Until, I stumbled upon that link above, which basically uses a kind of sponge method (to allow extra fermenting time to improve gluten formation and flavor), but was easy enough to execute (dump everything to the machine, and use the delayed baking timer function). And, wow! Not only was the bread soft/fluffy and tasted much better, the crumb stuck to each other proper (did not disintegrate when sliced), and as a bonus, it stayed fluffy at room temperature for days! I added some raisins, and that also worked really well for flavor and color enhancement (bread looks a bit darker, as if it used some wholewheat flour :). Definitely a keeper recipe, that I hope could also help all of you out there trying to obtain a soft bread machine loaf!
The formula that I used, as recommended by that article, was to use all of the water in this recipe, and 1 cup flour plus 1/2 tsp yeast as the sponge. You can probably convert many other bread machine recipes to the sponge method with this formula. This blog said it worked with whole wheat also.
Note: I forgot to take pics of the loaf when it just came out, so photos may not look at that glitzy ^_^ .
Soft Bread Machine Loaf RecipeMakes 1.5lb loaf
Adapted from AllRecipes
- 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 cup room-temp water
- 1 cup AP flour (scoop & sweep)
- 1/4 cup oil
- 2 cups AP flour (scoop & sweep)
- 2 TBSP sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp active dry yeast (optional)
- 3/4 cup of raisins (inserted before the second knead cycle)
- Place sponge ingredients into bread machine. Using the machine, mix for 10 minutes (ie. use the dough function for 10 minutes). The mixture should look like pancake batter.
- Place the remaining ingredients in order, as follows: Pour oil. Then spread flour on top, to form a layer that covers the entire sponge surface. Place sugar on top on one side of the flour layer, and salt on another side. Place the yeast (optional) in the middle (basically you want to make sure the yeast doesn't touch the sponge until the very end, because usually the edges of the flour layer dissolve into the sponge first, before the middle part).
- Leave the mixture undisturbed for 8-12 hours, before starting the normal loaf cycle (you can activate your machine manually, or use your bread machine's timer to do this - set it at night to get warm bread in the morning). Setting for bread machine: Basic, 1.5 lb (weight), Light (crust)
- I added the raisins before the machine's second knead cycle (it is a bit inconvenient because you have to man the machine), to prevent the raisins from being shredded/squished too much. But maybe I would try dumping the raisins in with all the other ingredients in the beginning and see how it turns out.
- Under the light setting, the top crust is quite pale, but that is a trade-off you'd have to accept to get a thinner bottom crust, which I prefer. After the bread cools for an hour or so, you can put bread in a ziploc/freezer bag for an even softer crust (as the bread soaks it some of its own steam in the bag).
Bread stays soft for several days, and works well toasted too. It goes really well with nutella spread and some banana slices!