Friday, 23 August 2013

Use Your Loaf - Cheat

So I've always known I'm no good at baking bread. It's not me being negative, it's a fact - I just can't do it! I can't even say I love the process like so many do, it's pretty foreign to me. Give me a mixing bowl and tell me to make a croquembouche or some cheeky meringues and I'm away...but bread? *shudder*. 

From the moment where I sat in front of Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, through to the audition stage of The Great British Bake Off, with Paul's piercing (and yes girls, stunning) blue eyes staring at me, where he tore my foccacia in half and ripped out a lump of dough (and my heart) and disappointingly said 'It's raw.' I knew I'd never be able to produce good bread. Sweet yeast dough doesn't faze me at all so I'm not sure exactly 'what' it is, but it all goes wrong, so terribly, 
terribly wrong.

So it was almost like the universe picked up on this, and tempted me to the dark side...I was sent a bread maker to test. Now I know in the serious baking world the word 'breadmaker' can have you looked upon as if you just said 'Voldermort' in front of a Harry Potter fangirl. There's a lot of stigma with appliances like these that help you cheat, but you know what? My baking morals are loose, I can, and was, tempted to do just that, cheat.

Now there I was, sitting in front of this 'machine', totally confused about what to do. I'd never had or used one before so I wasn't really sure if it was something I could master. The bread maker in question was the Panasonic SD2500 Breadmaker*, white and gleaming and I was shocked to find it did more than just bake. I realise to those of you that have used one before it must seem naive to not know that, but I honestly didn't. Not only does it bake bread but it also makes, jam, compote, cakes and even makes dough ready for rolling. You can even make gluten free breads which I think will be a major bonus for a lot of families.

Now for some technical stuff:

  • 25 programmes including: white bread, french bread, whole-wheat, quick bread, sweet bread, speciality, pizza base, rolls, brioche, dough and bake.
  • Maximum bread size 2.65lb / 1.2kg.
  • 3 adjustable crust settings.
  • 3 loaf sizes
  • 115 mins fast bake time.
  • 13 hour delay timer for overnight baking.
  • Also suitable for making jam and cakes.
  • Cool touch.
  • Add ingredients signal.
  • Keep warm function.

Right now you know all that, let's get down to the testing. I thought it'd be a cop out to just make a load and write about that. So I decided to make two loaves, some strawberry jam and some croissant dough.  I decided on a granary loaf and a classic white loaf as those are the ones we would tend to eat the most so it made sense to try those. For the granary I selected the 'whole-wheat' programme, I literally had no idea what I was doing at this point so I relied completely on the instructions. I placed in the yeast, dry ingredients and then the wet, selected the programme, crust setting and set it off! It does take a few hours, about 5 for this one. But when you think it does all of the proofing etc for you, it's not that bad at all - and that' what I really struggle with, there's nowhere warm enough in my house to get something to rise properly so this solves that straight away. When I say it's quiet, it really IS quiet, to the point where we had to go out and check it was actually working as we couldn't hear it.

It was working, and a few hours later out popped a beautiful smelling loaf of bread! They do say to take it out straight away so we did, I guess this is so it doesn't stick making you to get the spatula out. While it obviously doesn't make a long loaf, it does come out fairly tall. We're only two people so it's enough to last us a good few days, and who doesn't enjoy fresh bread at the weekend? Marvel at it's beauty! (apart from my dodgy slices)

Next I went for the white loaf, this one I set up exactly the same but set it on a timer for the morning. The only thing is that you have to be awake for when you want it or you risk leaving it in the breadmaker. So don't put it on when you've come back from the pub or you'll probably forget about it for a few days! Nothing looks better than a crisp white loaf on a saturday morning, I need to seriously work on my carving judging please! I also cut it when it was too hot as I just couldn't wait.

As you know I make a lot of cake...I also buy a lot of jam. I have always wanted to make it but don't have all the gear. So I though OK, I have the machine, let's give it a go. I decided on strawberry jam as that's what I use the most. Armed with two big tubs of strawberries and a deathly amount of sugar I set to work, there's wasn't really much else to it but layering fruit and sugar in the machine. 

It did say you needed to add sugar and pectin separately but I couldn't find any but I did find this sugar which had blended both. This recipe only took about 2.5 hours and at the end I had a perfect tub of jam! Which, when warm from the machine smelt AMAZING.

But without wanting to go to A & E for licking the spoon I thought better of it and poured it in the jar to cool instead. It now lives in my fridge and reserved for special weekend treats.

Next I really want to try out the dough aspect, and croissants in particular, everyone's favourite right? What's not to like? The only difference with this dough is that it needed an egg, apart from that it was all set up the same, leave it to do it's stuff for a couple of hours and boom! 

Out pops some perfect looking dough. This one did require some work after, it needed to be rolled and folded with butter like puff pastry and chilled in the fridge. This did take some time, but it does give those haters back their real baking feel. And it was nice to do half the work, it may make the dough but it can't roll it out and shape it for you, 

I love doing those bits. So after rolling it, filling it and folding it with butter about six times and chilling it in the fridge twice it was ready to roll out. I rolled it out into one massive square and cut it into smaller squares, which I then sliced into two triangles. Each triangle then got rolled out until they were long and thin, taking the wide end I rolled it up to the thin end, leaving the end underneath and shaping it into the classic crescent shape. I got about 15 out of these, enough to take into work...I may also have 'tested' a couple fresh from the oven...maybe.

Oh.....oh my.

I have to say, this product genuinely surprised me, and I didn't think it would. I may not be Paul Hollywood, but I can still make a good loaf, I may not make it every week but I will definitely use it, and I love the fact I can whip up jam in an afternoon which will be great for the big family breakfasts. It definitely gets a thumbs up from me,
 I'm a cheater, and proud. 
But come one! Who cares? Look at those!!

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  1. Amazing stuff! Had no idea you were auditioning for the show! That's cool! I think I would have been gutted if he didn't like my baking...I am crap at baking though- it is way too technical, I'm much better at throwing things in a pan!!! This machine looks awesome :)

  2. I understand your pain - bread and jam, the two things that are totally alien to me. It's important to know one's limitations and not beat yourself up! I buy nice bread and jam and spare myself the shame of yeasty blobs and burnt unset jam!


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