I'll teach you a way to make good bread at home

What skills to learn, what tools to get
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vexed87
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Location: Yorkshire, UK

Re: I'll teach you a way to make good bread at home

Post by vexed87 » Thu Aug 30, 2018 8:16 am

I'm not a pro, and I haven't used top end bread machines, but I know my bread. Here's my opinion.

Bread is a simple food, and made easily with minimal equipment. A bread machine is overkill for the occasional baker. They are touted as labour saving devices, but you still have to measure up ingredients, this is the most sensitive part of the process, get this wrong and even the best kneading technique will not deliver desired results. They are expensive, and often take a LOT of countertop space to boot! The machines are basically inferior stand mixers with heating elements and a bakers tin built in, sometimes with finish timers and release systems to add yeast/nuts/seeds/fruit etc at the ideal time. The more expensive models will have some variety in recipes, the cheaper ones will not.

You will be limited to making one shape of loaf if you use it end to end, rather than just as mixer. If you want to vary your loaves, shape, texture, variety, go off script etc, you're much better off doing it by hand or using a stand mixer. Who wants to limit themselves to the same old loaf, day in day out? Ok, some people do. :)

In theory stand mixers can be much less expensive than a good equivalent bread machine, but you can go crazy expensive with them too, think KitchenAid Artisan £500 models, any basic machine with a dough hook will do, so long as it kneads well, (just remember, capacity is important, it limits the size or number of loaves that can be kneaded). You could easily prep multiple loaves in a decent stand mixer simultaneously, not so in a bread machine, so there is that too.

Some bread machines will allow you just to knead the dough, and skip the baking cycle. Err, just get a stand mixer?

However, I do like the idea of the models with timers, you load the ingredients, set the time you want to loaf to be ready, and voila, fresh tinned bread timed to perfection. In theory. I haven't tried one though so can't comment on how useful this really is. I imagine half the battle is prepping the machine anyway. I just load our mixer when I get home for work or get up, and 3.5 hours later I will have a loaf of bread ready to serve, with about 3-4 minutes labour (of love).

Realistically, the time it takes to shape a loaf, put it in a tin, banneton, roll into a baguette etc is negligable, so if you want a labour saving device, I recommend the stand mixer and finish by hand, or simply buy from your local bakery.

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FBeyer
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Re: I'll teach you a way to make good bread at home

Post by FBeyer » Thu Aug 30, 2018 1:06 pm

The time a stand mixer saves is:
time to knead dough by Rubaud method - time to knead in a stand mixer - time it takes to clean the stand mixer = total savings.
It's very little, honestly. I sold my stand mixer again after 4 loaves of bread. It wasn't worth the time, space or money for me personally.

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vexed87
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Location: Yorkshire, UK

Re: I'll teach you a way to make good bread at home

Post by vexed87 » Fri Aug 31, 2018 6:29 am

I don't think it's fair to deduct the time kneading in the stand mixer itself. The main point of this labour saving device is not to reduce the time to produce the loaf itself. It allows you to be doing something else productive with the time, not idling around waiting for it to finish. Thus the time saved with a stand mixer compared to buy doing it by hand is significant in my view, even more so if you are a frequent baker.

You and I know, that for someone with the skill, kneading is an enjoyable, easy but somewhat repetitive affair that doesn't really warrant a large electrical contraption, and all the electrical infrastructure that powers and manufactures it unless you are baking multiple loaves for a large household/small community. HOWEVER, those supporting systems are already in place and 5 minutes kneading time x 3.5 loaves a week (minimum) x 52 is ~15 hours a year, ain't nobody but professional bakers got time for manual labour like that! ;) Economically speaking, 15 hours is a substantial labour saving and justifies the cost of a cheapo machine, maybe not a fancy KitchenAid, but even they can make sense if they are BIFL purchases.

Ancedotal, I know, but when my old stand mixer broke after 2.5 years of regular use, I noticed a significant drop in the number of loaves I produced in a given month and I became much more likely to buy in (mediocre) mass produced bread, or significantly more expensive artisan breads. I noted that I was also much less inclined to bake multiples or additional loaves (for gifting or taking to social events for others). Cleaning of my stand mixer consists of cleaning the mixing bowl (which I would generally use anyway when mixing the flour and water by hand) and later lobbing the dough hook in with the evenings washing up, washing up seemed negligible to me, but I saved 5 mins per loaf kneading each day. I still bake without the mixer occasionally just for the fun of it, or because the mixing bowl didn't get cleaned for whatever reason, but it definitely takes the hassle out of the kneading (if you can call it hassle).

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