Jeffrey Handelman wrote so beautifully about making bread by hand. I,
myself, don't and use a bread machine at all times. But I completely
understand not just the romance of hand-made bread that some people talk
about, but what Jeffrey is saying about needing to FEEL (and look at!) the
dough to see if it is right is important.
I find that step indispensible with the bread machine. Considering the
mutability of New England weather and the way moisture content varies with
ingredients naturally, I can't tell you the number of times I have saved
what would have been a not-so-good loaf by simply CHECKING IT!
I do not use the timed function because I would miss being able to check
the dough. I always check just after it starts mixing (a number of times I
have discovered I had forgotten the blade or had seated the pan
incorrectly....3 hours later that would have been a nightmare!) and then
toward the middle of the first kneading to check to see if it is too wet or
dry and then adjust accordingly.
If I am using a new recipe, I also check toward the end of the 2nd rising
to make sure it isn't going to grow so large it will tough the top of the
machine during baking. In that case by checking, I give myself the
opportunity to gently puncture the top to slightly deflate it.
I LIKE watching the bread go through its paces. Call me dull, but I find
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