Utilizing my bread machine
My bread machine is the most frequently used appliance in my kitchen. We love homemade breads, cinnamon rolls, pizza crust, dinner rolls, bagels -- and the bread machine saves me so much time! I use the dough cycle and then bake the bread in our oven, since my bread machine is a cheap model that bakes dry, dense loaves (despite much experimentation on the part of my mom and me!).
The bread machine provides a warm, moist environment for proofing bread dough. Mine has a timer feature, which allows me to put ingredients in and then decide when I want my dough to be ready. If I put the ingredients in before bed, I can wake up to rising bread dough! Definitely motivation to roll out of bed... and who wouldn't love a fresh slice of bread at 7am?! :)
I've learned to make the most of my bread machine by using it to knead larger amounts of bread (with, say, 8-10 cups of flour) and then stopping the machine and letting the dough rise in a bowl (to avoid overflowing the machine... although I have overflowed it many times! haha). When doing larger amounts of dough, I sometimes use a spatula to scrape the corners of the pan as it mixes, so no flour pockets remain.
I also use it to knead pizza crust, and if I'm short on time, I'll let the dough knead just until it looks okay (maybe 10-15 minutes) and then stop the machine and take out the dough and use it right away. My pizza crust is very forgiving, it seems. I don't think I've ever completely ruined one! :)
I also add flour or water if needed while the bread machine is kneading, just like I would if I were kneading by hand.
In the last couple of weeks, I have been making my bread machine do a longer knead on our whole wheat bread by stopping it after 10 minutes and re-starting the dough cycle. This has helped my bread here (I'll share more on my whole wheat bread progress tomorrow!). :)
In short -- get to know the dough cycle on your bread machine, and make it do what you need it to! :)