Life with a baking automaton

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Well, the first thing is to get a bread-making machine. Then buy some 3 to 5 packs of ready-made mixtures. Read the description thoroughly for hidden tricks.

I did that. Only, my memory is bad and I had few chances to recognize the tricks. So I kept the empty packages for later to read them again. Very worth-wile to do that.

With the mixtures make tests. See how the machine works, how the dough is, how it reacts, how the yeast growth changes the dough, etc.

At the beginning one has zero knowledge. So one must observe. And the mistakes most of the times are fun. But not always.

One thing is how the dough grows, driven by the yeast. If the dough volume exceeds the limit, the dough will overflow and fall onto the heating pipes. Would result in terrible stench. So always have an eye on the machine.

One thing most people won’t do: turn the machine upside down. I do that to clear out whatever has fallen into the machine. I do that even if the machine is active – during the rest phase or the baking phase. Take the pot out and tilt the machine. Works.

One thing nearly nobody will ever do: take out the pot while the machine is active. Of course that should not be done when the machine is driving the mixer arm. But when the yeast is given time to develop or during the baking phase it is no problem at all to take out the pot.

As not all things go right all the time it is necessary to take out the pot at some occasions. One is when the dough does not have the right consistency. Sometimes I have to restart the machine, so that it will knead the dough better. It is no problem at all to do that.

When the dough is going up too fast, take out the pot, give it some claps on the side to “scare” the dough … and the situation is saved.

In the manual are some recipes. It is important to get an exact measuring description: How much water? How much flour? Etc. So I have 1 “standard” mix written on a sheet of paper, glued to the cupboard.

After some time of observing one knows about the consistency of the dough over time.

When changing the mixture one has to look at the consistency and what it will do to the finished bread.

Too much water makes the dough more fluid, so the gas will develop faster and blow it up easier and faster. Higher risk of overflow. AND the bread will collapse in the middle because in the baking phase the gas will get out because it takes longer for the heat to reach the inner zone.

Taking out the finished bread too late will cause the crust to become crispy or hard.

Putting the finished bread into a closed box so that the vapor still coming out will build a cloud which “works” the bread, and makes the crust softer.

Too few water will make the bread more like a stone. Good weapon to throw with. ;O)

My last experiment was to put some pears into the microwave oven. I had cut the pears and sliced them with a pommes frites making tool. Was big fun to cut that stuff so easily. The pears are the Japanese Nashi pears. They have very much sap, but are very hard. I put them into the microwave with the peel still on them.

I put about half of the pears into the pot right at the beginning of the kneading. Since the kneading destroys very much of the material I added the rest a short time before the machine stops kneading, just some few minutes.

It is important to know what the machine does over time. My machine makes beep noises. I have no idea what they are good for. But they give me some kind of orientation. One point on the timescale is some minutes before the machine stops kneading. At that point additions can be put in.

The machine starts with a display of 2:50, that is 2 hours and 50 minutes. The baking phase at the end starts at about 45 or so minutes.

The kneading phase actually is several phases. In the first the arm moves in short steps. That is when there is much liquid and much dry flour. Then, after some time, the normal movements begin.

During the kneading phase it is possible to stop the machine and start from zero again. Later, in the resting phase, it is a bit more complicated because the yeast already has developed. The longer time for growth of the yeast rises the risk of overflow after a restart.

On the other hand, when the yeast did not turn out to be effective enough, a restart is a good and easy way to handle that.

During the kneading phase one can add things like fruit or other flours. One is corn flour. So far I tried polenta, a not very fine grained corn flour. It is hard. So one of the experiments was to let it rest with water for some hours to soak up the water and get softer.

But corn polenta is a stubborn stuff. ;O)

Other ingredients might be potatoes. No need to buy the expensive potato powder. Just use cooked potatoes. I am sure that they will make the taste much better.

So far I added apples, pears, polenta, pressed oats (soft ones and crunchy ones). Oats are a phantastic addition. One thing they are extremely good for: prevent too much water vaporizing at the top and making the crust hard. The oats are poured on the top, build a layer, and so lead to a soft and well-tasting surface.

Flours of other cereals I did not buy.

After the kneading phase is over one can take out the pot and make changes. One is to put chocolate drops into the dough. Doing that when the machine still kneads will smear them a bit into the dough. Putting them in after kneading lets the drops keep their form. Putting in the drops during the last 2 minutes of kneading is easy. But one has to have the time table for that. This is why it is important to write that down during the first experiments.

To add something can be done by mixing it into the dough. Or by taking one part of the dough and a second one, like for marble cake. Or by taking out a part of the dough and putting a layer of, say, apples slices in the pot, then cover that with the dough one took out.

I think it is as easy as cooking a soup: throw some stuff in and see what happens.

One ingredient is fat. Too much makes the surface brown. Too few makes it very pale.

As yeast one can use the yeast powder. That is what is in the ready-made mixtures. But of course one can take fresh yeast. In Germany it is sold in the dairy products area of the supermarkets, mostly near butter, cheese, etc.

The bad thing with fresh yeast is that one does not know how active it is. So one has to carefully observe the resting phase of the dough. Too much or too active yeast makes it very active – and the dough is very keen to overflow…

Fresh yeast has the disadvantage of being usable only for a short time before it gets infected with bacteria. One has to keep it in the fridge. The bad thing there: It can not be frosted…

Another bad effect is the flavor. But to use baking powder I so far did not try. But I will.

Some funny ingredients are spices. Like cinnamon. Or aniseed. But garlic powder or herbs of the Provence also are great. Makes really tasty bread, not the usual chemistry stuff taste one gets in the supermarket.

One of the things I always wanted to try is pumpkins. Pumpkins contain a lot of water, just like the pears. So one has to to be very careful with mixing. I put the pumpkins in the microwave to have them cooked. These I put into the pot right at the start, so they will be kneaded thoroughly into the dough.
A second dose of pumpkins I put in shortly before the end of the kneading. This part will not be mashed intensely, and will be very tasty in the finished bread.

I think that material ground very fine and mixed thoroughly in dough does not taste as strong as bigger pieces, which can be chewed. This will lessen the necessary amount to get a full taste.

Well, that is about it. The rest is fun with experimenting.

Mankind’s best friend is the dog. Man’s best friend is the bread-making machine.

Post Title: Life with a baking automaton
Author: Putnam Groove
Posted: 13th October 2017
Filed As: Varia
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