Making bread

I tell a story about my grandfather to demonstrate the kind of personality he suffered from. It has to do with making bread.

Grandad discovered bread making machines in the 90s and loved to make bread at home. This was after his wife, my Nana, had passed away. After many months, or even a year or two of using his trusty bread maker, he found out that you could make bread WITHOUT a bread maker. It's fair to say he obviously never gave a thought to what Nana ever did in the kitchen for all the years they'd been married and raised seven children. This knowledge of bread making without a machine was a revelation to my grandfather. He was so taken by this information, that he told everyone. And I mean "everyone". He would even look in the newspaper in the Wanted to Buy section, looking for people who advertised that they wanted to buy bread makers, phoned them, and instructed them on how to make bread without the bread maker they now had no need to buy. I think he even went to one of these people in person to give them a lesson on how to make homemade bread.

This was the kind of man he was; always taking things TOO FAR. Much further than other people would have taken most situations.

Recently, I have been thinking about ways to minimise bringing plastic into the house. One of the most prolific plastic items in our household is bread bags. While I don't really eat very much bread, Greg makes his lunch everyday (and sometimes lunch for the grand daughters) and generally that takes the form of sandwiches. So we'd go through three or four loaves of bread each week, which is three or four plastic bags each week.

Even as I type this I can think of ideas for re-using those plastic bags, but even so, eventually they end up in the landfill so I thought maybe I should buy a bread maker (it’s one solution, right?)

Looking up local appliance stores, I thought the cheapest brand was just fine with me. We have two other appliances by Breville and are really happy with them. The Breville BM100 Bread Maker was only NZ$148 at Harvey Norman. That's a good price to pay for something I don't know if I'd be successful integrating into my life. As usual, I hemmed and hawed. Talked about it; thought about it; did nothing about it; until one Saturday morning, I decided to do it. Suddenly.

"Suddenly" is always a dangerous situation for me.

Zooming (because that's how I go everywhere in the Mini Cooper) down the Pakuranga Highway on the way towards the Mt Wellington Harvey Norman store, I took a swerve to Pakuranga Farmers store just in case they have the same brand. It's feeling a bit off-the-cuff at this place, which is a bad place for my mind to be when shopping. Parking was easy and finding the bread making section of their small appliance section was too. They had the Breville, but only a display model for $120 at which point I was excited to be "getting a bargain".

It was the only one of that model they had left, and I asked if there was a box for the machine available. As the lovely Farmers employee was away looking for the box, I realised just how dirty this display model was. She came back to let me know there wasn't a box. I decided to try and get it for a bit less than the display model sale price.

I am not good at this. My brother in law told me when he's trying to get a better price he often asks if they can "sharpen the pencil a bit more" on the price. Not me; I'm passive aggressive with my bargaining - which, btw, I can.not.stand. when I am on the other side of that situation.

"It's quite dirty...." I said, dragging my finger across the thin layer of dust on the cover of the bread maker, "and without the instruction manual, I'm gonna have to figure out how to use this by myself...." I may have actually been kinda whining at this stage "and I've never used a bread maker before...."

The lovely Farmers sales reps said she'd phone her manager to see what they could do. She was on the phone for a few minutes before coming back and saying they'd take another $20 off the machine and so I bought it for $100.

I felt pretty please with myself…

Breville Bread Maker BM100 (shop soiled)

Breville Bread Maker BM100 (shop soiled)

…until I got home and realised just how dirty and abused it was, and also remembered that bread makers have this paddle-thing in the bottom of the baking tin to knead the dough and mine did not have one.

It is at this point that everyone in my place would have taken the bread maker straight back to Farmers and they would have refunded me the money because, without the paddle, the machine is unusable and they are a great store.

But that is not what I did. I carried on the trajectory that had started with that swerve off Pakuranga Highway and into Farmers that morning. That path that I was committed to the moment I had detoured from my original plan. I Googled for the part. Found it at an Australian appliance parts BIG WAREHOUSE SPARES website for AU$24.52 plus AU$22.50 post and packaging, which was waived if my purchase was over NZ$50 so I ordered two.

Of course during the week that I waited for my part(s) to arrive I berated myself over and over for not taking the dusted bread maker back because I also found the plastic was split in the front from customers opening and shutting the lid in the store. But now I was committed to my kneading paddle(s) I couldn't turn back - this dusty, busted-up, paddle-less bread maker was mine.

Even if I'd still taken my bread maker back and got my money back, which I still totally could do any time that week or still now if truth be told, I was in for more than fifty bugs for two kneading paddles. I kept on with my course; with my dirty, little-bit-broken bread maker with two kneading paddles when they arrived.

My sister told me I was crazy; my son called me an idiot; Greg just shook his head at me and I know, that for all my stories about how annoying my Grandfather could be, he would've taken it back too.

The parts arrived and I baked two loaves in the bread maker over the weekend: one wholemeal, and one fruit loaf. They were really great, and using the bread maker was easy and fun. The house smelled of fresh bread, and I was really happy with my machine.

As I've been using the bread maker over the last couple of weeks I can see there are cracks that are aging my machine so quickly. Every time I use it I am reminded that not sticking to my plans and thinking I’m “saving money” ALWAYS ends up like this. There actually is no such thing as a bargain and it's a lesson I continuously fail to learn.

What I am learning though, is how to make bread without getting my hands or bench top dirty - which is a chemical reaction challenge and easy on one hand, and hard on the other.

Wholemeal and honey loaf

Wholemeal and honey loaf

Easy: to throw ingredients into the bread maker and come back 3 hours later to a loaf of bread with a massive hole in the bottom.

Hard: to put well measured and considered ingredients into the bread maker in the correct order to remove the kneading paddle at the right time to get a loaf of delicious, nicely textured bread.

It's lots of fun! I'm also happy not to tell the story about my Grandfather and his bread making any more either.