A Gift Of Bread

I thoroughly enjoy cooking, I am very passionate about it, to the point that going to restaurants is a bit of a challenge to me. I can’t just enjoy the meal, I have to know how it was made, and then I am thinking about what I could do to make it even better.

Since moving to my mountain/desert home, my kitchen arrangement is dramatically different, depending on how you look at it, my kitchen has either shrunk to a mere few square feet, or it has grown tremendously. We only have 2 rooms in the cabin (originally started with just one), the main room is 16×16, this room contains the bedroom, dining room, bathroom, sitting room, utility room, home office AND the kitchen. So I could consider the whole room my kitchen area or just the corner where the small propane stove, wood stove, food storage and sink reside.

The other day, one of my friends out here, the lady who owns the Country Store, was going through her storage room in the store, she ran across a bread machine and asked me if I wanted it. I said “Sure!” and took it home. I wasn’t sure at first if I would be able to use it at my place because of the power requirements. Generally any electric item that generates heat, will suck up a lot of power (that’s why my counter top sized, professional convection oven is still sitting in the back of Bob’s van instead of in the house).

I turned the bread machine over and checked the wattage, this would determine if I could use the machine at my house or if I would have to use the machine at my neighbor’s house. Good news, its 430 watts for the heat coil (75 watts for the paddle), well under what my power setup is capable of running. I plan on testing it later today, I will not make a load of bread, but I will use the dough setting to make tortilla dough. I had been doing this by hand, it’s not hard, I have the tortilla mix already, all I have to do is add 1 cup of tortilla mix to 1/4 cup of water, that’s the ratio, I just increase it as needed. If I am making tortillas for just Bob and I, I usually do 2 cups of mix to 1/2 cup water, generally 1 cup of mix per person. It also depends on how large the tortillas are going to be. I usually make about 7 inch tortillas. I prefer to roll them out by hand, I have a tortilla press, I actually have 2 of them, but they don’t work, period. They don’t make the tortillas flat enough for me, I like my tortillas really thin, so it works out better for my sanity to roll them out by hand,

I said that making tortilla dough is not hard, but since it’s such a stiff dough, kneading it is harder than kneading softer doughs. Add the fact that I don’t have any counter top space or even a table, I have to knead this very stiff dough in a bowl, not the easiest thing in the world to do. So today I will play test kitchen and do the dough in the bread machine. It will test my machine (I’m sure it will do just fine) and it will test my power setup (it should do just fine too).

I’ll try on another day to make a whole loaf of bread. One of Bob’s favorite breads that I used to make is a chocolate bread, it doesn’t really taste like chocolate, it’s not sweet, it uses rye flour, graham flour and white flour, I add the white flour so it’s not so heavy. I’ll have to find my recipe again, that should be fun, I haven’t baked this bread in a long time.

Several hours later…

Good news, the bread machine seems to work with my power system. When I plugged the bread machine in, my inverter beeped for just a second (EDIT- it was not the inverter that beeped, it was the bread machine), then went quiet. The digital numbers on the control panel lit up like it is supposed to. I don’t have a manual for this bread maker, but it looks pretty self explanatory. Before I tried the machine with dough, I tried some of the settings with the machine empty. I didn’t want to find out that my power system would not power this machine after I had tortilla flour and water in the pan! :) I punched a few buttons, set it on the dough setting so that the heat coil would not come on. The paddle in the bottom of the machine began to spin, YEAH! I canceled that one, and tried a couple of more times just to make sure. It ran just fine, I checked my inverter to see what it was doing, it seemed to be dealing with the load just fine. I had my computer on at the same time, if need be I will turn everything else off, but it appears that the load is not too much.

So I placed 3/4 cups of water and 3 cups of tortilla mix in the pan. I chose the dough setting (no heat), the timer on the top said 14 minutes, the paddle started turning, but it acted differently than it did when the machine was empty, oh horrors, what was wrong? The paddle would spin around one revolution, then stop for a few seconds, then repeat. It did this for a couple of minutes, then it began to spin consistently, I suppose that is how it’s supposed to work. I let it mix and knead the dough for about 5 minutes. The dough was well mixed and looked like a happy dough, you bread makers know what I am talking about. I stopped the machine and removed the dough. It was elastic, homogeneous, and generally looked like it is supposed to look.

I pulled off golf ball sized chunks of dough and rolled them into balls. I placed these in a plastic container and covered with a lid. In about half an hour, I’ll roll these out and make tortillas with them. I suspect it will turn out great, the dough looks great. (EDIT-the tortillas turned out GREAT!)

I don’t believe in coincidences, when I went to visit my family (500 miles west of my location), I brought back some of my kitchen stuff that I had left behind at my Dad’s house. The most important thing I found was my electric knife. I had purchased this many years ago specifically to be used for my homemade loaves of bread. Anyone who has ever tried to slice a loaf of fresh, homemade bread will appreciate what I am talking about. Even with a really good bread knife, often you will end up with squished bread. With the electric knife, it slices cleanly through the freshest loaf of bread without pushing and mashing your bread.

Nothing smells better than freshly baked bread, soon, very soon my house will smell like a wonderful bakery! I hope my power system will be able to handle the heating element inside the bread maker, I haven’t tested that yet, I’ll let you know how it works, if it doesn’t, I’ll be baking bread in my cast iron pan on the stove top. :)

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