Quite some time ago, I went to the grocery store in search of a healthier bread. Now, I live in what I feel is the middle of nowhere, actually referred to as the California High Desert, and there isn't a health food store within driving distance. So, I went in search of said bread at my local Super Target. I just wanted bread that had the basics. Did you know that's pretty much impossible? Everything had enriched wheat flour, preservatives, caramel coloring, etc. I thought to myself, "Shouldn't bread just be flour, water, maybe sugar, and some salt?" So, I left discouraged and decided I needed a breadmaker.
Flash forward to a few months ago, I finally had enough money to purchase my own breadmaker. I scoured Amazon and google attempting to find the best, reasonably priced breadmaker. I wasn't really interested in anything too expensive but I knew I wanted something that would be a good price and still church out the best bread possible. I ended up going with a Sunbeam model found here. Let me tell you, I love this breadmaker! It's cheap, only about $55, but it works great! Never once have I had a problem with it (knock on wood) and it makes delicious bread. I've heard a lot of people complain that bread from a breadmaker comes out with a "machine/factory" taste. I've never had that problem with mine. I highly recommend this breadmaker and, apparently, so do the 499 people who have given it 5 stars on Amazon.
Then I went in search of the perfect recipe. I checked out a bunch of books from my library and tested as many different recipes as I could. That being said, if you get a breadmaker, get this book. It has fantastic recipes for sandwich loaves, fancy loaves, rolls, sweet doughs. I love this book.
After finding the perfect recipe, I went searching for some good bread flour to buy in bulk. Let me here, do a small, but not discreet, plug for my husband's company. Buy from Honeyville Grain. Their bread flour has produced the most delicious bread ever. I use the Cal Best Bread Flour because it has a dough conditioner already mixed in the flour. Dough conditioner is a product you can add to your dough to help preserve it for a little bit longer--bear in mind, homemade bread doesn't last anywhere as long as store bread. But I've found that the dough conditioner in this bread flour adds at least 2-3 days. (It's a personal decision if you want to use bread flour. Bread flour is best because it has a higher gluten content than your basic all purpose. However, if you prefer to not use bread flour, you may need to add a little bit more yeast. I've always used bread flour and they really turn out great.)
That being said, on to the recipe!
Most Delicious Homemade Bread Ever
For a breadmaker
Recipe is for a 1 1/2 pound loaf
1 egg plus enough water to equal 1c. and 2 T.
3 c. bread flour
1 T. plus 1 t. sugar
1 t. salt
6 T. butter, softened, cut and diced
1 t. bread machine yeast (or active dry)
Pour egg and water mix into breadmaker pan. Sprinkle the 3 c. flour evenly over the top. Put sugar, salt, and butter in opposite corners of pan. (Also, I am completely guilty of not leaving 6 T. of butter out to soften before I make my bread. Sometimes, I just chop it up and throw it in cold, other times I plop it in the microwave for 10 seconds or so. Sue me. It works.) Make a well in the middle of the flour (not deep enough to hit the water) and sprinkle in the yeast.
Turn breadmaker to the color setting you like, I do light, and the size of loaf (1 1/2 pound.) This will go on your basic bread making setting.
If you would prefer to do your kneading and rising in the breadmaker and the baking in the oven, put it on the dough cycle. If you prefer to do your kneading and rising by yourself, I applaud you, however, I'm not 100% sure how to tell you to use this recipe in that way. I imagine you could just follow the procedure you would for any homemade bread. Knead, rise, knead, rise, bake until done. But, don't quote me on that.