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June 1999 Issue
Having Your Bread And Eating It Too
by Chris Schaefer
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The breadmaker, or automatic bread machine, is still somewhat a novelty here in the United States. Overseas it is practically unheard of. But one thing is certain, it has made a commanding introduction to our everyday line of kitchen items and has a generous foothold in appliance markets.

Compared to other products featured in these monthly articles, the automatic bread machine is the new kid on the block. It's barely ten years old but has made a lasting impression. Enough so that it has driven appliance manufacturers along interesting paths. And its interest has sparked new sales and opened up markets that pave the way for sales of other products for the kitchen. In short, the automatic bread machine has been a blessing and a curse for Americans.

The idea is simple enough: find a way to add the basic ingredients for a loaf of bread, stick them in a machine, and -- a few hours later -- pull out a fresh, steaming loaf of bread. It's fun, it's cost effective (for the most part), and the taste is out this world... right? So what's the problem? If you look at the microwave oven, the VCR, and the portable compact disc player, you will notice that new things don't come easily. They take awhile to be accepted by the majority and some time to have every bug and "feature" worked out so that a continual yearly sales volume is met. In other words, they don't start off perfectly and they need to evolve to meet and create needs of the consumer.

And part of this evolution is the exact use of a bread maker. Some manufacturers' machines also churn butter, prepare jam, and the rarest of all - one manufacturer's traditional loaf bread maker can cook a meatloaf! But all that aside, how well do they make bread and dough?

Stepping back for a moment, let us first look at where bread comes from. It seems that every single society had some form of bread or another -- some baked good containing a flour or starch product that incorporated other ingredients for flavouring. The bread of today barely resembles the same bread it evolved from -- European breads.

Loaves of interesting sizes and shapes using grains found most popularly in the region -- wheats and ryes and corn. All husked, milled, processed, and stored for consumption. And bread was the easy way to consume flour products. Bread stored for long periods of time. It could be used a meal by itself or alongside any other food. It could be used as a container for soups, fruits, puddings. And it could be lightened and sweetened for a dessert. Bread is a staple for obvious reasons.

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