Beth Hensperger wrote about baking for 15 years before writing cookbooks for specialty appliances in the Harvard Common Press‘s “Not Your Mother’s … ” series. Her baking books published by Chronicle Books, such as Bread (1988) capture the transition from home baking with the packets of Instant Dry Yeast, through the recovery of whole grain baking by whole earth hippies who became the original foodie artisans (the commercialization of the Counterculture). Her Bread Bible earned the 2000 James Beard Foundation award for a cookbook in the Baking & Dessert category.
The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook (2000) (BLBMC) adapted hundreds of recipes for the bread machine. This involved a different approach to home baking to embrace technology and a more precise way of measuring. She tried to make it seem new and traditional at the same time. While Ms. Hensperger is clear about the importance of measurement of ingredients, she uses home cooking conventions in her recipes including measuring out ingredients by volume.
The section on using the machine to mix and knead dough for baking in an oven, and using artisanal baking methods is informative but a bread machine a labour saving tool, not a tool for artisinal baking.
I had a problem with BLBMC recipes in a Panasonic SD-YD250, which I solved.
The BLBMC implies that its recipes should work in any bread machine. It treated all bread machines (it listed 18 manufacturers in the market at the time) as equivalent, with a warning to “Take Stock of Your Machine”. This oversells the capabilities of bread machines and undersells the complexities of adapting the knowledge of bakers for a consumer appliance:
- Baking involves doing something until a result it observed (the dough is mixed and supple; it has risen, or is ready to bench or bake);
- Some steps cannot be described to a novice without pictures and videos. A baker with some experience might know how a “shaggy” dough (whole wheat dough that has been mixed to the point that the ingredient including water have been blended and the flour has absorbed the water and can be kneaded to develop gluten and left to rise may be described as shaggy) differs from a dry dough that needs more water;
- Machines work in simple steps, without feedback. The designer can program combinations of steps that should produce results with some combinations of ingredients if the machine is loaded properly;
- Machines are not all the same; some machines work with some doughs, and not others;
- The book did not anticipate technological and market changes including the developments in growing and preserving instant dry yeast and changes in machine mixing.
BLBMC recipes have ingredient lists for “medium” 1.5 lb. and “large” 2 lb. loaves. A medium loaf usually uses 3 cups of flour – white, whole wheat and multigrain. The BLBMC recipes are consistent with other bread machine recipes and with conventional oven recipes. There are outliers; e.g. the recipe for a “medium” loaf of 100% whole wheat bread on p. 124 is 4 cups of flour with 1.5 cups fluid. That is a 2 lb. loaf. “Tecate Ranch Whole Wheat” at p. 126 is a more workable 100% whole wheat loaf.
Like other bread and bread machine recipe books for the American market, the BLBMC says bread flour should be the white flour in bread recipes. Ms. Hensperger describes bread flour as having 12.7 % protein. White bread flour in the USA has 11.5-13.5 % gluten-producing protein. All purpose white flour in the USA has 9.5-11.5 %. Canadian all purpose flour is milled from hard red wheat, and has the same protein content as USA bread flour (Canadian Millers’ technical standards are not necessarily reflected in retail packaging). Canadian all purpose is fine for bread.
Ms. Hensperger favours the use of vital wheat gluten (gluten flour; added gluten) in formulas for many breads baked in the machine. She suggested added gluten in almost every formula for bread baked in the machine up to 1 tsp of added gluten per cup, less gluten for bread flour. Added gluten changes the balance of the loaf and the performance of the dough (flow and rise); the effect may be different according to the machine. Adding gluten doesn’t improve white flour breads made with high gluten bread (Canadian AP flour. It doesn’t seem to help if the machine has well planned whole wheat cycle for whole grain breads.
