The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook (2000) (BLBMC) by Beth Hensperger explains the use of a bread machine. It is a useful book but the recipes cannot be followed. It will depend on the machine, measurement and ingredients. The BLBMC preceded many other titles in the “Not your mother’s” series by Harvard Common Press, a series built around a marketing pitch, dedicated to making new appliances seem to be more exciting and life-affirming than they are.
Beth Hensperger’s Bread Bible earned the 2000 James Beard Foundation award for a cookbook in the Baking & Dessert category. It rode the currents of liberation from industrially processed bread, the recovery of whole grain baking, and inception of artisanal baking. Home bakers were using whole wheat flour and some ancient grain. At that time, home bakers mainly used active dry yeast; some had access to yeast cakes (wet raw yeast). Various kinds of instant yeast were available but not widely used. Ms. Hensperger acknowleged in her chapter on bread machines in the Bread Bible that manufacturers had not translated the knowledge and experience of human bakers into recipes that could be run by selecting a process in a consumer appliance.
The BLBMC recipes did not work in a Panasonic SD-YD250. That was an issue which I solved by using 50% less yeast by weight. They also did not work in a Zojirushi BB-PAC20. [update, March 2020] The BLBMC suggests standard recipes work with different machines but in facts machines have diverged. Machines knead for an optimized time; some machines used the element to heat the pan to a proofing box temperature during the rise. Engineers optimized recipes for their companies’ machines – a walled garden approach to recipes. Core bread flour and whole wheat flour recipes form the basis of milk bread, sandwich bread, sweet bread, seed bread and raisin or fruit bread in manufacturer recipes. Manufacturer have recipes to to fill the pan. Some machines have setting and recipes to bake smaller loaves than the capacity of the pan.
The BLBMC 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 undersells differences in design of bread machines, and understates what new bakers need to know:
- 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;
- A bread machine is a labour saving tool, and not a replacement for the tools and method of artisanal baking.
- The book did not anticipate technological and market changes including:
- Developments in growing and preserving dry yeast, active and instant, and
- Some machines knead harder, faster and longer or program a longer rise phase.
The BLBMC might be called “Bread machines – the missing manual” – for the end of the 1990s. It covers the varieties of white bread, and the method of changing texture and flavour. It has recipes for whole wheat, and ancient grains. It did not anticipate the demand for gluten-free bread recipes and methods, with only 8 pages on that topic. The BLBMC 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. 15 ingredient measurement;
- p. 18 converting volume to weight (flour and sugar);
- p. 12 flour, and
- pp. 46-47, white flour from wheat,
- pp. 106-107, whole wheat flour,
- p. 125, proteins in flour,
- pp. 62-63, using non-wheat flour with wheat flour,
- pp. 133-135, using rye flour with wheat flour.
- p. 140, diy milling of whole grain flour,
- pp. 150-152, non-wheat flour,
- pp. 182-183, baking with whole grains, and preparing whole grain;
- p. 193, organic flour;
- pp. 13-14 yeast;
- p. 15, p. 290. Salt:
- is not just 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. 13, p. 59 vital wheat gluten;
- p. 168 dough enhancers;
- pp. 69-72 6 “sampler” recipes for one pound loaves;
- p. 76 eggs;
- pp. 170-177, gluten free recipes and notes;
- 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.
The sections on using a bread machine to mix and knead dough for baking in an oven, and artisanal baking methods are informative.
BLBMC recipes have ingredient lists for “medium” 1.5 lb. and “large” 2 lb. loaves. A medium loaf usually uses 3 cups of flour; large, 4 cups. The BLBMC recipes are consistent with conventional oven recipes, and are generally well planned and reliable. [update, March 2020] BLBMC recipes work if the user can adapt – usually the amount of yeast – for the machine.
While Ms. Hensperger is clear about the importance of measurement of ingredients for bread machines, she uses home cooking conventions in her recipes including measuring out ingredients by volume. The recipes in the BLBMC measure yeast & salt to the quarter teaspoon, and flour and water to the nearest 1/4 cup; water to the nearest 1/8 cup. Ms. Hensperger covers conversion from volume to weight for flour but not for yeast, salt and other ingredients.
The BLBMC says bread flour should be the white flour in bread recipes. White flour is prepared by finely grinding the endosperm (inner portion) of the kernel after the bran (outer coat) and the germ (seed embryo) have been milled out. Millers and bakers refer to extraction – white flour uses 50-60% of the kernel
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 for retail use is milled from a blend of hard spring wheats – Canadian Millers’ technical standards (Canadian millers produce Bakers patent and bakers clear for commercial bakeries and food manufacturing). Canadian retail all purpose flourhas the same protein content as USA bread flour. It is fine for bread.
Whole wheat flour weighs as much as bread flour, per unit of volume, but is milled from entire kernel -100% extraction. It has has more protein overall but less of the insoluble proteins that bond to form gluten when water is mixed into the flour.
Ms. Hensperger favours the use of vital wheat gluten (a dry powder, not “gluten flour”) for many breads baked in the machine. She suggested added gluten in almost every formula for bread baked in the machine: 1 to 2 tsp of added gluten per cup bread flour; 1.5 tsp to 1 tbsp. per cup of whole wheat flour. Others would not use added gluten with bread flour but add 1 tbsp per cup with whole wheat 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 breads made with bread flour.
Ms. Hensperger described the varieties of dry yeast as: 1. active dry yeast; 2. instant (or fast-acting) 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 Red is a good product but almost any other instant dry yeast works in a BLBMC recipe in the same amount as the BLBMC suggests for SAF instant dry yeast. The alternative for “bread machine” yeast is usually just too high. (*Ms. Hensperger has moved away from suggesting the use of higher amounts of yeasts other than SAF instant dry yeast. 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 1.9 g. yeast per cup (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 – which works in Panasonic machines;
- Zojirushi suggests .5 tsp. of active dry yeast per cup of flour in its recipes
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. I scooped a few dozen samples, weighed them on a scale, and took the mean weight of my samples.
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.
I checked conversions for my ingredients on Measuring and Conversion.