The thing that makes these breads seem to be alive and grow or rise, and gives them their distinct flavor, is an organism known as yeast. Yeast is a microscopic fungus that eats the sugars, or carbohydrates in flour, and then burps, thus releasing carbon dioxide gas into the surrounding dough, which is what gives these breads their ability to rise. Admittedly, the word 'fungus' doesn't sound very appetizing, but there are many kinds of fungus out there, and many of them are good for us. These little creatures not only transform flour and water into the miracle of tasty risen loaves, they also are responsible for what turns crushed grapes into wine, and grains such as wheat and barley into what some refer to as "liquid bread", a.k.a. beer. These ancient food stuffs not only give us palate pleasure; they also provide mankind with nutritional sustenance - a win/win in my book. But these culinary artifacts need to be consumed in moderation, or else, any good they impart will turn out to be injurious to our health - there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, especially alcohol, sugar, and bleached white flour!
Yeast breads are at the heart and soul of the diets of many peoples on earth, and sometimes it is the only item on their menu. Bread is life sustaining, but according to Jesus, it merits second place to that of the Word of God in life giving properties. Jesus ought to know, since the Scriptures say he is the 'Bread from Heaven'. Thank the Lord, because I love bread! On that note, if I were issued bread from heaven, or manna, and water as my daily food stuffs, I would be a very happy camper indeed. Come to think of it, if I were issued the menu of a prisoner, bread and water, provided it was good bread, or even slightly stale; I'd still prefer that to a whole loaf of that commercialized bleached cottony manufactured embarrassment that tries to pass itself off as bread. I'd almost rather starve before consuming that "blunder" bread in the white bag- well almost. As for my darling husband, he loves that stuff, and I just don't understand that. Thankfully, I am alive during what can be considered to be, the renaissance of artisinal breads; a movement that began in the last 30 - 40 years. This nearly lost art of bread making- in America anyway- has come back en vogue, thanks in part to the hippies of San Francisco. Thus proving that hippies, contrary to popular belief, are actually capable of contributing something useful to society. What many people have forgotten, is that all bread -was at one time- considered to be "artisinal", or hand crafted at home, by using recipes that were fiercely guarded, containing whole grain flours, starters, and know how, and were handed down from generation to generation.
If you were so unfortunate as to have been one of those trusting souls who was lured into buying one of the early models, please don't give up on bread baking entirely- there are easy to accomplish recipes that will reward your efforts, and patience, with the satisfying and intoxicating yeasty aroma of fresh, hot, and home made bread -without equaling
the weight of a neutron star.
Fortunately, the newer models of bread machine actually mix and bake bread loaves horizontally, as God intended [except naan of course]. These newer models apparently yield much better loaves, though I lack personal experience, the pictures and testimonials seem to indicate a change for the better.
Gluten Free? A note of encouragement -
Sorry, I'm not an expert in this area. But please, don't be discouraged, dear reader! In case you are not aware of this, there's a plethora of wonderful web-sites dedicated to this subject: gluten free baking. While it may be difficult, and dare I say impossible, to completely replicate the taste, crumb, and texture of wheat based yeast breads, like sandwich bread, more and more information and techniques are being discovered by intrepid and determined gluten free bakers. I have found such a recipe on www.glutenfreecookingschool.com by Mary Frances, where she has gotten several great reviews for her recipes. Something ingenious many of you may want to consider, is to turn off your oven, and plug in your waffle maker for sandwich bread! The possibilities are endless and it promises a nearly zero failure rate - how good is that? This reminds me of something Plato said that I can actually agree with: "Necessity, who is the mother of invention." So, I encourage you, dear reader, to search out the gluten free cooking school website and other websites, and get to baking and enjoying the world's most common food stuff - bread!
Baking Tips: Read the recipe through to get an idea of the method involved, and what ingredients are needed.
Only use yeast that has not gone past the date on the package, or it may not be alive or active.
Measure out your ingredients before you start mixing, this saves time, energy and frustration by helping reduce errors.