Imagine tucking into homemade bread with the perfect springy yet soft crumb, but without all the hard work of kneading, proving, shaping, and baking. Once you know how to use a bread maker, that could be your life.
These appliances are simple to use but they can seem intimidating when you've never used one before. Each is slightly different, so you'll need to consult the manual for yours, but they all share the same basic principles.
A bread maker, or bread machine, is a kitchen appliance that handles most of the bread-making process from start to finish. It can knead dough, prove dough to let it rise, and finally bake it to turn it into bread, all with little effort on the part of the user.
This varies between brands and models, so you'll need to check which settings your machine includes. However, these are some of the most common programs.
In addition to these programs, you'll find settings to adjust the crust color to your liking and settings for different loaf sizes.
Make sure the pan is clean and dry before fitting it into the bread machine and positioning the kneading paddles. Although they're usually made from nonstick material, grease the pan and paddles so your loaf is easy to remove from the pan.
Check your recipe and gather all the ingredients you need. Getting them all out before you start lets you check that you have everything you need and makes it less likely that you'll forget to add an ingredient.
Depending on the recipe, you'll either need to weigh your ingredients with a kitchen scale or measure them out by volume using measuring cups. You can weigh or measure all of your ingredients before adding them to the pan, or do it as you go along.
Add the ingredients to the baking pan in the order specified in the recipe. The order can be important in some recipes, so follow it precisely.
Select a program on your machine that corresponds to the type of bread you're baking. The exact process for doing this varies widely between models, so check the instruction manual if you're unsure.
Most bread machines have a crust shade selector that gives you pale, medium, or dark options. Choose whichever crust shade you prefer, then press start to begin the cycle of kneading, proving, and baking.
You've now finished the part of the process that requires human intervention. All that's left to do is wait until the cycle completes and your bread is ready.
While it can be tempting to just throw ingredients in and hope for the best, you should follow a recipe for optimal results. Ideally, it should be a recipe meant for baking in a bread machine, because recipes for making bread by hand don't always translate well.
Use bread flour, whether white or whole grain, rather than all-purpose flour. The protein content in bread flour is higher, which gives more structure to the crumb. You can also use gluten-free bread flour mixes, though results can vary.
Some types of yeast must be mixed with liquid and pre-fermented before adding them to a recipe, but these aren't a good option for use in a machine. Instead, use yeast that can simply be added to the rest of the ingredients without pre-fermentation. These types of yeast are usually labeled as quick yeast, easy bake yeast, or instant yeast, and occasionally even bread machine yeast.
If you find the standard loaf shapes and sizes limiting, you can use the machine for kneading and proving, before shaping the loaf yourself and baking it in the oven. Some people prefer doing this even for standard loaves, but it gives you more flexibility to bake bread and bread products such as boules, braided loaves, bagels, and rolls.
Unless otherwise specified, you'll usually get the best results by using room-temperature ingredients, rather than anything that's too hot, too cold, or that comes straight from the fridge.
A. Yes, they're easy for most people to use. When you want to bake a loaf, you just add the ingredients, select the right setting, and the appliance does the rest. It takes the effort out of baking your own bread.
A. The point is to make baking bread at home easier and more accessible. Some people would love to eat homemade bread because they prefer the taste or want to control what goes in their loaves, but they don't have the time or inclination to bake bread by hand. Then you have others who physically aren't able to knead dough but can add ingredients to a bread maker and press a few buttons, so these appliances open up the door to homemade bread.
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.