Rather than a rant that's building and may eventually get posted, I'll post a bread recipe.
So, since getting a breadmaker
a while ago, I've been experimenting in how to make good bread with it. Not just the ordinary fresh baked goodness that the recipes produce, but something that really tastes of Bread, with nice chewy middle and crunchy crust. I'm far too lazy to go out of my way with obsessive artisan baking rituals, so the following is a decent compromise being only a little more faff than normal breadmaker bread, but sufficiently tasty to warrant the hassle.
Start 12 hours before you want the bread to be baked (i.e. usually in the evening).
Put 210ml water in the bread pan
Add 1tsp salt
Put 300g of bread flour on top of the water.
In a separate bowl:
Dissolve 1tsp dried yeast in 100ml water
Add 150g flour
mix to a thick dough to form a pre-ferment
Put pre-ferment on top of flour in the bread pan.
Use French Bread programme (5 on the Kenwood). Set timer for 12 hours (± an hour or so doesn't seem to hurt).
That's it, no oil, no sugar. The yeast will work on the pre-ferment for about 8 hours before the kneading/baking programme starts, breaking it down into all those tasty complex sugars, and there will be enough active yeast in the pre-ferment to let the whole loaf rise. The recipe seems fairly sensitive to hydration levels, a 10% error in the amount of water seems to lead to Bad Things.
If anybody with one of the Panasonic bread makers feels like trying it, I'd be interested to know how well it works there.