Several years ago I bought a bread machine. I liked its moderate price–I paid about $80 when I found it on sale at Fred Meyer. I liked its horizontal bread pan, and I liked that I could make different sized loaves of bread.
The learning curve was not too steep. I produced some brick-like loaves before I perfected the right flour-liquid ratio. I learned poke a spatula into the corners of the pan during the first mixing cycles, incorporating the dry ingredients trapped there. I enlisted the mechanic in the house to adjust the clamps that hold the pan in place, so that it no longer unseated itself when mixing a heavy dough.
When I got tired of the gaping hole the paddle left in each loaf, I began using the machine’s dough setting. I still liked the ease of dumping the ingredients in the machine and pressing “start,” and now I was able to get my hands on the dough, learning how the dough should feel. The glass loaf pans I had gave me short, wide loaves, so I invested in a proper bread pan, whose dimensions produced a narrower, higher loaf.
Then I discovered the quick ciabatta recipe I’ve written about before. Now I want to take my breadmaking in a new direction. I want more of an artisan loaf, and more variety. I want to use a slow-rise process. I’ve put a hold on our library’s copy of Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Everyday.
I’m looking forward to the next steps in my bread making journey, but without the first step of working with a bread machine, I don’t think I would have arrived here, where I make all our bread, and where I can imagine becoming an artisan breadmaker.