10 August 2006

Makin' dough

Once upon a time, I bought my dad a bread-making machine. I thought he might enjoy having a gadget that did something fun & easy. As I understand it, he used it 2-3 times, then set it in a corner to gather dust. Now, mom & dad have sold their house in preparation of moving into a new one they're building, and they are trying to be good about throwing away stuff they have not used in more than 10 years. Thus, the bread machine has come to be at my house.

Calling a device a "bread machine" makes it sound as foolproof and easy as a "coffee machine" or a "vending machine." You put something in the machine, and you get some other intended thing out of the machine.

Unfortunately, the bread machine is not a coffee machine. If you put the ingredients in it and set the timer so you have hot, homemade bread first thing in the morning, you may well wake up with an overwhelming smell of oh so ymmy bread, only to find that what is in the bread machine is a lump of bread-like stone.

"Yeast," mom tells me, "is the culprit."

Bread is not coffee. It is not chocolate chip cookies, and it is definitely not a frozen chicken pot pie that you can pop in the microwave for 5 minutes & eat up. That's because it contains yeast, a mystical substance that thinks I keep my house too warm and Houston, in general, is too humid. Only under exactly perfect conditions will it deign to rise, and then only if you praise it lavishly for doing so. Thus, forget about letting it stew all night alone.

As with most good stories, this one is a bit of an exaggeration. My first loaf of bread from The Thing was small but tasted pretty darned good. The loaf that's in there now smells like heaven but doesn't appear to have risen worth beans. In another hour, I will know whether I have a rock or a loaf of yummy-bread.

The way I see it, the bread machine is just a technological reminder that we are somehow less capable than our forebears. My great-great-great-etc grandmothers baked bread in ordinary ovens. Or over campfires. Or on rocks. They gave birth without epidurals, and they washed clothes in the river. I have a "bread machine," a grocery store full of fresh live yeast packets, yeast boosters and 'bread mix" boxes. I live in an air-conditioned house with electricity and running water. But I can't make the lazy dang yeast rise up off the couch.

The bread does smell good, tho. Mmmmmmm!

ADDENDUM: The photo is the actual bread. It did rise into a happy little loaflet and it is not hard as a rock. Whaddya know? My ancestresses got nuthin' on me!


Robbie said...

I've never used a bread machine but I've made homemade bread before. If you have a gas oven, sometimes they are warm enough on top to get the bread to rise, or turn it on and allow it to warm up to about 200 degrees than shut it off and put your bread in there to rise.

But, it looks like your bread machine is now doing the trick. Perhaps it was just an old batch of yeast.

Gosh, now I'm craving homemade bread. I'm not much of a bread eater but I sure do love the smell.

V said...

Those machines are great, but once you put them away, it`s hard to keep them in memory!