Bread Machines – How to Choose the Right One for Yourself!
Choosing the right Breadmaker can be a challenge!
Bread machines are one of the great advances in kitchen appliances. They are more versatile than their name implies and they come with a wide range of features and prices. So, how do you choose the best one for your circumstances?
Bread machines are fairly large and can represent a sizable dollar investment, as well, so it is worth taking the time to consider your options carefully.
Here are some points to ponder:
What does a Breadmaker do:
A bread machine takes the ingredients put into it and mixes them, allows the dough to rise and then bakes it in under 3 hours or less! Depending on the type of bread you wish to make, making a fresh, piping hot loaf of bread may be as simple as adding the ingredients and pushing the *START* button.
One of the features available on some bread machine models is a *Delay Start* feature. You load the required ingredients, set the timer, and the bread machine will start the loaf, timing it to end when you want it… this means you can wake up to a hot loaf of bread in the AM or come home to one after a tedious day at work. What a luxury! It is important to keep in mind that perishable ingredients such as milk or eggs are not suitable for use with the delay start feature. You should choose your bread recipe accordingly.
What a Breadmaker doesn’t do:
A bread machine doesn’t remove the bread after baking. Some models of breadmaker have a keep warm or cool down feature. This keeps the hot loaf from getting soggy after baking is complete. Not all machines have this feature.
How does a Breadmaker work? A breadmaker is a large metal box that contains a pan or pans in the mixing/rising/baking compartment. In some models the pans are removable. In other models, they remain in the machine at all times.
There is a control panel on the outside of the machine where the different settings, baking times, and temperatures are implemented
Look for a control panel that is easy to read, use, and understand, in addition to being easy to clean and conveniently located. Often, just a few buttons are needed to set the cycle, crust color, delay start, and turn the machine on.
A common element of breadmakers is the stirring blade, or paddle, that comes up through the bottom of the pan. It must be removed after the baking process is complete. This paddle or blade will leave a distinctive hole in the bottom of the loaf.
The bread machine sets the correct temperature to raise the dough and then adjusts it to the proper temperature needed to bake the loaf. You, the operator, need to correctly measure the ingredients, add them to the bread pan in the proper order, select the appropriate baking cycle, and then remove the bread when it has been baked.
Bread Machine Loaf Shapes
The shape of breadmaker loaves varies according to the design of the machine and the pan shape. They range from tall cylindrical loaves to more traditional shapes and can also be round, square, or rectangular. Loaf sizes vary according the breadmaker’s capacity.
Bread machine capacity is classified by the size of the loaf: 1, 1.5, 2, or even 3 pound loaves. While the weight will vary according to the type of bread and the ingredients used, the machine’s capacity refers to the weight of the baked loaf/loaves.
Large loaves may use as much as four cups of flour, depending on the type of bread. The smaller loaves may require only about two cups of flour.
Breadmaker Convenience Factors:
A removable bread pan makes clean up MUCH easier. Being able to remove the bread pan reduces the amount of crumbs and flour that fall into the machine. It also makes it easier to clean out the small amounts which do fall in.
Some breadmakers have a slide out tray at the bottom of the unit.
With all breadmakers, it is important to remember to place the stirring paddle into the pan BEFORE adding the ingredients. If you forget to do this, you’ll have to dump them and start over. (Believe me, you’ll be an unhappy camper when you forget to do this!)
One of the most important factors in successful machine baking is adding the ingredients into the pan in the proper order. Each bread maker is slightly different and its manual should provide the necessary information.
Bread Machine Baking Cycles:
The available Baking Cycle options are important issues when choosing a machine. Depending on the type of bread being made, the rising time, temperature, and baking time will vary.
Because of this, check to make sure that the bread machine you are considering has the correct baking cycles for the types of bread you want to bake. You won’t be able to bake that type of bread successfully, if your machine doesn’t have the right cycle.
Here are some of the Baking Cycle options which may be available:
- Basic – appropriate for most white or rye breads
- Rapid rise – appropriate for rapid rise yeasts
- 100 percent whole wheat – necessary for whole grain flours which require a longer knead cycle
- Crisp or Italian or French – results in a crisp crust and light texture [This is my personal favorite!]
- Variety or sweet bread – a beep or signal will indicate the appropriate time to add fruits, nuts, cheese, etc.
- Dough – prepares the dough for hand shaping and baking in an oven
- Quick bread – for non-yeast recipes
- Cake and jam – for making cakes and jam
Some machines offer a self-programming feature. This allows you to adjust the machine and adapt recipes not developed for bread machines.
Additional Materials for Breadmakers:
Every bread machine will have a manual specific to that machine and its requirements. They usually include recipes for basic bread types. Take the time to read the manual first, and then keep it nearby so that you can refer to it as needed. If you can look over the manual before purchasing, all the better!
Check out the recipes provided in the manual for a good overview of the types of breads that specific model can make. It is a good idea to begin with the recipes provided for your machine before moving on to other recipes and cookbooks.