How many times have you sat watching your grandmother (or even mother) making bread by hand. Yes, before the days of the bread machine she would be elbows deep in flour and it seemed like the bread making process was a labor of love. And up until the mid-1980s, this was how bread was made.
In 1986, the first bread machine was released in Japan by the Matsushita Electrical Industrial Company, or as they are known today, Panasonic and they're still making them today. The bread machine wouldn’t be sold around the world for another 10 years.
In this article, we are going to explore everything there is to know about the bread machine. By the time you’re done reading this guide, you’re going to be more familiar with:
Without further ado, let’s get started!
What Is A Bread Machine?
A bread maker is a small appliance for your home that you can make bread in. There is a pan in the machine and at the bottom, there is going to be one or more built-in paddles that are mounted to the center of the maker, which works like a small oven. This unit is controlled by a computer that has various settings on.
These machines often have different settings so you can make a variety of doughs, including white, whole grain, French bread, and dough for pizza. Many of these machines will have a timer so that the bread can activate without you watching it.
What Can A Bread Machine Be Used For?
As you can imagine, a bread machine is going to be used to make breads and doughs. However, these machines can be used to make a variety of foods. Yes, you can make bread and doughs, but you can also use the bread maker to make other things like:
- Jam, sauces, syrups and pudding.
- Soup, stews, and chilis.
- Pasta and casseroles.
- Pasta and casseroles.
The bread machine can be used for anything that requires you to stir continuously while it cooks. Hey, sometimes we get busy and we forget to stir our food as it cooks. When you put it in the bread maker, you don’t have to worry about checking on it.
Ingredients To Make Bread
In most bread recipes, there are simply 4 prime ingredients: flour, water, salt, and yeast. Yep, you read that correctly—only four ingredients. Some would like to have you believe that it is difficult to make bread, it ain't and with these four simple ingredients, you can make a great basic loaf of bread.
Let’s take a look at how the different ingredients affect your bread:
The flour is what gives your bread structure. Wheat flour (what is most commonly used for making bread) contains two proteins (gliadin and glutenin).
When these two proteins are introduced to water, they all combine to create gluten—that stretchy substance that makes bread rise. Flour with more proteins are made from hard winter wheat and they have “Bread Flour” or “High Gluten Flour” on the packaging.
The water is going to be the liquid that encourages the gluten formation and the yeast to reproduce. Without some kind of liquid, be it water, milk, or even oil, the dry ingredients aren’t going to create anything. When you’re making bread, you’re going to want to use hard water, as it will provide you with a more stable dough.
Salt is going to give your dough the flavor that you’re looking for, but it also inhibits yeast growth.
This might sound like you’re being counterproductive, but without even the smallest amount of salt, the yeast is going to grow so much that the bread will deflate because the flour matrix cannot support it anymore. If you have too much salt, the dough isn’t going to rise enough, too little, your dough will rise too much.
Yeast is a single-celled organism that eats sugars. These little organisms create gasses and they reproduce. In the US, you can get your yeast a variety of ways: fresh, cake yeast, active dry yeast, or instant/rapid rise yeast.
If you’re making bread at home, you’re not going to be able to get your hands on fresh yeast all that easily.
Rapid Rise/Instant Yeast
This is a newer variety of dried yeast. This type of yeast can be added in with the dry ingredients without having to be proofed beforehand. Although this is a convenient option, you are going to lose some of the flavor.
Active Dry Yeast
This is active yeast but they are dormant until you add some water. This type of yeast works better when you proof it first. This means adding the yeast to warm water with a bit of sweetener like sugar until it becomes bubbly and a little creamy.
When you’re using a recipe that requires fresh yeast but all you have is active dry yeast, you will only want to use 1/3 to 1/2 of that amount. For example, if the recipe calls for 1 ounce of fresh yeast, use 1/3 or 1/2 ounce of the active dry yeast.
You’ll notice that this is a very short ingredient list. Because it doesn’t have a long list of ingredients you know there aren’t going to be any additives in it.
Keep in mind though that because the ingredient list doesn’t include additives and preservatives, the bread isn’t going to be as fresh as a package of bread from the grocery store, so you are going to have to eat it quickly.
How To Use A Bread Machine
It doesn’t matter if you received one of these gadgets as a gift or if you want to start making homemade bread, it’s important that you know how to use one of these machines.
While most bread makers operate almost the same, it is still a good idea that you read the instruction booklet that comes with your particular model.
