I am a new subscriber to this most interesting site. Also, I am a baker by
profession. This September 1 will be my 20th anniversary as a commercial
baker. For thirteen years I have owned my own bakery, in Vermont.
I am writing with one specific topic in mind: bread machines. I have never
used one, so maybe should keep quiet before offering any opinions. However,
I do have some things to say, so perhaps bread machine die-hards may wish
to tune out.
Although I love the feel of a hand-kneaded loaf, I know indisputably that
for the initial mixing process, there is nothing that surpasses a machine.
Of course, in a commercial bakery, the initial mix is not even concievable
by hand. My bakery is relatively small, 400 loaves is a good day, and while
each loaf does get worked by hand, all the doughs begin in a mixer. As far
as making good breads at home goes, I guess bread machines seem a little
like condoms to me, that is, they remove us from the direct experience. Why
rely on some sealed and remote machine to do it all? Clearly, to make the
best breads, at home or by the hundreds in a bakery, you must feel, feel,
feel the dough during all its stages. Only then can you come to an
understanding of the subtle changes that bread dough undergoes, not only in
the course of the initial mixing, but equally so in the course of the
seasonal changes that dough is subject to. Remember that first and last-the
dough is alive! What works in the summer during high heat and humidity must
be thoroughly modified for the winter bread. My suggestion? Instead of a
bread machine that removes you from direct contact (therefore
understanding) with your bread, far better to buy a Kitchen Aid style
machine. You can mix beautiful doughs, and have a much more complete
involvement with the dough, and how it evolves from minute one to minute
I would like to consider this the beginning of a dialogue. If you have an
opinion on this, why not post it? By the way, it was William Blake who said
it: "Tools are made, but born are hands."