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November 30, 2016

KitchenAid Dreams and Bread Making Realities

I want this.

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-10-40-57-amBut this story doesn’t end with me getting the object of my desire. It’s just not that kind of story. I’m not the kind of person who can afford to plunk down $350 on a new kitchen appliance –coveted though it may be– this close to the holidays. This is a story about a SIOD (Single Income, One Dog) young woman who finds a workable solution to a problem.

I love bread (Segues are awkward, so just roll with it, okay?).

My latest culinary obsession is learning how to make bread. But not just okay bread. Really really good bread. Delicious bread that could stand on its own as a meal with a healthy smear of soft Kerrygold butter. Fresh, delicious, warm, crusty bread.

My bread journey began with a self-proclaimed ‘Easy’ Irish Soda Bread recipe I found online. I mixed the ingredients and kneaded the dough…and kneaded…and kneaded…and kneaded. I kneaded the dough for what felt like an eternity…slamming it against my flour-covered countertop over and over. My scrawny hands and gym-avoidant arms ached from the effort.

I put my mounds of dough in the oven, but didn’t feel very confident about them.

I have the good fortune of being friends the chef of one of my favorite restaurants (Hi Brian!) who’s nice enough to respond to some of my weirder food questions and cooking brags. I can also count on him to give me honest feedback.

For instance, when I sent him this:

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I was met with, “I’m dying. I’m not making fun of you…okay…I am. You didn’t knead or fold it enough. Gluten strands never developed. Wouldn’t hold its structure.”

In other words, the result of my intense labor (and trashed kitchen) was two identical giant biscuit loaves.

In retrospect, they would have made excellent weapons for hand-to-hand combat.

In retrospect, they would have made excellent weapons for hand-to-hand combat.

“Why didn’t you use your KitchenAid to knead the dough?” Brian asked. “Don’t tell me you don’t have one.”

I didn’t have one. I don’t have one now. An advanced thrifter such as myself knows very well that they never turn up on the shelves at thrift stores (but you can find them on the online Goodwill store every now and again).

It’s a status symbol. Even if you only ever touch your KitchenAid mixer to wipe the dust off, it probably still holds a position of honor on your countertop. The classic design is flawless. The different glazes are beautiful and vibrant. And if you’re the kind of person who can make a $350+ splurge like that, you might also be the kind of person who wants everyone who enters your kitchen to know it. Everything about its tastefully domineering presence proclaims, “I am a serious gourmand…and I have the tools to prove it.”

I didn’t have a stand mixer. I couldn’t afford one.

But I wanted to make really really good bread.

That’s why, when I saw this for $10 in a recent thrifting adventure, I practically skipped over to the counter with it.

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I <3 you, bread machine!

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Yes. There’s actually a jam setting.

I see bread machines at Goodwill all the time. Every trip. Every store. While fancy stand mixers are a thing a beauty, boxy bread machines just…aren’t. People get them for Christmas, and after making a few tasty loaves quickly grow tired of trying to find a storage space for these non-display worthy appliances.

The machine I chose was sturdy and had all of its parts. Sure, it was dusty and the chrome finish had spots of rust (which are easy to remove with wet balled-up tinfoil), but I wasn’t looking for something to display. I was looking for a tool that could serve my very real need of kneading dough. Lots of dough. As long as it did this (comparatively as well as a KitchenAid), my need would be met. My friend told me bread making was going to take a lot of practice to master, and I was determined.

I tried the same recipe again in my machine (after a thorough cleaning), with better results.

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Yay! It doesn’t look like a prop from Star Wars!

My favorite thing about my new-to-me bread machine is how non-messy it is. I can just dump everything into it and let it do its thing.

My countertops are very very happy.

My countertops are very very happy.

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Look at those gluten strands!

While I love its ability to go through the entire bread making process on its own, I’m still committed to mastering the art of bread making. A truly glorious loaf of bread can’t be made in a machine. Moisture, humidity, room temperature and about a million other things all have to come together. However, for kneading, my $10 machine does the trick.

I’m getting better…

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Yum!

…or so I think until Brian taunts me with pictures like this:

"Like it was sent from the heavens," he says. :/

“Like it was sent from the heavens,” he said. :/

And I’m still making some pretty spectacular mistakes, such as forgetting to remove the mixing blade from my dough before molding it into the pan…

It's like finding the baby in a king cake! :D

It’s like finding the baby in a king cake! 😀

I’m going to keep at it this winter, and maybe one day a KitchenAid will come into my life. But until it does, my secondhand bread machine will do just fine.

15 Comments

  1. Good luck on your bread adventures! One thing you should consider- google “5 minute Artisan bread.” You can find a recipe and there’s a whole book too, it literally changed my bread making life lol. Love the Refashionista blog too, you are an inspiration!

    • Yep – no knead bread is your answer!

  2. Big difference with your new machine; good buy!

    When you’re ready to master the art of bread baking, may I suggest the NYT No-Knead recipe? All you need is a dutch oven (which you can also use for soups, etc.) and some time. I’ve made dozens of loaves and never had a fail. Recipe and video tutorial here:
    http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/11376-no-knead-bread

    Happy baking!

  3. Bread machine for the win! I’m never without one. In the winter, we make rolls and pizza dough once per week. On Christmas, we make cinnamon rolls.

    Another poster recommended trying Five Minute Artisan Bread; I very highly second that recommendation! It’s simple, almost foolproof, and the results are truly tasty.

