If you are getting into baking, or even if you are a seasoned pro at it, you probably are starting to think about ways to expand your skills. One of our favorite tools at Bob’s Red Mill is the bread machine! If you have not explored the possibilities that come with a bread machine, let us break it down for you: they are pretty much endless. Bread making can be a very tedious task, taking quite a while, only to result in subpar bread loaves for no discernible reason every once in a while. With a bread machine, the guesswork and tedium are taken out of the bread making process, and you are left with consistent results every time! So if you are thinking about making the investment in a bread machine, we are here to help. Keep reading to learn all about what you can do with a bread machine (hint: some of it's not even bread!) and how this particular tool can take your baking to the next level!
What Is a Bread Machine?
This is a great place to start! It sounds fairly obvious, but of course, a bread machine is a tool that you can use to bake bread. That part you may have figured out already. These handy tools were invented around the same time sliced bread was invented--yes, that long ago--but they took a while to become readily available on the consumer side of things. Think about the difference between your homemade bread and a loaf of bread you may buy at the grocery store that has been mass produced . . . there is no way the same machine makes both of those. Consumer level bread machines come in all kinds of varieties, but they are all fairly similar in parts and how they work. Most bread machines consist of a bread pan, a paddle, and a basic casing with an electronic dial. Some have advanced settings like automatic timers, but this is the basic construction of a bread machine. It may not seem like anything too fancy, but the magic of the bread machine is more in how you use it than anything else.
How to Make Bread in a Bread Machine
Of course, the most common use of a bread machine is to make bread, and the bread machine can make that process a whole lot easier for you! You start by layering in all of your ingredients like flour, yeast, and water. The key here is that each bread machine will have a different order of ingredients to ensure the yeast activates in the dough at the exact right time for your best results. Pay attention to your instruction manuals when you are adding the ingredients. We always say that baking is a science, and even with special machines to help you out, it is still very important to pay attention and get the right chemical composition in your dough.
After you mix your ingredients, simply set the machine on the right settings for your bread, and the paddle will mix it all up for you. This takes care of the mixing of the dough, the kneading of the dough, and the proofing of the yeast, so if you are a pro bread maker you can probably already see how much time and energy this little machine will save you! Several anecdotal experiments have concluded that bread machine bread typically rises a little more than hand-kneaded dough and can have a more even texture. This all depends on the exact maker and machine and probably is not true 100% of the time, but over time you will probably have fluffier, more consistent bread on average if you let the machine do all the mixing! We haven't even gotten to the best part yet: the actual baking of your dough. The bread machine will bake your bread for you, following your exact specifications for whichever type of bread you are making. There are some machines that even have a setting to brown the upper crust a little further after baking!
What Types of Bread Does It Make?
Bread machines can make most types of common bread, but there are some limitations. You can make white bread, whole grain bread, and even specialty loaves using alternative flours to make gluten free bread. One big thing to consider is that bread machines respond best to more glutinous recipes. If you are using an alternative flour or a large amount of corn or rye ingredients, then your recipe may not have a large amount of gluten in it. In fact, gluten free flours are a big reason that you may be straying from typical flour. If you use less glutinous flours, you will probably find that your bread does not rise correctly in a bread machine, and your texture will seem a little off. We recommend sticking to typical flours, including all purpose or bread flour, for the best results.
These days, bread makers have improved and often come with even more features to help make your baking life easier. There are so many different types of bread that you can make, and different ingredients that you can add to give them that special touch. We especially love the extra flavor of a nut and fruit bread. A number of bread maker models now come with special tools to help mix solid ingredients like fruits or nuts into your dough at just the right time in the process. If your bread machine has this capability, then your baked bread recipe possibilities skyrocket!
How Do I Convert My Recipes?
You can definitely use hand-mixed recipes in a bread machine, but often they take some adapting for the yummiest results because the two processes are somewhat different. The main thing will be the size of your recipe. Most bread recipes are used to make a large loaf or two of bread, whereas bread makers can typically handle only one loaf at a time. Newer models often let you choose the size of your loaf, but you still probably need to cut down on the ingredients from the full manual recipe. The best way to do this is to halve the recipe if possible. If that doesn't work, then just keep your other bread machine recipes handy to compare the ratios of ingredients. Baking is all about those percentages, so keep your ratio of flour to yeast to water, etc. as similar as possible. You will also probably want to take notes on what amounts work well, so that you can repeat the recipe with similar results next time! One of the great things about a bread making machine is that you will get very consistent results if you put in the same settings and ingredients every time! You may find a lot of variety in the outcome of your manual recipes, but machines can be counted on to mix your dough the same way every time.
What Else Can I Make?
You may be shocked to hear that you can make other things besides bread in your bread machine--okay, maybe not that shocked, because we definitely told you that earlier! But some deluxe models often have settings to make other specialty items, like jam, udon noodles, or even Japanese mochi. These are all made with very special processes that can take a lot of time, so the bread machine can pay for itself in the amount of time and energy it will save you, especially if you use it to its full potential. Besides these specialty items, you can also use the bread machine to make other types of dough. Pizza dough is the most common, and some makers have a pizza dough setting! You may have to pay attention and take out the dough before it starts baking, but you can also enjoy some delicious croissants using this method.
Some bakers like to use the bread making machine just for one part of the process. Arguably the toughest part of baking bread is mixing and kneading the ingredients, then there is rising, knocking down, and proofing to do as well--all before even starting to bake the bread. The bread machine takes care of all these steps for you, so you can save more time! Just set the machine to the dough-only setting, and then bake it in your oven on your own settings, or freeze the dough and save it for a rainy day emergency.
The bread machine is a wonderful innovation that has been expanding its capabilities ever since its invention in the early 1900s. This tool can help save you tons of time when you are baking, from pizza to bread and even jam! We definitely recommend adding a bread making machine to your collection if you are an avid baker--let us know what you think of bread machines in the comments below!