I've been making our bread for a couple of years now. Every now and then I hand-make it, but 99% of the time it's in the machine. If we're just using the bread for sandwiches I bake it in the machine but if I want to make rolls or a fancy shaped loaf I let the machine to all the hard work then take it out to shape and the final prove. For a while I was using these pre-mixes, just adding water and yeast. The Germain Grain was hands-down our favourite, dark and grainy and really really yummy. After a while I started experimenting with different recipes and finally found a good one and have stuck with it. That was until this weekend and my fiddling hasn't really stood me in very good stead.
The other week I bought myself a book. That's right, something just for me, not the boys, not the house, ME! Well, the title of the book is 150 Recipes for your Bread Machine so everyone benefits, but you know what I mean! It has gotten me very inspired to make different kinds of bread, heaps of different things to do with the machine (English Muffins or Naan anyone?). Feeling inspired I used the recipe in the book to make a basic 100% wholemeal flour bread (Our usual is 100% wholemeal too). It was unequivocally a disaster. Too dry, not mixed properly and completely not risen. Not even a smidge. So it got chopped up and put in the freezer to take to the park to feed the ducks. Who knows if they'll even eat it?
The next day, take 2. I used my old faithful recipe and the same result! This time everything was mixed and cooked properly but completely not risen! All I could think was 'What is going on?' I started troubleshooting. Bad yeast? I tested it, nope perfect. Different ingredients? Nope, same batch of flour (I buy 20kg at a time), same batches of bread improver, salt, sugar, everything! I then remembered that when I took the pan out of the machine it had dripped some black, grease-looking stuff onto the bench. It also made a different 'knocking' sound when it was kneading. I'm hoping it's not our machine. It's at least 15 years old and was my Mum's before mine. It sat in her cupboard unused for years before I 'borrowed' it. It gets used at least three times a week, so from it's point of view, I understand if it's had enough, I probably would be thinking of packing it in too if I were it!
This morning I thought I'd give it one last go, and the third time was almost lucky. The bread this morning had risen, but not as much as it normally does. The machine made the funny sound again while kneading and I think it's on it's last legs. The bread is edible and it'll do until I can figure out what is going on.