We are very blessed to be part of a fantastic church family, so a few times a year we host dinner for 30 -35 friends. As I aim to embrace frugal living, the meal consists of wholesome local food usually a starter of soup followed by jacket potatoes with either salad or stew dependent upon the season. Each family then brings a pudding for a 'shared dessert trolley' but one of our guests, who is a very talented baker, also brings along some of his homemade bread usually a gorgeous Stilton and walnut loaf. Now Mr Larkin is very taken with this bread and, as I also make soup for our lunch on Saturdays throughout the cold months, he thought he would give bread making a go. I dutifully went to the shops and bought him some bread flour and yeast and he got to work......but the novelty quickly wore off! He was itching to watch some rugby on the television and didn't realise that he would have to knead and prove the bread twice, I think he thought he would just give it a quick mix and shove it in the oven!
He then decided we should look into buying a bread machine. I wasn't too keen as my parents have one and the bread produced is very heavy but as we were only looking to bake a loaf to eat with soup we decided we could overlook this and it was also nearly his birthday, so I got 'Ebaying'. I found a listing for a Kenwood BM450 and put in a winning bid of £11.50. The seller very kindly delivered it at 6.30 the following morning on his way to work!
These bread machines originally retailed at £150 but luckily prices have come down and most shops now stock them for around the £90 mark.
Kenwood states; "Our top-of-the range, artisan bread maker offers superb baking performance and versatility. This bread machine has a convection fan to control the temperature for an even bake and a rapid bake function that can have a loaf baked and ready in under an hour. The BM450 has a wide range of programs and an automatic ingredients dispensing system. It offers a 58-minute rapid bake function, 15 standard baking programmes and a further five that you can set yourself, to time each baking stage - pre-heating, kneading, rising and baking. The BM450 Bread Maker blends striking contemporary design with intuitive, touch-sensitive controls to create a sophisticated, easy to use bread maker that's perfect for keen bakers and bread lovers. It has a viewing window and an internal oven light that makes it easy to keep an eye on baking progress. There's also an optional, round bread making pan for creating round loaves and sweet breads. The combination of black metal, stainless steel and glass, gives the BM450 a distinctive stylish look"
The stainless steel finish is much more attractive than some of the white plastic models out there and whilst I don't usually worry about aesthetics when choosing appliances, it's worth bearing in mind that bread machines are fairly big and won't easily store in a kitchen cupboard but this one looks great on the worktop.
So how was the bread? Well, we were expecting a very heavy loaf like the stuff produced by my parents' machine, but technology must have moved on in the last fifteen years as the bread is beautifully light.
We made a wholemeal loaf first but devoured it before I could take any pictures, however it was a lovely size and shape with a very even colour. The BM450 offers a choice of light, medium or dark crust and we chose medium. The next loaf we attempted was a traditional farmhouse white;
Once again we were very impressed with the results, another light loaf with a pleasing colour and appearance.
Far from being a dense loaf only suitable for dunking in soup, it also makes great sandwiches. Eldest child declared that it was 'even better than the bloomer loaves from the shop' Wow, high praise!
As it's half-term this week the children are at home and we have been busy experimenting with lots of different ingredients, just chucking in whatever we had in the fridge. Below is a chilli and cheese loaf with poppy seeds and crispy onion!
We made it with white flour as I thought wholemeal might be too heavy. It turned out a wonderful golden tone having soaked up the colour of the chilli infused cheese.
Chilli Cheese from Aldi, at a great price
The poppy seeds were part of a Christmas gift range at Sainsbury's and were just 10p in the January sale!
Another soft and airy loaf
We've also made a Stilton and walnut loaf (of course!) as well as brioche, a tropical tea bread and a lemon drizzle cake. The breadmaker also has a jam function which we might try after we've been brambling for blackberries in the Autumn.
The children's favourite feature is the large viewing window and internal light. The instruction manual warns that if the lid is opened during the proving/rising cycle there is a danger of the loaf collapsing, so for excited cooks this offers a risk free method of checking progress!
In the interests of fairness I do have a couple of minor niggles with the product. The measuring device Kenwood provides is a real faff and I found much easier to use separate spoons, especially when swopping beween wet and dry ingredients. These multi-coloured ones were a £1 from Asda.