Step 1: Know Your Machine
Before you start throwing ingredients into your bread maker, you would do well to know the basics of your machine. Make sure that you know what size loaf it makes and how many cycles it has. You’ll want to check to see if it has crust control settings, too.
A good thing to keep in mind is that most machines will make a loaf that can weigh between 1 to 3 pounds and they usually have 10 cycles. These cycles indicate what kind of process the machine will go through to make a specific bread.
For example, when your machine goes through the “basic” cycle, it is going to make white bread (read your manual to learn what the cycles actually do). The cycles are pre-programmed by the manufacturer, so you won’t be able to tweak the settings. If your machine has crust control, that refers to how dark or light your crust will be.
Step 2: Measure Your Ingredients
When you want to make your bread, you are going to want to use quality ingredients according to a given recipe (we will give you a few recipes at the end of this guide for you to start with). Your ingredients should be at room temperature so they work the best.
There are some models that can use ingredients that you pull from your refrigerator and it won’t start mixing until the temperature of those ingredients reach a certain temperature. Make sure you measure your ingredients specifically to the recipe because any more or any less can alter the bread’s flavor, texture, and appearance.
Step 3: Adding Your Ingredients
Once your ingredients are room temperature and you’ve measured them out, you’re then going to want to add the ingredients into your machine in the correct order.
Read your machines instruction guide for the preferred order.
In most instances, you will add the liquids first, then the dry, and the yeast will go last.
Whatever machine you do have, always remember that you shouldn’t let the yeast come into direct contact with the liquids because it will begin the fermentation process too soon.
Step 4: Choose Your Setting
The number of settings you can choose from will depend on the model that you have. In most bread making instances, you are going to want to choose “basic,” but some examples of other settings include:
- Express bake
- Gluten Free
After you choose that setting, you may have to choose the crust setting. This setting determines how dark your crust will be. Some machines will not have a timer for this setting and in those instances, you will have to set it yourself.
For your basic white bread, it will range between one to three hours, although it would be a good idea to check with both the recipe and the machine’s manual.
Step 5: Press Start
After you’ve included all of your ingredients and you’ve set the settings, all you have to do is press start. If your machine is one that will wait until the ingredients have reached the correct temperature, it may not start right away.
Don’t worry because it will start within an hour. The first few times that you use your bread maker, we recommend that you check on the machine from to time to make sure that everything is working properly.
You can peek through the viewing window and if you see the dough starting to stick to the sides, you can use a scraper to scrape the dough from the sides. If you want to add other ingredients like dried fruit or nuts, you will want to do that after the kneading process, but right before the final kneading cycle.
Step 6: Remove The Kneading Paddle
Right before the machine goes into the baking cycle, you should see if you can remove the kneading paddle. If it doesn’t come out, it may bake into the bottom of your bread and create a hole in your final product.
Step 7: Removing The Bread
Once your bread has finished baking in the machine, you will want to remove it right away. First, check to see if the bread pan can be removed. You will want to use oven gloves because the pan is going to be quite hot. The purpose behind removing the bread is to prevent the crust from getting any harder.
There are some machines that have a “keep warm” function and it’ll keep the bread warm, but it will still continue to cook the bread, even if only slightly. By removing the bread from the pan and putting it on a cooling rack so that the bread is going to stay soft, but not soggy, because the water molecules can escape from the hot bread.
How To Maintain Your Bread Maker?
After you made your first loaf of bread, you probably realize how much fun it is, right? You may be wondering what you can do to make sure that your bread maker is going to last and you can continue making deliciously fresh bread whenever you want to.
Keeping one of these machines in proper working order is simple. Here are some simple tips you can do to make sure your unit makes great bread all the time:
Keep it clean. The pan in most bread makers are not going to be dishwasher safe. This is because there are bearings on the bottom of the pan and it requires lubrication.
When you are going to clean the pan, you’ll want to do it by hand and avoid using any abrasive cleaner or sponge. Bread pans typically have a nonstick coating and you will want to preserve that the best you can.
Also, when the pan is out of the maker, be sure to clean up any bits of baked bread or crumbs off the bottom of the machine. If you have a collection of the baked debris on the bottom of your maker, the heating elements could come in contact with those bits and could alter the flavor of your new loaf of bread or become a fire hazard.
Be mindful of the bread-paddles. The bread paddles are going to be one of the most important (and delicate) pieces of the machine. You want to make sure that you take care of them and be mindful not to break them when you’re cleaning your device.
