I have been trying to bake more of our bread lately, instead of getting it at the store. It’s a small way to economize, but we are here all day almost everyday, and it’s easy enough to do if you have a plan.

My plan involves using the bread machine a lot, to at least mix the dough even if I don’t always bake it in the machine. I had one bread machine that my mom gave me about three years ago, and it works wonderfully, but it makes those tall loaves, which are problematic because it makes the slices too big for sandwiches. So I usually end up making dough in that machine, shaping it by hand, and then baking it in the oven. Then, for 5 dollars, I bought a second machine at the thrift store. It has the horizontal pan in it, and makes a more regular looking loaf. I do just let a lot of the loaves bake in that one.

A lot of my favorite recipes for bread machine bread come straight from the manuals for the machines. I found the manuals for both of my machines on line, and tried those recipes first. My favorite, Partial Whole Wheat Bread came from a manual, and is very good.

You can also get bread machine books from your library and try out the recipes in them. If you find one you really like, try used book stores or paperbackswap.com to find a used copy to keep for your own! That is how I found this one, it has beautiful pictures and delicous recipes.

Another good one is The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook. If you like bakery type bread, this is the book for you. If gives recipes and instructions that will have you turning out loaves that look and taste absolutely incredible. bread-machine-book-2

I think though, that while the machines and the recipes are important, we wouldn’t bake bread if I had to drag out all the ingredients everyday, measure them out, and put it all back and clean up the mess. It’s just too much work on top of trying to keep the house reasonably clean and get school done everyday. So what I do is I make my own bread machine mixes.

I pick out the recipes that I think I am going to need for the next week or so, usually a white bread for the kids, a whole wheat bread for me, pizza and french bread. These are the breads we use the most. If I decide I want to be adventurous later in the week and try something completely new, I will drag out ingredients for that. I don’t make a lot of mixes of something we haven’t already tried.

As I bag up each seperate recipe, I can either write the instructions for each on a quart size zip lock bag or I can re-use an older bag with the instructions already written on it. I list what liquid ingredients need to go in the pan first, then I write what cycle(s) can be used with that particular mix. Bags can be reused until they no longer close because flour has gotten in the little tracks. Then you are better served to throw them away than to try to use them. Nothing worse than having flour everywhere because of a poorly sealed bag.

Ingredients go into the bag in the reverse order of how they would be put in the pan. Yeast first, then salt, any sugar, gluten, etc., then flour. This way, when the mix is dumped into the mixing pan, the yeast is on the top. If you are using both white and whole wheat flours in a recipe, I have found that putting the white flour in after the yeast, salt, etc. is a good idea, and then the whole wheat. This way, the whole wheat flour is in contact with the liquids during a whole wheat cycle. This allows them to absorb water and makes for a better rise in the dough.

THen the only thing to do is to store the mixes and let the kids and Sean know that they are there. Mixes are stored in one of those white icing buckets from the bakery that are cheap and often free for the asking. I find that this makes it simple enough for them to make bread themselves if they find we are out of bread. They just pick a mix, add the liquid ingredients and the mix, set the machine and off it goes.

In the future, I’ll share some of my favorite bread machine recipes with you!