Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Long Story About Bread Makers

I have been making bread for a very long time and in the past 20 odd years have owned two bread makers, both Sunbeams the first being a Bake House and the second a Smart Bake. I cannot remember what happened to the first one, it may have broken down or I may have just upgraded. The smart Bake I know I have had for many years, 10+ I recon and have had to replace the bread pan once before as the seal breaks down and the whole pan had to be replaced and they ain't cheap. It has been a work horse and used many times a week and done a great job but the seal has been leaky and horrible for quite some time and I have been using the Kitchen Aid stand mixer to make my dough.  We all know what great machines these are and mine gets used on a regular basis, but I wouldnt want to use it to make the quantities  of bread I usually do. In fact I had noticed the silver pin that holds the head of the machine on, was working its way out. A quick google search and a screw driver solved the problem but I am in no doubt that my breadmaking had caused  the screw to come loose. 

So this morning I had a list of jobs to get done, the first being to fix the pin in the kitchen aid then see if the seal in the bread pan could be fixed, sort answer, no, it came out of Steves workshop looking very sorry for itself. So the question was do I spend more money on a new pan or replace the bread maker completely.  A quick look at the yellowing plastic, non existent menu and a very grubby and corroded bottom made it an easy decision. That's where the easy bit ended. I thought I would replace it with another Sunbeam, either the Bakehouse or the Smartbake should do. There was only $20 difference in the price and both seemed much cheaper than I thought.   Of course no shop stocked both models so it was a bit of a run around to compare the two.  

Now if you are not in the market to buy a bread maker or want to know the pros and cons of said machines you will find this very boring so just skip to the end and have a look at some bready pictures.  If you are a machine user, you may find this helpful and I would be interested in hearing your experiences, woes and bread making delights.   

The reason for the seemingly low prices is the awful quality of these newer models, they are just flimsy pieces of rubbish! The lids on both machines still come off for cleaning but are attached with a molded plastic hinge arrangement that doesn't look like it will last long at all. None of the plastic parts looked like they fitted well and I could see a lot of cleaning nightmares ahead.  The main point of concern is the bottom of the bread pan itself, this is the only part I have had wear out on me and it would be nice to be able to replace just the seal rather than the whole pan.  The Bakehouse does have a clip that holds this mechanism in place which makes you think that it would be possible to do just that, but the rest of the machine left a lot to be desired so went into the no basket. Next we looked at the Smart Bake model. They had made a few changes but none that would improve the performance of the machine and definitely not to the welded seal on the bottom of the pan, this, with the overall drop in the quality left us wondering what other options there were.  There were a few "mini bake" machines but I couldn't see them standing up to the constant use I know my machine will get. There was a Panasonic model that was a little more expensive but no one had any in stock and I knew nothing about these machines. There was also a very smart stainless and black model with an extra despenser and was considerably more expensive. So we went home for something to eat and do a bit more research.
Armed with a bacon sandwich and  a coffee I began the online maze of videos and reviews. The panasonic was coming up with great reviews and on watching good ol you tube, I found out that the additional dispenser was for yeast, and, the reason it came with two bigger lidded cups was to allow you to make sour dough starters, not that sourdough purists would agree with the method shown, but, you can see where this is going can't you, I was hooked.

Back in the car and off to do a deal. Was very happy with the discount we managed to negotiate with the very friendly Colin who was practically dribbling over my boxed machine as he described eating his wife's home made bread and pickle. 

With new beast sitting proudly on the kitchen bench I had to ask myself if it was a worthwhile investment as I usually only use the dough setting, which on my first look at the menu I couldn't find! Had I made a real blunder here, surely you could make dough! I then realised that the whole second menu was dough settings, 12 of them in fact along with a jam and compote setting. So which one to use for my tried and tested hot cross bun recipe?  After consulting the chart in the trusty manual, I had another Oh no moment when it I realised that all the programs started off with a 30 to 60 min rest period, what was that all about? How was i going to get through a big baking day when the settings were taking in excess of two hours each!

