The bread machine I mentioned a couple of days ago has been getting quite a workout. We've had fresh bread every day of our vacation. Back in the 90's, these appliances were super popular and those cube-shaped loaves they turn out were everywhere. Was it the Atkins craze or just staleness that pushed them to the back of the cupboard, like many a crockpot before them? Who can say, but today bread machines are like dodo birds. All of that is prehistory to the teenagers in our family, and judging by their initial fascination with the contraption, I'd say bread machines may be poised for a comeback.
I don't really remember being impressed by the quality of the bread they made back then, and the convenience didn't lure me in, either. I never owned one of the devices. In fact, I was only humoring Josh the other day when we purchased the ingredients for his bread, but I was interested and attentive as he poured them (in the order they were listed, as directed) into the square bucket and snapped it into place before pressing a bunch of beeping buttons, closing the lid, and walking away. And a few hours later, the loaf of garlic herb bread that we sliced and dunked into our soup was pretty good. The next day, I read the other recipes myself, and it has been I who has been dumping and pressing and cooling and wrapping the freshly baked bread cubes ever since.
There is something profoundly gratifying about baking a good loaf of bread. It is sort of magical to take such common ingredients and turn them into food so nourishing and so sustaining. In that respect and to my surprise, the bread machine has not made the experience any less satisfying-- fresh baked bread is fresh baked bread. Whole wheat with raisins, walnuts, and pecans, anyone?