There is nothing quite like the taste and smell of fresh bread and with the aid of modern bread making machines, you do not have to be a baker in order to enjoy it every day. The latest bread maker can produce fantastic loaves with minimum hassle, meaning that you can enjoy fresh bread at any time.
The machines are also extremely versatile and can create a huge range of types of loaves. Many of them have at least 10 preprogrammed settings and can make everything from white bread to gluten-free bread to artisan doughs. If you need recommendations for the best bread maker then take a look at our reviews across a number of machines explaining their features and capabilities. It is understandable if newcomers feel a bit nervous ahead of using the machine for the first time; however, here you can find all the information you need to get off to the best possible start.
To begin, make sure that you are familiar with all parts of your bread maker. No matter which model you use, there will be a lid, a vent, and a control panel. Inside the machine is a bread pan or bucket, most likely with a foldable handle. In the bread pan, there will be at least one kneading paddle, which in some machines will also be removable. Make sure that you understand how all three parts (the machine, pan and paddle) fit together and come apart, as you don’t want to damage any of them.
Most bread makers can produce a number of different sized loaves, but it is important that you know the capacity of your maker so that you use the right quantity of ingredients. The majority of machines can bake loaves of up to 2-lb but there are some that produce smaller loaves. If you are unsure about you bread maker’s capacity then simply look it up online, it should be available on the product’s official website.
As mentioned, most bread makers have several preprogrammed options that are used to make a variety of loaves. Very often these programs can be customized to a certain extent, for instance, there are usually three crust settings; light, medium and dark. Make sure you know how to correctly select a program so that you don’t make a mistake such as trying to bake a white loaf using a French bread option. Your bread maker’s instruction book will most likely contain explanations of all the different programs, how to select one, and how to adjust the crust setting.
No matter what type of bread you are baking, there are some basic ingredients that you will need: yeast, flour, salt, sugar, liquids and fats. Each one of these ingredients will have a big impact on the quality of the loaf so it is important that you choose carefully.
Most of the time you will be looking for yeast labelled “Active Dry” and it is also possible to find yeast that is specifically designed to be used with bread makers. There are also yeasts labelled “rapid rise” that are designed to speed up the baking process. However, some believe that they are not worth the extra cost and will not make the baking time significantly shorter.
Unsurprisingly, the best flour to use is bread-making flour. This type of flour is made from hard wheat, which means that it has a higher gluten content (or wheat protein) than regular all-purpose flour. If you do not have bread flour then it is possible to use all-purpose flour, but it will not produce bread of the same quality. This is because all-purpose flour is a mixture of hard and soft wheat, which makes it far more versatile, but less ideal for bread.
Salt is of vital importance to the bread making process. It will regulate the rising of the dough so that it does not spill over the edges of the bread bucket and into the machine. Furthermore, salt enhances the bread’s flavors.
Sugar not only sweetens the bread, but it also softens the texture of the dough and the baked loaf. Sugar also helps to brown the bread and create a crispy crust. However, the primary role of sugar in the bread making process is to aid the yeast. The yeast can make use of starch in the flour but it works far better with sugar or a sweetener such as honey. The vast majority of recipes you find will include a small amount of sugar and it is important not to use too much, even when making sweet dough, as the dough rises faster and higher in a bread machine than it does when prepared by hand. Excess sugar will cause the yeast to be too effective and it can result in a big mess in the machine that is difficult to clean up.
It is important never to use hot liquids in a bread maker but rather to use liquids that are around room temperature. This is because hot liquids will kill the yeast. If your liquid is tap water then room temperature is fine, if you are using a yogurt or buttermilk then it is worth taking it out of the fridge to warm up for a while before using it in the machine. This is particularly important when making breads using a rapid cycle. When using the basic cycle, it should be fine to add the liquids straight from the fridge.
Fats are used to make the loaf softer, richer, and to prevent it from sticking to the pan in the bread maker. The average 2-lb loaf will call for between 1 and 4 tablespoons of fat. Common fats used in bread makers include margarine, oil, shortening, lard, chicken fat, bacon grease and butter, and they can be used interchangeably while producing almost the same result. Some of the fats will make a slight difference to the flavor and texture of the bread, but the difference will be minimal. If you are using a solid fat, it does not need to be melted before being added to the bread maker, but when possible, it should be at room temperature.
We have put together a simple recipe to get you started with your first loaf. Just follow the instructions below and you’ll be enjoying fresh bread in no time at all!
While using a bread maker is very simple, it is important that you add the ingredients in the right order. This is because you do not want to activate the yeast before you start the baking process. Therefore, the following is recommended:
These should be added first so that they are kept separate from the yeast. Yeast will start to activate from the moment it comes into contact with the liquid ingredients so this is of particular importance if you will be using a timer to delay the start of the bread making process.
Salt must also be kept separate from the yeast, as it will kill the yeast if the two come into direct contact with one another. Therefore, it is best to add the salt to the liquid ingredients before the rest of the dry ingredients.
Next, you can add the flour as well as the sugar, dry milk powder and any seasonings. You should spread the flour out over the top of the liquid ingredients so that it seals them in. You can then use a finger or spoon to make a small indentation in the top of the dry ingredients, just be careful that you do not break through to the liquid ingredients underneath.
The yeast is the final ingredient to go into the machine. As mentioned, the yeast must remain separate from the liquid until it is time for the machine to begin mixing.
You can now enjoy your very own homemade fresh bread. There really is nothing complicated about using a bread-making machine. You can find many recipes online and there are probably a few included with your machine’s instructions. Don’t worry if the bread doesn’t come out perfectly the first time, with a bit of experimentation, you are sure to soon be baking your perfect loaf time after time.