Ms. Hensperger described the varieties of dry yeast as: 1. active dry yeast; 2. fast acting or instant dried yeast; 3. quick-rise (rapid-rise) yeast; 4. bread machine yeast. There are few functional differences between 2, 3 and 4. Instant yeast, under any of its names, is the choice for bread machines. Ms Hensperger prefers SAF instant yeast to the point that she says it is more potent. She suggests two alternatives for each recipe:
- SAF instant dried yeast (SAF Red),
- 25% – 33% more bread machine yeast than SAF instant dry yeast. For instance, for Dakota Bread, BLBMC says 2 tsp SAF or 2.5 tsp bread machine*.
SAF makes a good product but its superiority may be debated. (*Ms. Hensperger has moved away from this approach. In a version of the recipe for Dakota Bread in 2015 on her blog she said 2 tsp “bread machine yeast”).
The range of views about the amount of yeast:
- For a 1.5 lb. loaf, Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook calls for 2 tsp instant dry yeast or more and 1-1.5 tsp. salt for 3 cups of flour. This is in the range of recipes in other books at the time, and of many recipes published on the web. It is .67 tsp instant dry yeast, or more, per cup of flour. This is 1.9 g. yeast per about 140 g. of wheat flour; the B% is 1.4%;
- Manufacturers of instant, rapid/quick rise and bread machine yeasts recommend .5 tsp yeast for each cup of flour for bread machines: Red Star Quick-Rise; Bakipan Fast Action and Bread Machine; SAF Gourmet Perfect Rise and Bread Machine. Fleishmann’s recipes on its web pages imply the same amounts of its instant Quick-Rise (Rapid-Rise) or its Bread Machine product, or more. This is 1.4 g. yeast per about 140 g. of wheat flour; the B% is 1%;
- Panasonic suggests .33 tsp of dry yeast per cup of flour.
Ms. Hensperger covers conversion from volume to weight for flour but not for yeast and salt.
Several online converters report: 1 cup, (48 tsp (US)) instant dry yeast = 136 grams; 1 tsp = 2.8 g. My average for 15 samples of 1 tsp of SAF Red was 2.8 g. It was worth testing. It possible to test because instant yeast has a sandy texture and doesn’t pack down like flour;
Salt can be measured by volume with measuring spoons, but should be used carefully with level measurements. It is better to go by weight. The conversion rate is 1 teaspoon of table salt to 5.7 grams – the teaspoon that the recipe writer will have assumed. Table salt is not all the same – some is pretty finely ground and more dense.
It is a uniquely useful book. It has worthwhile sections on bread machine operation and (pp. 38-39) on common failures. It has sections, sidebars, and detail sections on bread making and bread machine topics. The table of contents and the index don’t locate all of them.
- p. 12 flour, and
- pp. 46-47 white flour from wheat,
- pp. 62-63 whole wheat and non-wheat grain flour,
- p. 125 proteins in flour,
- pp. 106-107 whole wheat flour,
- pp. 133-135 rye flour.
- p. 140 diy milling of whole grain flour,
- pp. 150-152 non-wheat specialty flour,
- p. 193 organic flour
- pp. 13-14 yeast;
- p. 13, p. 59 vital wheat gluten;
- p. 15, p. 290 Salt
- is not used as a seasoning or flavour agent;
- should not be exposed to the water and the yeast before the machine mixes the ingredients;
- can be reduced if yeast is reduced by the same proportion.
- p. 15 ingredient measurement;
- p. 18 converting volume to weight for flour and sugar;
- pp. 69-72 6 “sampler” recipes for one pound loaves;
- p. 76 eggs;
- p. 168 dough enhancers;
- pp. 170, 172 gluten free ingredients;
- pp. 182-183 baking with whole grains, and preparing whole grain;
- pp. 197-198 using the machine to mix and knead dough for baking in an oven, and using artisanal baking methods:
- starters and pre-ferments,
- shaping loaves
- baking stones, tiles and ceramic containers (and cloches);
- p. 233 olive oil;
- p. 354 the shapes of bread machine pans.