Twenty years ago, my new husband and I had this grand idea that we would eventually have a little farm where we would grow all our own food, bake bread, build things, make soap, you name it. At the time, we were living in a small apartment, so growing food was pretty much out of the question, but I could still bake bread and make wizardry in the kitchen. So I did. I even made mayonnaise.
I hear the snickers among you, but let me tell you, homemade mayonnaise is a thing of beauty (if you like mayo, that is), and it's amazingly simple. But I digress.
I baked bread. I got pretty good at it. Then the bread machine came along, and I was not impressed. No, friends, I was not impressed AT ALL. I thought the bread machine was just a way for non-culinary people to say, "Hey, I baked bread!" when it was the machine doing all the work. Plus, I hadn't had any bread from a machine that had the lovely density of what I considered true home-baked bread. That was that, and I let it rest. No bread machine for me.
Fast forward twenty years. The Mister and I never got our little self-sufficient farm, but we did happen onto some musical pursuits that started to take us away from home during certain times of the year. This cut into my bread-baking time, so I stopped baking, and we just bought whatever bread was on sale at the grocery. This was a suitable arrangement for awhile, till I started taking an interest in what was actually going into my food. And friends, let me tell you, commercially made bread is one of the worst offenders. There's a lot of stuff in there that doesn't need to be in there. All that needs to be in bread is water, yeast, sugar, salt, and flour. That's it. Now, granted, specialty breads will have other ingredients like fruit, nuts, grains, herbs, etc., but for basic bread, you only need 5 ingredients. (If you want to find out what's in your food, I recomment The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food, both by Michael Pollan.)
That's when I started to think again about the bread machine. Believe me when I say I had a great moral heart-to-heart talk with myself over this. I don't ever want to be one of those people who lets machines & gadgets do all their work. I've always loved creating things by hand, and considering a bread machine made me feel like I was selling out. But on the other hand, I could control the ingredients in my bread and bake a more wholesome loaf than we'd been buying at the store; plus, it would save us some money since we had been spending extra on the "good" bread. Eventually, my desire for a more wholesome bread overcame my opposition to machinery, and I bought a used bread machine on Ebay.
The machine came during one of those periods when we were frequently away from home, so it was a month or two before I got to use it. But when I did - I was impressed. The whole wheat bread had that wonderfully dense quality that I loved. I was hooked. For everyday bread, I make a whole wheat on the express cycle, which only takes an hour. (ONE HOUR! For fresh bread!!!) I have to make about three every week since a 1.5 lb home-baked loaf has less air in it than a 1.5 lb store loaf, so it yields less slices, but it's so much more tasty. And guess what? It only has 5 ingredients.
I love my bread machine. I'm looking forward to experimenting with some great new recipes. Sometimes changing your mind can be a great thing.