couple of hours
Yeah, right. Besides possible weight gain, operator error is about the
only thing that comes to mind; we've only had one major disaster in the
years since becoming the proud owners of the Bread Bakery, but no matter
how hard I try I can't blame the machine for it:
I set the thing
to have a nice, freshly baked loaf ready when we got up in the morning.
I threw all the ingredients into the bin, set the timer, and sallied forth
to bed. Everything appeared normal.
The next morning
I was awakened by howls of laughter from the kitchen, and my wife informed
me I had forgotten to attach the little kneading blade to the bottom of
the bin. The resulting "loaf" of "bread" resembled something from a Wes
Craven film and we now use it as a doorstop.
We wonder about
the models with a little window in the top, though. We tried an early
one, to compare it with our venerable Panasonic, and while the bread was
good, the Panasonic's was better. Dunno if it was the window or whatever,
but we wonder. Some also seem to be built decidedly cheaply, and this
is generally cause for alarm no matter where you find it.
We've also heard
of some people having problems with the loaves not rising properly, though
after my initial gaffe we never had that problem. Some people swear by
special "bread maker" yeast packets, too, though we've only ever used
regular yeast and have had outstanding results.
In fact, we'd
invest in an assault rifle before we'd part with our little Panasonic
darling. Even though the newer models are faster, cheaper, and more flexible...
Besides, a bread
maker is sure to pay for itself over the years if you use it regularly
(and why wouldn't you?) and even if it doesn't, who cares? It's a terrific
gadget that performs better in the kitchen than I do, and is worth its
weight in titanium.
Look at it this
way: it's cheaper than a VCR and it won't rot your mind.
food for thought!