I bought a new breadmaker last week. There was nothing actually wrong with my old Panasonic, but I was wandering through Costco and was seduced by this wonderful new Panasonic, with several new cycles, loads of lovely buttons, and a raisin dispenser. I felt very disloayal as I've had my old breadmaker for at least seven years now and it has done fantastic service. It did drive me mad having to listen for the "raisin beep" though, and it really only had four cycles. This new one is amazing.
Don't get me wrong, I've made bread from scratch and I love doing that, but in the real world, most of us don't really have time for that except on special occasions - like rainy Sunday afternoons when you suddenly realise you don't actually have anything you have to do. (Which for me is almost never.) The breadmaker means that even on busy days, we can have fresh bread. It also makes me very popular.
When I bought my first bread machine I really did struggle, despite following instructions to the letter. Loaves would be a bit tough on top or the crust would look like it had celullite. Despite reassurances these loaves did taste good, I was unconvinced. And I nearly gave up on the breadmaker altogether, until a late night surf on Amazon several years ago revealed a book for "people who were ready to give up on their breadmakers". It's by Sonia Allison and is called (rather appropriately!) The Complete Bread Machine Cookbook. It's stained pages are a testament to the number of times I have used it, and her Olive Oil and Polenta Loaf is a firm favourite with everyone in this house. It is well worth getting hold of a copy, but you'd better hurry as there are only six copies left on Amazon.co.uk and they are all "used"! I would not part with my copy under any circumstances either so don't ask!
So, this last week, the pages of that book have been getting even more stained, and I've also had the nerve to actually try some new recipes of my own. So watch this space for my new inventions in the near future (they are all still in the prototype phase at the moment!). In the meantime, I'm just going to go cut myself another slice of raisin loaf. These bread machines are dangerous!