Did you get a bread machine for Christmas this year? Or maybe you are new to baking, or you just have an old bread machine sitting in the cabinet, collecting dust from many years ago? Either way, making fresh bread with a bread machine is a unique process (as is baking bread in general), and you can definitely expect to make a few missteps on your first couple tries. If you have not quite mastered the art of the bread machine yet, then you have come to the right place! This post will help you learn all the ins and outs of baking with your bread machine, and help you learn which methods are the right ones to create that ideal homemade loaves of bread with ease!
What Is a Bread Machine?
Okay, you most likely already know what a bread machine is if you're here: a bread machine is a machine that makes bread. Duh. But what you may not know is technically how it works, and what processes it simulates to help you create better easier breads and doughs. Bread machines on a commercial level were invented as early as 1903--think sliced bread. This bread is created on a mass scale, but individual bread machines only became readily available to consumers in the 1980s and are quite different. This is why your homemade bread in a bread machine will likely still taste better than many of those mass-produced loaves.
A bread maker machine contains a few basic parts. In simple terms, you can think of a bread machine as a tiny oven the size of a loaf of bread. It will have a built-in pan that will be your only available bread or dough size, and some sort of electronic dial to operate it. The other most important part is that your machine will probably have a removable paddle that you can attach to the pan; this paddle serves to actually stir up the ingredients and create your dough for you. So these are the basic parts that make up a bread machine, now let us explore how to actually use it!
How to Make Bread in a Bread Machine
All bread maker varieties will be slightly different, and how you use it will be up to the particular instructions in your machine. There are some common steps that you will probably take no matter which bread machine you have, but always read your instruction manual for specifics. The first step, of course, will be mixing in all the different ingredients. When you are making bread by hand, you mix ingredients very carefully and in a specific order--this does not change when making bread with a bread machine. Each machine will have a different order of ingredients listed, but most will be compiled of the following basic ingredients.
1 cup of warm Water
2 tsp Sugar
2 tsp Salt
4 cups of Flour, sifted
2 ½ tsp Active Dry Yeast
2 tsp Oil
You will probably just mix them all together, but putting them in in the correct order is important to activate the yeast at the exact right time. Measuring your wet and dry ingredients is equally important here as it is when making the dough by hand. If you are new to baking, then check out this article with some baking measurement tips and tricks to get you started on the right track!
Once you have added all of the correct ingredients, you should set the bread machine to whatever setting is recommended for your desired bread type. The instruction manual and recipes included in the machine should have some suggestions as to which settings work best for which types of bread. After you set it, the paddle attachment that we talked about earlier will mix and knead your ingredients into the perfect bread dough! You can stop using the bread machine at this point if you like. Some bakers only use the bread machine to speed up the process of kneading and proofing the dough, not for the entire bread making process. It is completely up to you how you like to use your bread machine, so try a few different ways and let us know which is your favorite!
If you are planning to use the bread machine for the entire process, then you will need to complete another step after mixing the dough. At this point, you will need to set your bread machine to the right baking settings. Some machines can do this step from the beginning as well, but most will require you to do something between the mixing and the baking stages. Many modern bread machines have timers on them so that you can mix the dough and then set it not to bake until later on . . . imagine setting it so that you wake up to a freshly baked bread loaf in the morning! Whether or not your machine has a timer, it will bake your singular loaf of bread for the perfect amount of time for your desired setting. Usually, the bread machine bakes a loaf of bread in around three to four hours. There have been quicker models released in recent years that can bake an entire loaf in under an hour. The benefit, either way, is that you do not need to stay up to take the bread out of the oven and turn off the oven. The sub-hour breads typically are not quite as high quality as those that are allowed the full normal baking time, but we understand that sometimes you're in a pinch!
There you have it: three simple steps to creating delicious homemade bread with your bread machine. The process is so much easier than making your bread by hand that you will not regret this investment! Your friends and family will be all too happy to help taste test all of your yummy new creations.
Other Ways to Use a Bread Machine
We briefly mentioned that there are other ways to use a bread machine, some of which aren't even for bread! Many bakers simply use the paddle feature to mix their dough. You can do this, and then bake the bread in your oven the typical way, or you can save the mixed dough in the freezer to have on hand for emergencies. Another way bakers love to use bread machines is to make other types of dough, like pizza dough or pasta dough, for instance. Some models can even be set to make other things, like jam or mochi, as well, in case bread is not quite your jam . . . get it? Jam? Oh well . . .
The shelf life of your homemade bread will likely be shorter than store-bought bread, as you are not including any preservatives in the mix. However, using a bread machine probably will not shorten the life any more than if you made it by hand. You can still enjoy your bread for about a week after making it (depending on variety and exact ingredients,) and you can always go for our favorite option, freezing the dough! Frozen homemade bread dough will last for up to 6 months in the freezer!
Types of Bread
Certain types of bread will work better for you in the bread machine. More glutinous breads are more likely to produce the best results, as are those made with special bread machine ingredients. The yeast is the most commonly formulated ingredient made specifically for the bread machine. We recommend buying bread machine yeast or rapid-rising yeast for the best results, as all yeasts are definitely not created equal. No special flours are needed other than what is called for in your recipe--most bread recipes will call for bread flour, which can be used interchangeably in a bread machine recipe. If you are adapting a hand-mixed recipe to a bread machine, you may need to make some adjustments, so pay attention to the size of the recipe. Many manual recipes are made for larger loaves or to make two loaves at a time, and will need to be divided in half for best bread machine results. It's important not to overload your machine past capacity, and it may be tough to tell exactly what that capacity is before the dough has had time to rise. Many breads these days call for alternative flours. Because more glutinous flours typically work best, you may have less successful results if you use an alternative gluten free flour, such as almond flour or corn flour, without any additional changes. But if you pay attention to your recipe, then your bread will be delicious time and time again!
No matter where you are in your baking journey, exploring the use of a bread machine will be a great tool to add to your belt. The possibilities are truly endless with some of the new technology--there are even some models that can add nuts and dried fruit to the dough for you! Try out your favorite bread machine recipes and let us know what you think! Are you a bread machine fan, or a die-hard hand-mixed supporter?