When Bread Machines Attack
We have a bread machine. Specifically, it was my father-in-law’s bread machine. Apparently he used it quite often to make delicious raisin bread, about which my husband waxes lyrical even now. We have had it since my father-in-law passed away, which has been about twelve years ago. It has sat in a cupboard in the kitchen gathering dust, along with a George Foreman grill, a salad shooter, and a milkshake blender, to name a few. We haven’t been too domestic.
The irony is, I was raised to be very domestic. My mother was Martha Stewart with fangs, and June Cleaver all rolled into one. She could sew anything. She could cook anything. She could craft anything. And she did, and she wanted to make sure that I could too. So from a very young age, she had me baking in the kitchen, and doing public speaking about it, and entering cooking competitions. She showed me how to sew on the sewing machine, and we made shorts with pockets and zippers, and skirts, and sundresses. She even taught me how to bake homemade bread, and we entered it into several competitions.
So despite my homemaking dormancy lo these many decades, I was raised to do all these things. I know how to do them. I just haven’t had time, or energy, or inclination until recently. So while cleaning and organizing the kitchen (a task eleven years in the making), I rediscovered the bread machine. And I decided that if I can make bread from scratch, surely I can figure out how to use a bread machine.
The gods are laughing.
I went to the grocery store and picked up all the ingredients I needed to bake bread in the bread machine. I read through the manual, and the recipes, until I was pretty sure I knew what was going on. I was ready to make bread.
“Are you sure the bread machine works?” I asked my husband. “Of course it works, ” he said. “It always worked. We wouldn’t have kept it if it didn’t work. My dad used it all the time.”
I loaded the ingredients into the bread machine. It was so simple! It took me all of fifteen minutes to get everything in there. I turned the machine on, and it started mixing. The game was on!
I checked on it a bit later. The dough was in a cohesive ball, had the appropriate shine and texture, and seemed to be coming along nicely.
I peeked at it a little later. The dough was rising, and it was just peeking up to the top of the inner baking pan, and looked just about right. My husband made fun of me for staring into the bread machine. I told him to hush, that it smelled good.
I went off and worked on something else. It wasn’t too much later that my husband called me. “I think you have a problem,” he said. I looked at the bread machine. The dough was rising all right. It had risen out of the baking pan, and up to fill the outer lid, and was beginning to flow over the sides of the smaller pan.
“Should I turn it off?” I asked. “I’m not going to justify that with an answer,” my husband replied.
I thought about it. “I may just let it run,” I said. “Perhaps when it begins to bake it will shrink back into the pan.” “It might,” said my husband.
“Also,” I continued, “the machine may be easier to clean if the bread is baked.” “It may,” my husband said.
About that time the baking cycle kicked in. The mushroom top on the bread did, in fact, shrink a little. What it did not do was shrink back into the baking pan. It baked for not very long. Then the cooling cycle kicked in. I peered into the machine. The edges of the bread inside the oven appeared quite brown. However, there was a big mushroom cloud of raw dough hovering over the top.
I had to go pick up my daughter. “Guess what I did today,” I asked. She couldn’t guess. I told her, “I tried to make bread today, in the bread machine. Instead, I made The Mushroom That Ate Dallas.” My daughter thought this was hysterical. She couldn’t wait to get home and see the giant raw mushroom. “Will I need to climb onto the counter to see it?” she inquired. I told her I thought she could see the damn thing from just about anywhere in the kitchen.
When we got home, she ran into the kitchen. She began laughing hysterically. “Let’s get it out,” I said. “Let’s see what we’ve got here.”
I must say, I was very pleased with the non-stick properties of the bread machine. The stem of the mushroom was baked. It actually looked like viable bread. The cap of the mushroom was raw dough, and did not look very tasty. My husband came into the kitchen to inspect my handiwork. We agreed that maybe we could rescue the bread by beheading it, and cutting the raw part away.
It worked! Lo and behold, we had bread. It was almost normal looking bread, once the gooey monstrosity was removed from the top. My daughter began picking at the edges. “Mmmm, ” she said. “This tastes like bread.” “Of course it tastes like bread,” I told her peevishly. “It is bread.” My husband picked at the edges. “I think this is edible,” he said. He sliced it up into pieces. “I think if we toast it,” he said, “it will be pretty good.” He toasted it. It was pretty good.
So my first bread making attempt was a rather funny pseudo-failure cum pseudo-success. I was rather put out that I had been bested by the bread machine, however. I announced my plan to make a second attempt as soon as possible, as this one would be a success. I was sure of it.
When I cleaned the raw dough out of the lid of the machine, the sharp metal edge gashed my palm. I bled. And swore. And found a bandaid. And marveled that the bread machine had managed to get off one more parting shot before it was done with me. Curse you, bread machine! We shall meet again, on a more even battlefield! I shall be armed with less yeast, and more determination! I shall not be defeated! And if all else fails, I’ll make the damn stuff by hand.