For someone who loves cooking, living without a kitchen is something of a prison sentence. For the first few years living in Asia I did not have a one. In fact, as a result of my choice of living a rather Zen existence, I lived on a bed for the first two years, had a kettle for making dreadful instant coffee and dreamed about having a kitchen. So after about 2 years, I decided to get a small fridge, and then later a basic electric cooker, capable of making stews.
This all changed about 4 years ago when I moved to a house, which had a kitchen sink and, well, a kitchen too. Since then, everything changed – I have been quite active in the cooking department and have added every kitchen appliance I thought necessary for the kitchen. I’m a total sucker for kitchen appliances.
When the nanny turned the previous microwave into a melted mess after turning sticky rice into molten ash by heating it for 99 minutes at 600W, it was time to get a proper convection/microwave oven. We settled for a Toshiba, and though it is fairly small, it has turned out to be a little gem. The oven temperature is fairly even, thanks to the fans and small inside space. So the baking turns out beautiful. Also, it measures surface temperatures, so I can set the desired temperature of a glass of milk, or frozen butter, press a button, and it will be heated to that temperature. Very nifty. It also has a setting for fermentation, which allows for ideal temperatures for getting dough to rise, ranging from 35-45 degrees Celsius. It comes with an Asian version of a baking stone, a flat pan made of ceramic, and the oven is capable of making stone baked pizza. So it’s perfect for a compact, cluttered Asian kitchen.
On the day I bought the oven, I also bought a bread maker. I did so begrudgingly, because hell, I just spent $500 on an oven so small, I could carry it out the store by myself. There was a lengthy debate about spending another $120, if really we already had a Kenwood chef and this great little oven.
Eventually the reasoning for the bread maker is that I really hate kneading dough. It takes a lot of time and effort and I can’t stand the sticky bits between my fingers and on my hands. The bread maker would solve all that. The other reason is that finding good bread here in Thailand is a mission. And it’s expensive, at around $3 a loaf. There are 7-11’s on every street corner, and they all sell a small selection of breads. However, the average 7-11 bread is light, airy and even though it looks like bread, it tastes nothing like it. In short its bread by name only.
Another reason for buying it was to use it as a pasta maker. At home we make fresh pasta often, and it has replaced the store bought stuff entirely. In fact, once you get used to fresh pasta, its difficult to be satisfied with the dry variety. Even a good brand like Barilla tastes bland and flat. Making pasta is time consuming, so anything to speed up the process would be welcome.
So with this in mind, the machine, a Spanish one named Fagor (Probably made in China) soon decked my kitchen in all its white plastic glory. I use it a lot. Even though it takes around three hours to make the bread, my part in the making only takes three minutes. So, making bread is a no brainer, takes almost no time, and of course, makes near perfect bread.
If you love bread, or like making pasta, or even cooking jam, the bread maker is essential. If you do decide to buy one, try to get a model that has two rotating blades as opposed to just one. This takes a lot of strain off the motor, and allows for a longer machine life.
Yup, I am not sorry I bought a bread machine. Besides, where else would my daily bread be coming from?
I use the following ingredients, in the order given, for making basic machine bread:
2 tbsp oil (you could use olive oil)
500 – 520g bread flour depending on the brand of flour
2 tsp yeast
1 tbsp white sugar
2 tsp salt
Throw into the machine, press the button, wait for the beep…
Note, though bread machine instructions would say add all the ingredients together in the above order, I usually separate some of the water – about 50 ml in a cup, warm it to about 50 ‘C, dissolve the sugar in it, add the yeast , mix and wait until the whole lot foams. Then add that to the contents in the machine, and press the button.
This way the bread does not run the risk of falling flat.