Ahhhh bread. Brilliant, brilliant bread.
I love bread.
I don’t care if it’s the polar opposite of current food trends, I still think hot buttery toast is a very special thing.
In this era of Nutribullets and spiralizers it’s almost hard to believe that we once devoted so much of our kitchen worktops to bread making machines. They were giant cumbersome beasts and whilst of course they still exist, I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw one in someone’s kitchen.
In 1997, 19% of US households had a bread making machine according to Fleischmann’s “Yeast Rising Times”. (Yep, that sounds like my sort of publication). Or to put it another way, one in five American households were waking up happy.
I can’t pinpoint when they became so undeniably popular in the UK, I’d say it was the late nineties to early noughties, but by 2011 they’d already fallen out of favour and supposedly 10 million unloved bread machines were sat gathering dust at the back of kitchen cupboards across Great Britain.
I don’t remember the specific day my parents bought one, but it was around the turn of the millennium and I do remember waking up to the smell of freshly baked bread on many a school morning and feeling like I’d won the toast lottery. It was this “overnight” bread making function which really swayed a lot of people into buying them.
You don’t need me to tell you how good freshly baked bread smells, but to smell it upon waking is the height of luxury. It was the most glorious alarm clock and I’d find myself jumping out of bed to get downstairs first just so I could have the honour of prising the strange little tin from the machine and slipping the oddly cuboid bread out onto the sideboard to give that satisfying hollow thud.
Breakfast was very much served.
Where the magic happened.
The machine came with recipe ideas in a little pamphlet and a whole wave of recipe books was created off the back of the bread maker craze. Where we’re now inundated with recipe suggestions for kale and blueberry smoothies, it was once all about dinner rolls and adding a handful of grated cheese to wow your guests. It was a simpler time. I preferred it.
But despite all the amazing things the bread maker claimed to be able to do, we only ever used ours to make your bog standard white loaf. Why tamper with greatness, after all?
To be fair my mum also used to make bread rolls a lot, but that was pretty much the exact same process as making the loaf except you’d get the dough out the machine and form into rolls yourself before finishing in the oven.
She tried wholemeal bread a few times, but it was of course revolting in comparison to the fluffy white goodness that we’d become accustomed to.
The thing I remember most about the bread maker bread was how incredibly sweet it was. It tasted bad for you, in the best possible way. I’m sure you could put 100 types of white bread in front of me now and I’d be able to identify the sugary delightfulness that would have come from our bread maker.
Toasted with lots of Gold (another great 80s/90s memory – was it a margarine or a margarine alternative? I MISS IT) and lashings of Marmite you were more than set up for the day. And because you had to slice the bread yourself you could essentially have about nine slices worth under the guise of two. I was eventually banned from cutting the bread as I’d inevitably cut it too thick to even fit in the toaster and “we don’t have time to put the grill on”.
The shape of the loaf really was strange though: a tall vertical block of bread with a great big hole in the bottom where the paddle had once been. I think newer bread makers got around the paddle issue, but I remember our paddle often got stuck inside the bread and had to be prised out. Or chewed out, if you were feeling particularly savage.
We had many a failed loaf too. No rising, too much rising, burning, undercooking. It seems slightly ludicrous that it could ever go wrong given you were basically just emptying out a sachet into a machine and pressing a button…but hey, I guess measuring water can be hard sometimes.
Writing this has left me tempted to invest in a modern day bread making machine. 2016’s machines even do things like make jam. And of course they all offer the ability to make gluten-free breads, natch.
Obviously you don’t need a machine to make your own bread, but I adore the silliness of it. To have one now would feel simultaneously futuristic and retro. A robotic kitchen servant waking me up with a fresh loaf would be far more preferable than the shrieking of my iPhone alarm. It’s like a Teasmade for carb-lovers.
Bread maker bread, you were delightful.