I admit it, I was formerly one of those people who looked down on bread machines. I am now having trouble remembering my pedestal, something about not being able to adjust the recipe for the current conditions and batch of flour, not getting your hands in the dough etc. Ironically enough, when I was the most insufferable about it we often bought mass produced bread in the store, the sandwhich loaf kind that is always soft and the recipe is never adjusted for the flour or humidity.
Amongst my freinds I was not alone in this snobbery, as part of her "25 random things about me" on Facebook a friend posted that she used to think bread machines were cheating until she got one. She also apologized to those who used them while she thought that. That item in my friends list began the process of chipping away at my negative attitude about bread machines. But when I first read it I admit I might have been a bit smug about my bread making, while ignoring that sometimes I wished people would stop eating it so fast.
Then I helped a friend acquire a bread machine from Goodwill. After delivering it to her I immediately regretted not keeping it for myself, what with the tales of waking up to fresh bread etc. So the next time someone posted a bread machine on Freecycle I arranged for Lewis to pick it up. I may have admitted it might be a nice addition, but I did not have to be involved in the transaction.
Lewis picked up the machine while I was at work and immediately found a simple white bread recipe and made it for snack that night. My children refused to eat it, and to be honest so did their parents. Lewis really enjoys the foods we eat, the whole wheat flour, the vegetables etc. However when Lewis gets in the kitchen he sometimes seems to forget that and makes white bread or prepares a stir fry where the only seasoning is butter, (in fairness the stir fry was 17 years ago). So with boring tasteless white bread as its inaugural voyage I left the bread machine in the basement for a month.
However the last month has been really busy for me. At the beginning of the month we went away to New York City for Passover, bringing a local Vermont Brisket with us and preparing a seder for my family in my dad's apartment. Then right after we got back I started to work for the 2010 census with a week of training. I am really enjoying my work for the census. The training could have been awful if it wasn't such a great group of people. Our supervisor apologized at the start that he had to read the manual to us verbatim. However as part of the hiring process we were all asked if we would have a problem asking people personal questions. The fact we all said no, this did not bother us means the entire group was outgoing and friendly. The test we had to take to be hired also means everyone was smart and as luck would have it quick witted. However the training did not leave me any time to bake, there was even homework in the evenings.
After the training was over, all the time I would usually spend baking bread has been filled with knocking on doors asking people what their address is and then mapping the location of the buildings. I have learned a lot about my city and I have also been missing some of my free time. So I decided to use the new to me bread machine.
I started with a bread recipe that I have made before using my stand mixer. The recipe is really a bread machine recipe. It is from the blog "Have Cake Will Travel" and is a vegan pumpkin whole wheat bread. I have made a few changes, some because we are not vegan and I avoid butter substitutes. As I have mentioned before we don't eat foods that need a lab to produce them. Also some of the changes just make it easier to make and I have discovered do not have an impact on the end result. Also we like a mix of white and whole wheat flour, although you could go ahead and make this with all whole wheat flour if you want, I am sure it would still be great. I use butternut squash puree in the bread because I have it stored in my freezer. You can use any winter squash puree, or even canned pumpkin from the grocery store. Just make sure to buy the pumpkin puree that does not have added sugar etc for pie.
When I made it the first time in the Bread Machine I got the go ahead from Sebastian. We need bread to go lunch for school so his buy in is important. However he is still 6, and when a round slice first appeared on his plate he refused it. Darn children and their survival instincts for foraging in the wild and avoiding foreign foods. My children are not gathering food in the forest, so I would really like them to stop mistrusting new foods. By the next loaf though both Julian and Sebastian loved the new bread and happily began gobbling it down. And now I can continue to make our bread, even when I am super busy or it is too hot out to turn on the oven. We can all hope I will still make bread with my stand mixer occasionally...
Winter Squash Whole Wheat Bread
1 cup winter squash puree
1 Tbsp butter at warm room temperature or melted (you could sub oil if you want)
1/2 cup water
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar (I use what ever sugar I am in the mood for, brown, sugar in the raw, turbinado, maple sugar...)
1 Tbsp vital wheat gluten (optional, especially if you use some white flour)
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 3/4 tsp yeast
Place the ingredients in your bread machine in the order listed. Turn it on and let the machine make you bread.
(A note on measuring flour. When using a bread machine it is important to measure accurately as you will not have a chance to adjust the quantity of flour while kneading. Spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level it off with a knife. The amount of four I get when using this method id vastly different from when I use the measuring cup to scoop up the flour and then leveling with the knife, or sometimes just wiggling the cup to level.)
If you don't have a bread machine you can still make this, because bread has been around for a long time and bread machines are a new thing. Just put the yeast in the water and allow to stand until bubbly in the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the butter, squash puree, sugar, salt and vital wheat gluten. With the mixer on low add the flour until the bread forms a ball that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic.