A couple of days ago my mom brought me a fabulous hand-me-down gift: a bread machine, plus two cookbooks to go with it. I think she could commiserate with my desire, but lack of time or energy, to make bread. When she was a little younger than me, she decided to make bread from scratch one day while my brothers, Brad (2 years) and Paul (2 months), were supposedly taking a nap. As she was kneading dough and congratulating herself on being so domestic, she thought it might be a good idea to check on the kids. Well, Brad had figured out how to work the latch on the screen door and had escaped. She frantically checked the whole house and the yard before taking off down the street. She left the baby in the crib asleep. There was a pond nearby and her first thought was that Brad must have waded into it and drowned, but luckily he was just down the street playing with some other kids in a ditch.
There is no way I could turn my back on Suzi long enough to make bread the old-fashioned way. I would probably have my hands floured up for about ten seconds before she demanded a snack or a DVD to watch. But the bread machine is amazing. Jordan and I went to the store and purchased about $12 of groceries we would need to make bread. My mom gave me a jar of yeast, which she buys in bulk, and I already had a few of the ingredients at home.
We spent a few dollars up front, but most of the things we bought will last for weeks or even months of bread making. I'm not very good at math, but I would venture to say that we are now able to make our own bread for 75 cents - $1.00 a loaf--less if I can get some flour on sale. The only bread I've been able to find for that cheap is store brand, which I hate. Bread is one of the few things I insist on buying brand-name. We usually spend about $3.00 on it.
Using the bread machine is kind of like doing laundry; you don't have to knead the dough and let it rise and come back and put it in the oven. You don't have to get your hands dirty. The other night I made my first loaf and kept peeking in the top window with a flashlight to see what the machine was doing. Just throw the ingredients in, turn it on, and let the smell of fresh-baked bread fill your house. Then pop it out and butter it! (Well, you do have to cut it, of course.)
Unlike a lot of store-bought bread, I know exactly what's in it. Eggs, water, honey, flour, oatmeal, yeast, salt... No weird stuff. Yum.