Way back when Older Daughter was about a year old, and even though our finances were very, very tight, we bit the bullet and brought a brand-new bread machine. Don loves sandwiches and eats a lot of bread, but my breadmaking skills have always been marginal, so a bread machine seemed like the perfect answer.
We did our research and purchased what was, at the time, a top-of-the-line model: The Regal Kitchen Pro. As I recall, it cost somewhere on the order of $180. That was a tremendous amount of money for a penniless young couple with a new baby and a startup woodcraft business, but we did it.
And oh my, what a machine it's been.
That breadmaker has turned out hundreds upon hundreds of perfect loaves over the past 20 years. Let's see, if I make an average of three loaves a week, times 52 weeks/year, times 20 years, that amounts of about 3,120 loaves of bread.
I made bread last night, but this morning when Don went to take it out of the bread machine, this is what he saw:
In other words, the ingredients were there, but nothing happened.
We fiddled with the wall plug, thinking perhaps it needed to be reset. Then Don fiddled with the machine, wondering if a wire came loose. But no, it appears after 20 years of faithful service, my beloved bread machine has finally bit the dust.
But wait! It just so happened Don had found an identical model a couple years ago at a thrift store, in excellent condition (in fact, it looked like it had never been used). At only $15, he snatched it up. As it turned out, shortly thereafter the bucket on my old machine sprang a leak, so I just transitioned to the new bucket from the thrift-store machine.
This morning I hauled the thrift-store machine out, dusted it off, slipped in the bucket with last night's ingredients, and less than four hours later a beautiful loaf came out.
I tell ya, folks, a bread machine -- if you actually use it -- is one of the handiest and most reliable of household appliances. I hate to see my faithful old machine go, but at least I have a new (to us) replacement which, I hope, will last for the next 20 years.
UPDATE: Some readers have been asking for our standard bread recipe. This is what I usually make (ingredients added in the order listed):
1 1/4 cups warm water
1.5 teaspoons salt
1.5 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 cups all-purpose white flour
1.5 cups wheat flour
2/3 cups oatmeal
1.25 or 1.5 teaspoons yeast (kinda depends on how strong your yeast is -- this will take some tweaking)
I use the "2" setting ("Large-dark") on my machine.
ANOTHER UPDATE: This post got mentioned on SurvivalBlog!