In today’s fast paced world, many of us sacrifice quality food for expediency’ s sake. When it comes to fresh bread, it doesn’t have to be that way. Bread maker machines are one of the greatest inventions sitting on the modern kitchen counter.
I love my breadmaker (a.k.a the bread machine, a.k.a. The Great White Wonder Cube!). It makes great bread, with less than half the work and time of conventional methods. There are a few things they don’t tell you in the provided recipe book, though. The moisture content in flour can vary, depending on age and environment, and no matter how rigorously you follow the recipe, sometimes it’s not going to work out perfectly. There are a two ingredients we can add, though, that will ensure they turn out wonderfully, every time.
Vital Wheat Gluten
Gluten is grain protein and not all flours have the same protein content. Bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour and cake flour has less. Bread flour costs more than all-purpose flour, but it will work just fine for making bread if you supplement the gluten content. Instead of buying several different kinds of flour for every little thing you do, buy all-purpose flour and add wheat gluten when making bread. It’s not expensive and you need to use very little, about two teaspoons per loaf, so a single can will last you a long time.
When adding wheat gluten to a breadmaker recipe, you’ll get the best results adding it to the pan with the flour. The manufacturer of my bread machine recommends adding the water before the flour, so I add the wheat gluten right after I put in the flour to keep it away from the water.
The second secret ingredient is dough conditioner. Different commercial dough conditioners contain different ingredients — commonly a combination of wheat gluten, yeast and other chemicals such as ascorbic acid (a form of vitamin C), ammonium chloride, DATEM (an emulsifier), different calcium salts and sometimes soy.
It’s a common problem with bread makers that have vertical pans to have a lighter crumb at the top of the bread loaf and a denser crumb at the bottom. Dough conditioners help solve this problem by strengthening the texture and giving a more consistent rise, leading to a more consistent crumb.
As with wheat gluten, you don’t need much. Very little in fact. For a 1 1/2 pound loaf, I find that a mere 1/4 teaspoon of dough conditioner is enough to give me excellent results.
Whether it’s wheat gluten or dough conditioner, you’ll want to check the suggestions on the package for suggested amounts. With the dough conditioner, different brands will give you different results.