  I put in my ingredients in the order suggested in the panasonic recipes, dry ingredient first followed by wet which is the exact opposite to what I have been doing for years now, but seeing as my first venture was not even using a recommended recipe, I thought I had better follow some the book. I put the yeast in the special little dispense in the lid, and the fruit in the other then had to wait patiently until it decided everything was at the right temperature to start. The result, beautifully soft bouncy dough that made the best buns I have had for a long time.  While waiting for this beautiful dough to appear, I had a more thorough look at the manual and found a pizza dough setting that has no rest time at the beginning and is finished in 45 mins. This will work great on my big bake up days and I think will become the most used program.  

We then realised we had no bread apart from the buns and it was too late to do another loaf, so I decided to do the whole process in the bread maker using the timer so we could wake up to a fresh loaf. In the past I had had some very disappointing results and I think this is why I had given up on everything but making dough. If this worked it was going to be a great time and energy saver as we now have an off peak meter and, although I am not working full time this year, still don't get as much time in the kitchen as I would like.  As you can see, a lovely crispy white loaf awaited us this morning. Ok it still has that weird bread maker shape but the taste and texture were great.

So there you go, I did warn you it would be a long read. Lets hope this one last me the 10 years plus I go from the sunbeam. Oh and I did find that you can buy the spindle in the bottom of the pan as a spare part, not have to replace the whole thing, so hopefully will not be so costly.

I have spent a lot of time siting around waiting at appointments recently and spent some of the time knitting some snowy white dishcloths, yeah I know, quite mad but I might as well be doing something while sitting.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Oh January

I don't know what it is about the month of January but I go into a state of apathy. When we lived in the U.K. I blamed it on the short days and cold weather but now we live in Australia so that can't be the reason. Now it is just too hot to do anything but flop around the house and moan about the temperature.  This is a bit of a problem as it is also holiday time when I should be full of inspiration and energy but to be fair it has been a stinkingly hot summer. February is finally here so no more excuses.   Ready for a bedroom update? We are nearly there!  The floor was laid and finished over Christmas, took far longer than it should as the lacquer was taking three to four days to dry between coats instead of twelve hours. There was plenty of heat around so we are blaming humidity.  After Christmas I traipsed through every bedroom furniture shop in and around Newcastle trying to find something that would fit and we both could live with, an almost impossible task. In desperation we drove to the central coast and found something. It only arrived this past Friday and we picked it up yesterday.    Last week we decided the wardrobe we had bought many years ago and had stored out the back was not going to work.  It was going to have to be an IKEA free standing one and a complete change around of the layout of the room, honestly this one room has caused  us more grief than any other so far! As I now don't work one Tuesday a fortnight, we took off to Sydney after our baby sitting duty was finished.  Anyone reading this that lives locally will know that it probably wasn't the smartest move due to being a really hot day, the car guage read 45c at one stage and the fact there had been a crash between a truck and a crane that had the highway closed to all north bound traffic. Not a problem for us on the way down and would be cleared by the time we were coming home you would think. Well no, the road surface had been too badly damaged in the fire caused by the accident. By late afternoon a contra flow had been set up, yes it did take that long, and from what I can gather, a bush fire broke out on the alternative south bound traffic route. It was a day of chaos and frustration for anyone traveling on the highway that day.  We were lucky in that we only sat in crawling pace traffic for about fifty minutes having decided to wait until later in the evening before attempting to get home.  Of course, after such a hot day came the the rain, only light but we still had to buy a tarp and tape to wrap up the boxes, wood and water are never a great mix. It was well after nine by the time we got home and as some of the boxes weighted 60 kg, that stayed in the back of the ute for the night.  Normally with our IKEA shopping sprees, everything is ok but this time we had missing screws, bits that weren't the right finish and we cracked a corner on a door panel, so yesterday saw another trip down the dreaded highway to put all to rights and pick up the bedroom suite on the way back. Fingers crossed, we now have all we need to finish the wardrobe and get the furniture in and we can finally move rooms. Let's hope the next one doesn't give us as much grief!   No sewing or creativity has been happening here, even my little pile of triangles did not get finished for Christmas. I did however make these shopping bags from all my patterned hand dyed half meters for gifts at school.  
The next room we attempt will be my new work room, seems a long time coming but hopefully future posts will see a quicker transformation of an old room into a lovely organised place to create.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Getting there and lots of triangles

