You might remember my argument for going back to the basics last year, which is why I fought the idea of a bread machine. But my boyfriend gave me one as a gift and in the last week I've been converted. Sure, you can accomplish some of this list by making bread the old-fashioned (or no-knead way), or by purchasing a fresh loaf at your local bakery. But the satisfaction and ease of a bread machine definitely bends the rules...• You can buy virtually all the ingredients needed in bulk.
• The power usage of bread machines today is getting lower and lower, and the newer models even tout convection ovens inside. According to one site, the average bread maker uses less energy than a coffee maker, coming in at about 9kwh used per month (based on a 600-watt machine that's used an average of 15 hours each month, which seems about right to us).
• Since you're in charge of what goes in the bread, you can make it as local, sustainable, and organic as you want. We've been buying untreated, organic bread flour and all the fixin's (like organic raisins and oatmeal, and even local beer, for specialty loaves) in bulk. Everything that goes into our homemade loaves is earth-friendly.
• Making bread at home means less packaging and no transport. Plus, you're not adding to the energy usage of a large-scale bakery. If you're buying your ingredients in bulk or locally, this has an itty-bitty carbon footprint.
• You're cutting out the use of one large appliance —the oven— and replacing it with the use of a much smaller one.
• Clean-up is a breeze: since you dump everything in the bread machine, it takes considerably less water to tidy up the kitchen after baking a fresh loaf. We use one or two measuring cups that can be cleaned with a dry towel, and give the bread pan a quick rinse when it's finished... and that's it.
• It's not just for your basic bread... I'm not a fan of one-trick ponies in the kitchen (a pizza baker? an avocado slicer?), but the bread machine can do doughs, artisan breads, gluten-free loafs, and even jams and chutneys. So this machine can accomplish a whole lot more than the standard white loaf and that makes it a multipurpose tool.
All right, there's my argument. I think the bread machine is a green move. Did I mention making your own bread saves money?
What do you think?
Originally published 2009-01-06 - CB