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.