The tricky floor is sorted, we have used the left over boards and the new lot will be delivered on Tuesday.  We are aiming to move into the new bedroom for Christmas then start the big demolish job in the new year, yes it will be hot but we never seem to make things easy for ourselves.  
  I have been working on a few Christmas projects this weekend and have a table full of little triangles, or half square triangles as they are commonly known.  I have found a new way (for me) to make these, have a look here. I will never be drawing diagonal lines again, this works brilliantly and is very accurate.
Christmas seems to have crept up on me yet again, I will never get used to a summer Christmas. Only a couple of weeks left of the term, cakes are made, the tree will go up late again, hopefully after the dust has settled from the floor sanding yet to come, and I have plenty of sewing to get done in my little space in the office.  I have stocked up on dyes, a new red and blue has been added to the collection, and have ordered fabric ready for some dying fun during the holidays, in between stripping the front bedroom and watching the tennis 😐

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A few weeks of contrasts

Progress on the bedroom is embarrassingly slow, the main hold up bring this little beauty. We now have to get the new floor to match through the rest of the house, but we are about to unload a flooring sheet from the roof of the ute and, fingers crossed start to get the sub floor down.
There has been some progress thou, I now have a completely white room.
In contrast to all this whiteness, I did a one day workshop up at Maincreek recently and the ladies produced an amazing array of colour and patterns.
A few other colourful things are happening here and now that school work is settling down after a hectic few weeks, I hope to get back to doing weekly posts.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

A quick update and a word of caution

The last school term has started and work dominates everything it seems at the moment but there had been some progress in the to be bedroom, the ceiling is done and the lights installed, although the rest is very much a work in progress.

I have taken a few hasty photos, the flowers are blooming lovely, sorry about the shadow.  The chickens are still wreaking havoc in the garden so spend a lot of time confined to quarters.  The corn and sunflowers are slowly recovering from being flung far and wide by eager chickens feet several time over the past few weeks.

The pouf continues to grow although not so much this week, still trying to get work fit after just two weeks off!  

I have spent this morning putting together some note cards using images the year 8 photography class have taken and edited. These are going to the local primary school who are having an art show this year. I think they have done a great job.  

  And now for that word of warning.  I recently bought those Frixion pens thinking they were the answer to all our fabric marking dilemmas.  My grandson was round yesterday having a nap under the little quilt I had made him and I noticed the pink lines that I had drawn for my quilting guides had reappeared in some places, ironing did nothing to get rid of them, but a soak and wash seems to have done the trick although there are still a few faint marks. The quilt is still wet so I will check again later. This has only happen on the printed fabric, all the hand dyes seem of.  I remember drawing over the lines a few times as they weren't where I wanted them and I suspect the pen has gone right through the fabric and into the wadding and some months later have reappeared. So I would be a little cautious if using loose weave fabrics, don't overdo the pen marks!  
I have just taken the latest sour dough experiment out of the oven, lets just save it it an enormous improvement on my last attempt.  In fact a big buttery hunk is calling me, fortification to tackle some marking, what better way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon.  
I have downloaded a new app for blogging, it's great!  And have changed the setting for leaving comments here. I know a few people have tried but have not had a google account, now it should be much easier.  Let's hope next weeks update has some big progress to report, although it will be a bit late as I will be enjoying a weekend of dyeing up at Main Creek 😀😀

Saturday, October 1, 2016

A Frustrating Day

What a waste of a day!  I had the whole day to myself and usually have a project planned that I can do uninterrupted, but today I decided my blog needed a freshen up and spent hours looking at templates deciding what I really wanted the "new" blog to look like, downloaded a template and fell into a hole of woe!  Hours later I'm back where I started here, minus a few bits that didn't backup before I went down the slippery path of messing up your blog.  I do however have a wix site, not sure I am going to change over thou.

