I have a confession: I bought a bread machine.
So it’s not the juiciest confession in the world, fair enough. Buying a bread machine would be considered no different than buying a crock pot or toaster oven for most people. Then there’s me.
I am one of those obnoxious people who doesn’t like to have a lot of newfangled kitchen appliances and gadgets. I try to follow the general rule that if a kitchen tool serves only one purpose, I don’t need it. (With a few exceptions, like my beloved pasta machine.) Example: I don’t need a watermelon slicer. Sure, they’re cool and all, but I can slice a watermelon with the same knife with which I can slice meat, veggies, or even bread. More than that, I also feel that using too many modern tools and appliances is “cheating.” This is why I held off so long on buying a bread machine. A large part of me has always felt that using a machine to bake bread is taking the easy way out. I felt that is was inauthentic. Bread, I believed, should be kneaded by hand and if not then it may as well come from the store.
I realize now that I was wrong. About the bread machine, that is. I still don’t need a watermelon slicer.
While I do still believe that it’s important to know how to knead bread by hand, to understand how bread making works without the gadgets, I’m embracing bread machine life.
It’s good to take your time in the kitchen. It’s good to make things from scratch, by hand, the “hard” way. It’s good to prevent clutter by carefully choosing which things you truly need in the kitchen and which ones are gimmicks designed to steal your money. But I’m not superwoman, and neither are you. Sometimes we have to compromise. We have to cut corners a little. And I’m learning that it’s okay.
My high school writing teacher once told me that it’s okay to break the rules in your writing as long you are doing so purposefully and know that you’re breaking them. I think this applies with cooking, too. It’s okay to take a short cut as long as you know it’s a short cut. I know how to make bread by hand. I’ve made traditional sourdough, quick bread, yeast bread, you name it. So it’s okay if I cheat a little.
Here’s why I love my bread machine, y’all.
Bread baking is a lengthy process. Depending on the type of bread, it can takes anywhere from several hours to all day. A lot of that time is spent waiting on it to rise, which isn’t much work obviously, but it’s time consuming. Bread demands that you be there on time or you risk over proofing it (or, later, burning it).
I don’t know about you, but I’m a pretty busy person. Most of us are. I work five or six days a week. Even though I work from home, I can’t leave my desk every hour or two to knead bread or check the oven. I have sometimes squeezed in a loaf on a work day, but when I do there’s no time for anything else. That leaves my one or two days off a week, and let’s face it — those are errand and chore days.
I finally had an epiphany. Bread machine bread is still homemade. It’s still from scratch. I still know all the ingredients that went into it and when it was made. It’s still free from preservatives or mystery ingredients I can’t pronounce. It’s still made with whole ingredients. The only difference is a little counter-top robot is kneading and baking it for me. Which means that on almost any day of the week, I have time to toss the ingredients into my bread maker and push start. Voila, fresh bread waiting for me a few hours later. (And that heavenly fresh baked bread smell in the house.)
I know sometimes as homesteaders we get caught up in the idea that we have to be perfect. We want to do everything by hand the way our great-great-grandmother did. But it’s okay if we can’t always do things that way. Rest assured, great-great-granny would have been thrilled to have electricity, a gas stove, and yes, even a bread machine.
Embrace the compromise. Embrace the blending of the old and the new. Take the best of both worlds and create something beautiful with it. Then slather it with butter and eat it with jam.