You have a robotic cooking machine, and you may not even know it. Dust off your bread machine, or go buy a bread maker from the second hand shop for a few dollars. They can be used for a lot more than just bread. Main courses, desserts, appetizers and drinks can all be made with this versatile, under-utilized machine.
This guide is aimed at the following groups, who will get the most from it:
Step 1: What if I want more than just Disco? A Rant.
Imagine that it is the year 1979. The portable cassette player has just been released, and the public goes crazy. "Wonderful!" they say. "I love Disco music, and I love that I can carry my favorite Disco tapes with me!" A manufacturer creates a sells a wildly popular device called the "Discoman".
In a few short years, though, the popularity of Disco crashes. No one wants to hear the thumping beat and prominent bass lines any more. Engineers create a new portable music player, based on CDs. The public response is anemic- "I'm just not interested in Disco anymore." Sales are poor. Technology advances, and the MP3 player is developed. Despite the fact that it can hold hundreds of songs of any type, it is named the "Disco3 player" and is only sold in the Disco section of music stores. Manufacturers make categories for tiny differences in Disco variations, but all other music is simply labeled "Other" and is unsearchable. The devices are only given as presents by ignorant grandparents, and most are either ignored, or wind up in Thrift Stores for 10 dollars.
That's the story of the Fully Automatic Cooking Robot. You probably know it as the "bread machine". The cooking robot was invented in the 1980's, and is solely marketed on the ability to make bread. You can make anything you want- as long as it is bread! White bread. Wheat Bread. Gluten Free bread. The cooking robot can add ingredients at precise times for you, so you can make nut bread. Or raisin bread. Or sesame seed bread. The fully programmable timer lets you start the machine any time, so you can wake up to bread. The cooking robot has a powerful motor, so it can mix anything- stiff doughs, wet doughs, even very sticky dough. All get kneaded into bread. The heating element is controllable and precise- do you want your bread crust light or dark? Recently, the cooking robot had a new button added, so you can make jam. To put on your bread, of course. Or a cake button, because cakes are basically sweet bread.
Is anyone else offended by this? 10 buttons on my MP3 player, and all of them Disco. DiscoVolumeUp. NextDiscoTrack. DiscoPlaylist.
What if I want something more than just disco?
Step 2: Statement of Laziness and Disclaimer
I'm not a great cook. A robot is only as good as its programming, and I am a lazy programmer too. What that means for you is that the "recipes" here are only loosely such, and are really more like guides or inspirations. Because each machine will be different, and because the interface to control them is so poor, I can only offer rough outlines instead of concrete directions.
So you won't see things like "Bake at 350 degree for 20 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes" because we just don't have that kind of control... yet. You'll have to tinker with each recipe, and set your own timers or program the cycles.
Step 3: The obvious choice: Bread-y stuff
Based on my previous rant, It might seem a little disingenuous to start with the bread course. But why not? It's what the machine was made to do.
If you have a new (or new to you) machine, make a few loaves of bread to get an idea of how it works. The bread cycles will step through all of the functions of the machine, so you can see how they work. Every machine is different- I have two, and they have some major differences in how they knead, for example.
This will be a pretty thin section, because you'll find countless resources elsewhere. We aren't breaking new ground here.
Step 4: Start with something sweet: jams, sauces, syrups, and Pudding
Test your machine's jam cycle by making actual jam. I've made several jams over the summer using berries from the neighborhood and backyard rhubarb. The machine easily transform the tough, stringy, fibrous stalks of rhubarb into thick, syrupy jam.
My Jam Formula:
This actually makes it more of a sauce, because I keep the sugar levels low and don't add pectin. Berries have a fair amount and will make it thicken anyway, but you should add it if you use other fruit.
Step 5: Heat and stir: soups, stews, and chili
Basically, anything whose recipe can be summarized as "heat until warm, while stirring constantly" is a good choice for the bread machine with a jam cycle. There are a LOT of options here.
I've made a fair amount of soup in the machine, both from scratch, from a can or a mix, or a combination. The only thing to be aware of is that a very watery soup may splash over the sides of the pan if your cycle is a vigorous one. I fashioned a "cap" out of aluminum foil to keep everything where it should be and sometimes use it.
Step 6: Bake at 350: pasta and casseroles
Full disclosure- The bread machine is not that great at this as a start-to-finish robo-cooking machine. Sigh. This is terrible news for the non-cookers, as it means that you often can't just dump ingredients in and walk away. I've tried, and it pretty much destroys the pasta if you try to have it stir and cook on the jam cycle, turning it into a gelatinous mass.
The good news is, it is still a tiny oven, which means that baked pasta and lasagna-type recipes are totally doable. Most bread machines cook in the range of 350 degrees, so you can convert any pasta bake recipes that want that kind of heat. If you have a programmable machine, you can have it mix for a very short time, and then bake for an hour or so.
Step 7: Breakfast
Something you might not expect the machine to do is scrambled eggs. One of my machines does them well, and the other one needs some help. It seems to be a matter of pan-and-paddle differences. My larger machine has a gap under the paddles that means that some of the egg mixture doesn't get mixed well, and I have to go in and help it out with a soft spoon. (Don't use metal- it'll scratch the non-stick coating!)
In the pictures above, you can actually see a fairly representative flow of what the machine does. Use the jam cycle so it heats and stirs at the same time, and once the eggs are cooked, add in your additions and let it mix those as well.
Something even easier is oatmeal. As we know, the bread maker is quite good at anything that is just "heat and stir".
I haven't tried it yet, but a baked french toast looks pretty feasible. Perhaps one of you will try it and let me know how it goes?
Step 8: Snacks!
Perhaps you'd like something that you would normally throw in the oven or microwave and just heat up? The bread machine can do that too.
I've made tater tots, (fake) buffalo wings, and pizza rolls like this. The instructions say to "spread out evenly on a baking sheet", but it doesn't matter THAT much if you just dump them in. This is aimed at the people who don't have a toaster or real oven- anything small enough to fit is fair game.
If you feel like living dangerously...
You can pull the pan out entirely, and replace it with some aluminum trays. I cut up some pie plates to fit in the machine, and rest them on the heating elements. I used it to make toast. It's a terrible idea, but you could probably use this to warm up a slice of pizza. It's a bad idea because it will probably leak food elements onto the heating elements, which will burn and smell bad.
But, it is possible.
Step 9: Cheesecake?!
This one is for all three groups- The college students, the non-cookers, and the time-saving chefs! I followed the recipe here: http://www.zojirushi.com/recipes/strawberry-cheese...
You can disguise where the paddles (or posts) were with the topping. With enough fruit topping on it, no one can see the crater!
Step 10: The Future
I'm not the only one who sees the possibilities of robotic cooking machines-
There is a lot you can do with these types of machine. Imagine how much more could be done if manufacturers weren't crippling it with a terrible interface...
Imagine if the programmable settings included what temperature to cook at, and for how long. Imagine if you could decide how often, and how hard to stir.
Things a TRULY programmable machine could do:
I've got an Arduino, and am preparing to replace the controller of one of my machines. It will be a long road, as I have a lot to learn, and there is a lot that could go wrong with a powerful appliance like this. (You can be sure I'll be reading and re-reading this instructable ) But maybe one of you can do it better and faster? I hope you will share your plans with me.
Step 11: What to try next?
There are a number of recipes that I know are possible but I have not tried yet. Perhaps some of you would like to give them a shot a let me know how well they work.