Bread from Russell Hobbs
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Just 32 deep x 28 wide x 30cm high, with hand recesses in the base for easy carrying, it is off-white in colour and can sit inconspicuously at the back of the kitchen work bench when not in use and only brought forward when needed. On the control panel at the top front of the machine is the LCD display and the push-buttons that select program, size of loaf, colour of crust, timer to set to delay the start and, finally, the start/stop button. The hinged lid has a large 11 x 12cm window through which one can see the contents of the bread tin and so can check on the progress of the whole baking process.
The 16-page instruction book provides a lot of useful information regarding the use of the machine, the ingredients to use, troubleshooting, as well listing the 12 different programmes and providing a number of recipes. In addition to making bread, other programmes include jam and cake making.
Carefully measure out the required ingredients for the size of loaf chosen, check that the mixing paddle is correctly located in the bread tin prior to putting these ingredients in the bread tin in the specified order, select the required program etc. and then press the start button. The bread tin, which has curved corners, is 18 x 13.5 x 13.5cm high. The height to which the loaf rises in the tin will depend on whether a 500, 750 or 1,000g loaf is being made. The machine then does everything. A note in the instruction book tells one that, because the machine gets hot whilst baking, it should be kept at least 5cm apart from anything else.
The time taken for baking depends on the program. For example, the basic bread and the wholewheat programs take 3hr 15min. and 3hr 48min. respectively. In addition to making an immediate start, in order to prepare the machine in evening and have freshly baked bread for breakfast, there is a delay timer of up to 13 hours. Irrespective of whether a delay has or has not been set, the display shows how long it is till the complete bread cycle is finished.
During the cycle a beep sounds at the appropriate time to tell you when to lift the lid and add seeds to the mix should you so desire. There are, by the way, two fast bake programmes for white bread the shorter of which only takes 55 minutes. The instruction book points out that, when using these programmes, “your bread will be smaller, denser and coarser than normal…”.
I did not try either of these programmes but made three different loaves, with the medium crust setting, all of which were of the medium size of 750g. The basic white and wholewheat loaves used recipes from the instruction book and then, the third, was another wholewheat loaf but using the recipe that I use in my own machine.
After removing the loaf from the bread tin and allowing it to cool, in all cases, I found that there were areas of uneven texture within the loaf. In addition, I thought that the white loaf would have been better had the Dark crust setting been selected. In addition, I found that the loaf made to my own recipe rose in a more satisfactory manner than the one using the Russell Hobbs recipe. This showed that, using the recipes provided as a starting point, a little experimentation could be worthwhile to develop recipe(s) that best suit your taste.
Overall, however, although the bread was by no means perfect it tasted good and did not contain the preservatives and other substances that one generally finds in shop-bought bread and so is a healthier option.
Having a list price of £59.99 but available on Amazon for £42.96 it is a reasonable buy and is obviously priced towards the lower end of the market and, as such, one cannot expect any frills. However, it would surely not have been over-costly for the makers to have provided a teaspoon/tablespoon plastic measure. After all, the instruction book stresses the importance of measuring the ingredients accurately.
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