Bread machines have become such a great convenience in our lives. We simply gather our ingredients, pop them in the machine, press a few buttons and off it goes. In a few hours we have a perfectly baked loaf.
Bread machines do all of the hard work from us. But, using machines can also take away that personal touch and extra love you put into making a home-baked loaf.
While making bread by hand is certainly more rewarding, it takes a lot of effort and can lead to some tears if it goes wrong. If you want to take away the effort of kneading the dough but still want to add your own personal touch by cooking the bread in the oven, then it’s definitely possible to use the bread machine to knead dough.
Stage 1: Kneading Dough
Kneading dough by hand…oh the pain! I certainly feel it the next morning. And it always feels like you’re at it forever! If you have a bread machine, take advantage of it and use the bread machine to knead the dough for you.
Follow the recipe for a 2-pound loaf, or whatever the biggest size loaf your bread maker makes. Place your wet ingredients first, then the dry and put the bread machine on the ”dough only” function. Your bread machine will go through the kneading and rising process without baking your bread. Your bread machine will beep to let you know that it has finished its first rise and that it’s ready to be reshaped. If your bread machine does not have a ”dough only” function, you will need to carefully keep an eye on your dough so you know when it has finished the first rise.
Stage 2: Shaping Dough
Once you remove the dough from the bread machine, it’s time to reshape it. You don’t need to knead the dough again before its second rise as this will destroy all the air bubbles and the bread won’t bake well, resulting in dense bread. At this stage, you can leave it as a big loaf, you can divide it into smaller loaves or you can pleat it. The possibilities of shaping your dough are endless! Also, if you are wanting to add more ingredients such as dried fruit and nuts, this is the best time to do it.
When reshaping and preparing your dough for the second rise, it’s tempting to flour your bench to make sure the dough doesn’t stick. Since the dough has already gone through the first rise, adding any more flour will just make the dough tough and you will end up with a denser loaf. Only add more flour if you feel like your dough is still quite wet and sticks on a clean hand when touched. The best thing to do, after you’ve taken your risen dough out of the bread machine, is to lightly oil your kitchen top. This will ensure that your dough won’t stick to the surface and will result in nice and fluffy bread.
Once you have added any additional ingredients and reshaped your dough, it’s time to place your dough in a loaf tin, or tray, and cover your dough with a cloth, or cling film. Now, your dough is ready for the second rise. Make sure you let the dough rise in a warm and dry area of your house for about 1 hour or until it’s doubled in size. If you want to speed up the second rise, preheat your oven to 100F or 37C and place your dough in the oven to rise for about 20 minutes. The oven cannot be higher than 100F or 37C as a hot oven will kill the yeast. If your dough is in a warm place, preheat your oven to 350-400F or 180C-200C, depending on the type of bread you are baking.
Stage 3: The Finished Product
By now, the whole house will be flooding with the aroma of freshly baked bread and honestly, nothing really beats that smell. Check the bread at the 30-minute mark and if the crust is still a bit pale, leave it for another 10 to 15 minutes until you get a nicely browned top crust. Be sure not to over bake your bread otherwise it will lose its fluffy, soft texture and the crust will start to burn.
As much as it’s tempting to tuck into the bread as soon as it comes out of the oven, leave the bread on a cooling rack for 10 minutes before cutting into it. You still want it to be warm when you dig in. The finished product will be aromatic, homemade bread of star baker standard and no one will be able to tell you used the bread machine to knead the dough!
Kneading dough is definitely the most tedious part of making homemade bread. And it is also the stage where it could go wrong. Too much kneading and you will end up with a very dense, tough bread. Too little kneading and the yeast won’t activate and the end result will be a flatbread with no texture. If you get your ingredients right, you don’t need to worry about anything going wrong in the bread machine as it will knead and rise the dough to perfection.
So, if you have a bread machine but still want to add your own personal touch to your homemade bread, let the bread machine do all the hard work for you. Use the bread machine to knead the dough and you take control of adding extra ingredients and shaping it any way you want it to.