Nothing says “Welcome” any more than the smell of fresh baked bread. It is one of those smells that we somehow shove into our memory bank at an early age that stays forever. At this time of year as we go to holiday gatherings we are constantly reminded of those childhood smells. Fresh breads, stollens, cookies, pumpkin pie… uuhm I am making myself hungry just by mentioning them.
I remember the huge mixing bowl and the flour bin and my mother stirring the yeast into the water, slowly adding the flour until it was too hard to stir and then turning it out onto the bread board to begin kneading. Add flour to the board, roll it over, punch it down, roll it over punch it down again twenty or thirty times. If it got too sticky add more flour until the dough got just right and set it aside to rise. Once it had risen she would form the loaves and put them in the oven. 10 minutes later the house was filled with the most heavenly smell in the world…Fresh Baked Bread!
Years later when I started my own household I renewed my interest in making fresh breads. Some of my early experiments were fantastic and some were disastrous. The non-yeasted buckwheat bread was so bad that even the squirrels would not eat it when it went out to the feeder. As time has gone by, I don’t bake as often as I should but there is no substitute for home made bread. Today the pace of life seems to leave less time for bread baking so I have looked for a few short cuts to the process. When the bread machine was first introduced I looked at one and decided that it was not for me. I could not imagine how adding all the ingredients to the same pot that you cooked it in would work. I know that there are some who would swear by them but somehow there is something missing in the process.
The place to save the most time is in the kneading process, I will spare you of the chemistry lesson but you get the best bread results when you have plenty of air mixed into the dough and that is generally the hardest part of making bread. Using a mixer to take care of this part, saves a lot of time and energy. Until a few years ago using a mixer to make bread was solely for the large bakeries which had a monster machine that could turn out several pounds of dough at one time. This convenience has now become available for the modern homemaker. I know , I know it has been around for a while, but humor me… I can remember when it wasn’t.
For the purpose of kneading the Stand mixer cannot be beat (pun intended), and Kitchenaid has come out with the best stand mixer as far as I am concerned. The recipe that I use yields 4 large loaves, I got the recipe from The Tassajara Bread Book (available at Amazon) an amazing little book which teaches you all you will ever need to know about bread making. When all the flour is put together in the bowl it can be tough to stir it when the gluten gets going. Using this Kitchenaid Mixer I can easily add the flour and get it thoroughly mixed. This saves about a half an hour of time and produces excellent results. Just let the dough rise once, punch it down, form the loaves and bake. Soon your kitchen and house have that awesome welcoming smell as well. This little cousin to the big Hobart (a mere $8267) is ideal for home use and it packs a lot of power for such a small machine. The Kitchenaid Mixer has a powerful 575 watt motor with a variable speed on/off switch. You can set the speed exactly at the right speed for mixing the dough. The bowl is raised with a lever which is great if you want to mix butter or cream cheese by slowly raising the bowl as you start the mixer. It comes with a wire whip, paddle wand and a dough hook just like the monsters found in a commercial kitchen. You can even get other grinding attachments and use it to make pates and ground meats. The Kitchenaid Pro Mixer normally retails for $499, it is now on sale for a substantial discount running through the end of this year at $399. This is the 6 quart professional model. They also have a 5 quart 475 watt model for $299. Both models have a place to add grinder and pasta attachments. Sales of this sort tend to run on and off through out the year so be sure to only buy when you find it on sale. It is possible to find them refurbished for even less. It is a great addition to any kitchen and I must say this little work horse is not your grand-mothers stand mixer.
The “Chef’s Catalog” offers this mixer at $399
Update: Do you want a specific recipe?
I read a search query a few months ago and the person had typed “rolls too hard when mixed in kitchen aid”. Humm, one of the most impressive parts about the tassajara bread book is where ed brown talks about kneading. He is talking about doing it by hand and he says that it is impossible to knead “regular bread” too much. I have to agree with him. When you do it by hand you are constantly feeling the dough; that feeling will tell you when the dough is ready–it gets almost silky in your hands. Basically what is happening is the flour is thoroughly incorporated and by kneading you are developing the elasticity of the gluten. The Kitchenaid is doing the same thing mechanically, there is no difference. You can stop the mixer and pinch off a tiny piece and when it is ready it will feel elastic and silky. How do you know? Simple, stop the mixer just after the dough has enough flour to stop sticking to the sides of the bowl. Pinch off a piece and roll it in your fingers, then turn the mixer back on and let it gather air for another 3 minutes, now do it again you will see what I mean. Oh and by the way, the rolls were too hard because they were baked too long, the mixer had nothing to do with it.
You want to do 4 loaves? Try this:
6 cups warm water (not above 105 degrees)
2 pkgs yeast
Put this into the mixer and gently dissolve the yeast and honey into the water (5-10 minutes) to let it open up.
1 cup powdered milk (Avoids the need for scalding)
3/4 cup oil or melted butter
1T or more salt
8-10 cups flour whole wheat or unbleached white added slowly until the dough forms and comes away from the side of the bowl, add a little more as mixing goes on in case it starts to stick. Mix it for at least 5 minutes.
Let this rise in whole amount until it doubles in size. Then turn it out and shape your loaves by making a big ball cutting it in half and the each half in half. put them into your loaf pans and let them rise for 20 minutes or so. Then into a 325 degree over for 30 to 45 minutes. The cooked bread should pass the thump test! When you thump it, it will sound hollow! (You will soon learn to tell the correct sound) Enjoy!