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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.

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