So at 4,o,clock, I realised I was still in my pj's and hadn't actually remembered to eat anything apart from the obligatory cups of coffee, but not sure they count as proper nutritional intake.

To try and compensate for my total lack of achieving anything so far today, I went and dragged in my large crate of wool and filled a smaller crate with a selection ready to start a crochet pouf as shared by Ester over at

The bedroom is still coming along ok, the cornice is up and we had hoped to have the lights in before the weekend but the weather has been horrible, making it difficult to work without lights and the chief renovator is away for the weekend
Although is not that cold now, well hardly chilly really, the fire is lite and I'm ready for an evening of TV and crocheting.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Plodding Along

Well I have decided not to show anymore pictures of bare walls as progress is s....l....o...w... but school holidays are here so I will be acting as foreman and will kick some butt!

So here are a few things that have been making progress.

A little bit more crochet.

The garden is looking prettier and I can sit and have my morning coffee and enjoy the view.

The cheeky gnome has just about disappeared into the veggie patch.

I love cloudy skies and this was the view when I took pictures of the garden a little earlier. Now the sky had gone dark as a storm rolls in over the lake.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

A little progress

I did warn you progress will be slow, a week on and we now have square corners!  The trouble with renovating a very old house is dealing with warp, in this case warps and wefts as this house twists and turns every way imaginable and after spend so much time getting the living area straight, Steve is not going to be beaten by this room. There will be another week of levelling and flattening before anything serious happens in here, but will be worth the effort when we come to put in the wardrobes as hopefully it will fit into a proper corner and the doors will actually slide.

My six balls of wool from last week have transformed into this little gem, I am addicted to this overlay crochet, and looking for something else to keep me busy in the evenings.  I think this will end up as a cushion for the back deck, it will complement the lovely spring bulbs that are blooming away at the moment.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A long process

We all crave that quiet, well organised place to work or create in and if you have followed this blog, you will know that my work space has been out the back of the house in dark and dusty rooms that are cold in the winter, hot in the summer and frequently invaded by unwanted guests.
Well after a lot of persuading we have decided that a spare bedroom is completely unnecessary and I can have a room in the house, the fact that Steve is in need of more work space had no bearing on the decision I'm sure!
You may also be aware that we are in the process of the longest renovation ever undertaken by man, or women for that matter, but today, at last I feel like we are moving forward again.  We have had a junk room for more years than I care to remember,  it is like a black hole in the middle of the house. The door is always firmly shut and very few people have seen behind it. This afternoon, it's walls and floor were finally laid bare, not a bit of junk remained, it is a blank canvas, ready for transformation into ........ No...... Not. My work room, but our bedroom. This is going to be a very long process!

So in many months from now, hopefully this will be a smart new bedroom THEN the work can begin on my work room.  It is the only room in the house that needs completely gutting as it still has the old horsehair plaster walls and ceiling.
But it is a nice big room with a double window to let in lots of natural light, it will be fitted with good working lights and a ceiling fan, plenty of power points and won't be down the back, away from phones, running water and other necessities.

I has been been a very long time since I have posted to this blog and I'm not sure anyone visits anymore, but I will be posting weekly (she says optimistically) photos of the progress towards getting my ultimate work space.  If nothing else this will be a great way to track our very slow progress. 

I had three things to do on my list today, luckily the other two involve sitting in front of the telly with either needles or a hook in hand and this colourful array of yarn, not finding storage for stuff that just can't be thrown or dust!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Blogging from an ipad

Just how easy is it? Well here we go and maybe I will be blogging again soon