We got a bread machine for free from Freecycle a month or so back and have been playing with different recipes. We've finally got it down to the best white bread recipe, but we're still looking for a reliable good whole wheat recipe.
Making your own bread can save money, can be fun (depending on your definition of fun) and can be a lot of work. A bread machine is a good way to reduce the amount of work it takes.
We have a 1 1/2 pound (1.5 lbs.) bread machine, but we make a one pound loaf. We like our bread to be cut right side up, instead of sideways, and our bread pan is vertical...so we just make it shorter.
1 pound basic white bread
3/4 c. warm water
2 tbsp. + 3/4 tsp. vegetable oil
2 1/4 c. all purpose flour
2 tbsp. + 3/4 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 3/4 tsp. active dry yeast
Add the ingredients in the oder listed to the bread machine pan, then set it to run a basic cycle. As soon as it's done, pop it out and eat it! Let it cool before you put it in a plastic bag or it will get soggy.
The bread this makes is really fluffy and light. It's so fluffy that you need to cut 1 inch slices for it to stay together. This means it's great for eating with dinner or on it's own, or as toast, but not so much for sandwiches (who wants two inches of bread in a sandwich?!).
Sandwich Bread Modification
For sandwich bread, we want something a little denser so we can make thinner slices. When we want sandwich bread, we add 1 tbsp. of Vital Wheat Gluten to the mix, right after adding the flour. The bread still rises to the same size, but it's more firm and can be sliced in about 1/2 inch thick slices.
We mix up the dry ingredients (except the yeast) for 5 batches all at once and store them in plastic containers.
You can use the same recipe with whole wheat flour, but it won't rise as much and will be quite dense (though still tasty). Occasionally with whole wheat flour the loaf will rise up high and then collapse. It's still edible, it just looks funny and is disapointing.