Waking up to the tantalising smell of freshly baked bread can become a regular pleasure with a bread maker. The attractive, soft and light loaves that a bread maker produces are often cheaper than supermarket versions, and you can have total control over the ingredients, cutting out preservatives and additives, for example. All the hard work is done by the bread maker, freeing you up for what really matters.
With a bread maker, you don’t need to worry about cooking. The appliance will knead the dough, allow it to rise and bake the mixture. All you have to do is put the ingredients into the pan and choose your preferred programme. The baking process takes from three to five hours, after which the loaf is put to cool on a wire rack.
Most bread makers can create brown, white, seeded and wholemeal loaves. Some will also make granary, rye, ciabatta, gluten-free and sourdough, as well as bread containing fruit and nuts.
Common ingredients are salt, flour, sugar, butter or oil, water, bread-machine yeast and occasionally skimmed milk powder. You can also cook with bread mixes that only require water and butter. A small number of bread makers need Vitamin C tablets. Note that you need ‘strong’ or ‘very strong’ flour when making bread in a machine.
Bread Maker Features
A bread maker’s power dictates its baking speed and operation time. The more powerful the machine, the less time it will take to make bread. Machines generally vary from 450 to 1650 watts; low-powered appliances usually offer fewer programmes and many can’t knead dough.
You’ll probably want your bread maker to sit permanently on your work surface for easy access. Make sure that there is enough room in your kitchen for the appliance and go for a lighter model if you are likely to be moving it around a lot.
A menu on the control panel allows you to select settings for the type of flour, size of loaf and crust colour. It’s important that you can easily follow instructions since menus that are too complicated could mean poor results.
Make sure that the control panel is easy to use and check that it has different loaf sizes, crust settings and a timer. Sometimes these settings only work with white bread, so look into what’s available if you want to create other types of loaves.
Some bread makers let you design tailor-made baking programmes. This means that you can change the length of stages of the baking cycle and save them as a preset. If you like tweaking recipes, choose a bread maker that lets you alter the existing recipes.
Adding ingredients mid-cycle
In following recipes that require adding ingredients such as seeds or raisins after the start of the baking cycle, bread makers will stop and alert you to pour in the required items. However, this means that you have to be there at the exact time. You are best off with a model that has an automatic dispenser which you fill before cooking. This will prevent you from having to hang around to mix in ingredients manually.
Bread Maker Functions to Look out for
Bread makers typically offer some or all of the following features.
A ‘keep warm’ button stops loaves from going soggy prior to removal. It will send the tempting smell of baking bread wafting throughout your kitchen.
A transparent window can help you to keep track of progress and determine whether your loaf is done or not.
If you have gluten allergies or coeliac disease, you may want to choose a machine with ‘gluten-free’ settings. You follow the recipes provided or use special bread mixes. Wheat-free bread is also possible.
While creating bread within an hour may seem a convenient option, some bread makers only permit white bread with this setting and loaves are never as good as those created on standard settings.
A time delay setting is vital if you want to enjoy fresh bread when you wake up in the morning. In addition, if you are going out, you can bake a loaf ahead of time for when you come back. Bread makers usually have a delay option of 13 hours.
Some bread makers make a sound when it is time to add an ingredient, or when your bread is finished.
Some bread makers can also cook jam, cake and pasta.
Most bread makers have a spoon and measuring cup. If your bread maker lacks these items, buy some! Exact measurements are needed to avoid disastrous loaves.
Inside Your Breadmaker
The following are the important elements inside your bread maker.
The non-stick bread pan contains the kneading paddle (see below), a rotating shaft driving it, plus a handle for taking the pan out of the appliance.
Many bread makers have insulated outer walls designed for safety and to prevent over-heating during baking.
The kneading paddle stirs the bread pan’s ingredients and creates dough. Some bread makers have twin paddles which produce a rectangular-shaped loaf compared to the
The kneading paddle usually stays in the bread as it cooks, leaving a small hole in the bread. If you don’t like the idea of this for cosmetic reasons, look for a bread maker that has a collapsible paddle. You could also take out the paddle in the middle of the cooking process.
Taking Care of Your Bread Maker
Dishwashers can damage your bread maker’s non-stick surfaces, so wash the kneading paddle and pan by hand using a cloth saturated with soapy water. When cleaning the pan, remove the kneading paddle. Soak the pan to remove any tough residue.
Only use plastic utensils with your bread maker. The non-stick surface can be damaged by metals.
With the above information in mind, you should be able to choose the right model for your circumstances and have the pleasure of warm, nourishing loaves for the whole family to enjoy.