If you happen to have a bread maker where the paddle can come off when you are baking the load, then that’s more beneficial because the paddle can be removed and you can clean them by hand.
Oil the bread spindle bearings. When you look at the bottom of your bread pan, there is going to be a bread spindle shaft. You are going to want to make sure that you keep this piece oiled on a regular basis. You don’t want to add any oil to the inside of the pan or the internal spindle. Make sure you only use a few drops of a 3-in-1 oil to the outside of the ban.
Make sure you read your instruction booklet to be sure that you’re lubricating the machine correctly. You can oil these bearings once or twice a month, depending on how frequently you use the machine.
Read your instruction booklet. The companies that make bread machines want to make sure that you, their customer, is fully satisfied with their purchase and that you know how to use it properly. If you’re unsure about how to use the bread maker or how to keep it clean, always read your booklet.
Bread Machine Manufacturers
There are many kitchen appliance companies that offer bread machines, but not all of them are going to be that great. Like anything else you purchase, you’re going to want to look for a machine that is made from a reputable manufacturer.
Companies like Cuisinart, Oster and Black & Decker are great affordable options that are easy to use, too. If you want something a little more advanced (and more costly), you have companies like Zojirushi or Panasonic. Keep in mind that just because the bread machine may cost a little more, it may also have features that you can’t find in cheaper brands.
Features like being able to use fresh ingredients that are not room temperature, or crust control.
Simple Bread Recipes For Your Bread Maker
There are thousands of bread recipes on the internet. Your bread maker may even have a recipe or two that you can use! Here are a few simple recipes for your basic white bread, a pumpernickel bread, and even a gluten free option:
Basic White Bread In A Bread Machine
· 1 cup warm water
· 2 tbsp. white sugar
· 1 packet of bread yeast
· 1/4 cup vegetable oil
· 3 cups bread flour
· 1 1/2 tsp. salt
Combine water, sugar and yeast inside the bread pan in your machine. Allow for the yeast to dissolve and become foamy (this takes about 10 minutes). Then add the remaining ingredients. Select the “Basic” or “White Bread” setting on your machine and press start.
Pumpernickel Bread In A Bread Machine
· 1 1/8 cups warm water
· 1 1/2 tbsp. vegetable oil
· 1/3 cup molasses
· 3 tbsp. cocoa
· 1 tbsp. caraway seed
· 1 1/2 tsp. salt
· 1 1/2 cups bread flour
· 1 cup rye flour
· 1 cup whole wheat flour
· 1 1/2 tbsp. vital wheat gluten
· 2 1/2 tsp. bread machine yeast
Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select the “Basic” or “White Bread” setting on your machine and press start.
Gluten Free Bread In A Bread Machine
· 2 cups rice flour
· 1⁄2 cup potato starch
· 1/2 cup tapioca flour
· 2 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum
· 2/3 cup powdered milk
· 1 1/2 tsp. salt
· 1 1/2 tsp. egg substitute
· 3 tbsp. sugar
· 1 2/3 cups warm water
· 1 1/2 tbsp. dry yeast
· 4 tbsp. melted butter
· 1 tsp. vinegar
· 3eggs, room temperature
Most of the ingredients for this bread can be put right into the bread pan of your machine in the order that is outlined by your manual. Some machines will tell you to put the yeast on the bottom then add the flour mixture, sugar, and then liquids. Others will tell you to go in reverse. Be sure to read your manual so you know for sure.
Use the “Basic” or “White Bread” setting with a medium crust setting.
Bread Maker Wrap Up
Baking bread used to be a laborious task that not too many people enjoyed doing. Thanks to the invention of the bread maker, we can go out and purchase a machine that we can pretty much toss the ingredients in and forget about it.
The machine mixes everything together for us and it cooks the perfect loaf—all you have to do is set the machine for the appropriate settings and be done with it!
If you think your family could benefit from having homemade bread, then maybe it’s time you consider purchasing a bread maker today!
Since there are so many options available on the market, it can be a little overwhelming trying to choose the best bread machine available. Head on over to our buying guide for five of our top choices of bread makers. Even if you don’t choose one of our top five picks, at least you’ll have an idea of what to look for.
Leave a comment below and let us know what you love most about having a bread maker. Or, if you have any great recipes that you’d like to share, feel free to comment and share your recipes with everyone!