It’s like a Danielle Steele romance novel. The immigrant bread machine comes to America from foreign shores, homeless and without any fanfare, from a land where kitchens are too small to have an oven. The gastronomic gourmets turn up their noses at the futuristic Star Wars offshoot the size of an old-fashioned bread box. There are no books as a guide other than skimpy model manuals. It is an outcast. After all, bread is a sacred food to serious foodies. Machines had already taken over in commercial bakeries and look at what happened there–the decline of quality. Now to have that contraption at the home level to remove the very soul of bread!
The counter top mini-oven was first relegated to kitchens where only those who didn’t dare bake by hand resided, but loved the unique homemade aroma, taste, and texture in homemade bread. But as time as gone on, traditional bakers have discovered that what is absolutely unnerving about the electronic bread machine is that it creates fresh, satisfying, full-flavored yeast breads with no compromise of standards.
Once you get used to how different a method it is for preparing bread from the old method of preparing it by hand, electric mixer, or food processor, where you have to be watching, waiting, noting times, and generally being there constantly, you will see how convenient minimal handling of the dough is and how the fixed timing in the rising cycles eliminates guesswork. I will warn you that for some reason, this type of baking is highly addictive; once you start, you will be looking for all sorts of recipes to make in it.
Even the simplest loaf of homemade bread is special, but the realm of sweet breads is almost a genre of baking unto itself. Sweet breads just reek of “something special.” Whether you have a holiday or family gathering, your own delectable creation is a welcome gift or personalized addition to a meal.
While sweet doughs can be a bit fussy to work with by hand because of the high percentage of sugar and butter that make the dough especially soft, the bread machine handles these with ease. The controls are set to “Manual or Dough,” so the machine can be used for just the mixing-kneading-rising process. With the dough cycle, you have the advantage of excellent mixing capabilities and a mini-proof box just like the pros have. Your dough, reasonably firm and silky, rises perfectly. The dough is then shaped by hand and baked in your home oven, making such breads as whimsically shaped sweet rolls and coffeecakes in your favorite pans. You add the finishing touch, a crumb top or a silky sweet glaze that leaves diners licking their lips.
What you are left with is the aroma of fresh baked sweet breads wafting throughout the house–homemade cinnamon rolls and fruit/nut buns–and your guests and family will thank you for being such a good baker.
Here are some of my favorite swirled sweet rolls. They can be made, then shaped and covered with plastic wrap and left in the refrigerator overnight to bake off in the morning if you need that convenient step. There is nothing like warm cinnamon rolls first thing in the morning.