  4. I have always loved your practicality! This article made me laugh several times though, kinda like it was “Sent from the Heavens.” I was not laughing at you…just with you…because I have had similar problems…like the paddle in the bread picture.

    I agree w the others though. Artisan bread! With the Kerry Gold and homemade strawberry jam. Ohhh yum.

    Glad I am not the only one who practically skips to the Goodwill counter when I find something FABULOUS (like a working serger!).

  5. Create a go fund me campaign and I will chip in as I’m sure will your other readers…. let’s get you a kitchen aid mixer for Christmas!! 😜

  6. Great story on living within your means. Wish others would learn. 🙂 For my kitchen aid mixer, I just set a few dollars aside every pay period, and waited for a really good deal. Took about seven months, but I finally found one for 130, and it was even in the color I wanted. I enjoy it so much more because I waited and worked for it.
    Good luck on your bread adventure!

  7. Now I’m craving bread. A KitchenAid is definitely on my wish list as well. I always see bread machines while I’m out thrifting and consider getting one but I always pass. Next time I may have to pick it up.

  8. I, too, have ventured into Bread-making. I wrote a blog post about my findings (basically, Liquids first, add Vitamin C powder and extra yeast). But my main challenge is that the bread machines are great but they don’t Knead ENOUGH. So I tend to use it for the first knead and prove, then bash it a bit myself and prove again, then WIN.
    http://fabricandfindings.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/successful-bread-machine-baking.html

  9. This talk about making bread took me back over 50 yrs, standing on a chair beside gramma, mixing up the ingredients to make perfect loaves of bread in the wood stove! She even let me do some of the kneading & shaping the loaves. The smell in that little farm house kitchen was amazing! I could hardly wait for that fresh loaf to be cool enough to cut…I always had the end pieces, with freshly churned butter…and to this day, the aroma of baking bread takes me back to gramma’s kitchen!! There is nothing better than that memory.

  10. I’d hit your good friend Brian up to let you “help” in his commercial kitchen in your “spare” time to learn at the knees of the master! 😂 Then I’d put $20 in an envelope each month (maybe with a picture of your coveted mixer glued on the envelope). By this time next year you will have saved enough money to buy the kitchen tool of your dreams!

  11. My mother was the best bread maker ever! She had large strong hands and could whip that dough into submission without the use of a mixer at all. I use my Kitchen Aid now after burning out two bread machines. I have an incredibly rich recipe that makes three loaves, with three eggs in it. Let me know if you want it!! BTW, I live in SC too!

  12. Great post. Glad you scored that bread machine. I get raving reviews from my bread machine loaves when I give them away. It is just basic bread with added, milled flax seed.

    I have one, VERY important and useful tip for you…. Because it has happened to me, and because I would hate for it to happen you to, I will share….

    That little, removable dough paddle at the bottom? DO NOT FORGET to pull it out of your loaf when the bread cools!! I repeat, DO NOT ACCIDENTALLY TOSS YOUR PADDLE OUT with the bottom of a loaf.

    I lost one that way. I live on an island… It is super humid… And my loaf spoiled and grew mold in like a day. At the time, the paddles were irreplaceable. Hubby eventually bought a whole new machine because he wanted bread on demand. We eventually found replacement paddles (eBay?) but the price was stupid. We bought two anyway…

    Regarding the mixer… It sure is a beautiful piece of equipment. And the add on attachment options are endless. I am fortunate enough to have one. However, I don’t like to show it off because it makes me feel like a bragalicious brat.

    I grew up poor. I am still very frugal. I take pride in it because that is partially where my creativity stems from. I see the look of envy in my mother’s eyes when she is in our kitchen because she wants one too. She is a cake decorator by trade… She lives paycheck to paycheck and cannot afford such luxury. And I feel guilty about having an appliance like this as it is soooooooo luxurious. I didn’t need one. I wanted one but could have made do without it, like you. I married a super guy who works his tail off to afford such luxuries.

    Where there is a will, you find a way! Enjoy your bread maker. They are great when you just want quick bread… Honing your baking skill is still great. You can spend hours honing the bread skills… and make a loaf in the machine at the same time in case your loaf comes out like rocks…. or giant biscuits. I need to hone my baking skills too.

    For the record: You can use your machine to knead the dough for you they way it should be kneaded for those gluten high recipes…. It probably has a dough setting. I also use mine to make a mean pizza / stromboli (sp?) dough. The pizza dough setting alone will keep you in the kitchen playing for DAYS! You will find yourself spending all your money on toppings and fillings, lol.

  13. I spent years learning to make bread, don’t be discouraged. Different flours, varying humidity, room temperatures, yeast activity levels… everything affects the dough, but when it all goes right there is nothing like it.

    And a KitchenAid mixer is useless.

    I received one for a big gift and tried its dough hook, it couldn’t knead right. I pulled out the mix and kneaded it myself. I tried a couple more times adjusting my recipes but there’s no control like hands.

    The mixer is great for cakes and cookies, though outrageously overpriced compared to the perfectly adequate hand mixers.

    I recommend you keep trying making bread by hand and you’ll learn the moods of the dough by experience. Save for the mixer if you love other baking and have the room (it is a cute machine) but I use my food processor 10x as often and the immersion blender I picked up at a yard sale does magical things as well, both of which I would recommend over the stand mixer.

  14. I don’t know why it took Goodwill so long to have an online store, but I’m so glad they finally did! I see there are lots of mixers on there as well. Congratulations on the new bread machine and I’m sure you’ll get a real mixer soon enough 🙂