Preaching the virtues of a bread machine like I did a couple weeks ago is almost as easy as eating this Honey Whole Wheat Bread. Advising people which machine they should buy is not so easy considering all the choices available.
Although you could employ the “scientific” method seen below, a better approach might be to consider your baking habits, dietary preferences and of course, your pocketbook. Following is a short list of ideas to get you started.
Just so you know, I have not been paid or compensated in any way to say anything about any bread machine. My only credentials are years of experience making bread with and without a machine, a Home Economics degree (does it still count if nobody under 40 years old knows what that is any more?), and a bread machine cookbook collection the size of Texas.
5 factors to consider when buying a bread machine:
1. A timer
If you like to wake up or come home to bread dough raised and ready to shape, pay attention to the timer. Nearly all machines have a timer on the various mix and bake cycles, but I like a timer on the DOUGH cycle because I ALMOST NEVER bake in my machine.
It’s possible to manually calculate when to set the timer on a bake cycle so you arrive at just the right moment to pull the bread out of the machine before it begins to preheat and bake the bread. Considering I’m not the best at math and/or sometimes the preacher gets long-winded, the hand-calculated method doesn’t always work. More than once I’ve walked into my house to the smell of a loaf of baked pizza dough. Ugh!
If you are home most of the time, you may not need or care about a timer.
2. Size of pan
If you have a large family or want to make bread when you entertain, get a machine that will hold a recipe containing 3 cups of flour. Some will hold up to 4 to 4-1/4 cups. On the other hand, if you want a smaller loaf for just 2-3 people, you may want a machine with a smaller pan. Remember that homemade bread has no preservatives and can stale quickly so consider how fast you go through a loaf of bread at your house.
3. Shape of pan and mixing ability
In the beginning of bread machine history, most bread machines made a loaf that was long and tall–see pan on the left above. It’s not the traditionally shaped loaf consumers are used to and gave away the fact that it was baked in a bread machine. However, manufacturers soon figured out how to build a machine that made a horizontal loaf more like loaves sold at the grocery store.
Unfortunately, horizontal pans don’t always knead the dough as well, leaving unincorporated flour in the corners of the pan which is a huge annoyance. Although you can open the lid and manually use a spatula to move left-behind-ingredients from the corners into the main ball of dough, this is difficult to do when using a timer because theoretically, you aren’t physically in the area.
In my own experience, the upright shape does a better job mixing in all ingredients and since I’m not using the machine to bake the bread, the shape of the pan doesn’t matter. Some newer machines have two blades which also helps.
4. Number and Variety of Cycles
This is not important to me. I want a bread machine to mix and knead dough with a motor and design excellent enough to do it well. Whether it makes jam or quick bread, bakes light or dark or offers a quick cycle is immaterial because I almost never bake bread or anything else in my machine. Your cooking habits may be different so it’s something to consider.
In general, the more you pay, the better the machine. No surprise there. Anybody with two machines will most likely tell you the more expensive model makes better bread.
If you are short on funds or the cautious type, consider picking up a like-new machine at a garage sale or on Ebay. My daughter-in-law recently bought a good machine at a garage sale for 5$. Even better, borrow one from a friend who never uses theirs to see how you like it before making an investment. (To my husband: Yes, it is an investment because you can count on many tasty returns.)
My personal favorite and newest machine is a Zojirushi, BB-CEC20. It has a timer on the dough cycle and two blades to mix and knead the dough thoroughly. The pan will hold up to 4 1/4 cups flour or do smaller batches as well. Unfortunately, it is also one of the most expensive bread machines out there but it’s worth it to me since I use it every week.
If, by chance, you already have a bread machine you don’t like or don’t use, don’t chunk the whole idea just yet. Although you may have a less than wonderful machine, a little practice and a good recipe can make a huge difference. Stick with me.
If you own and love your bread machine, tell me what you have and what you like about it. What is most important to you when it comes to this fabulous kitchen appliance?
Next up in this series: How to convert your granny’s famous dinner roll recipe for use in a bread machine. (Just in time for Thanksgiving.)
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup milk
- ¼ cup honey
- 1-1/2 tablespoons butter
- 1-1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1-1/2 cups bread flour(+)
- 2 teaspoon bread machine yeast
- Place all ingredients in pan in order given reserving ½ cup of bread flour. Select DOUGH cycle and add reserved flour one tablespoon at a time until dough forms a ball that sticks to the side but then pulls away. If dough is too dry and won't stick to the side even for a moment, add water one tablespoon at a time.
- At the end of the dough cycle OR when dough has risen double in the bread machine pan (whole wheat often takes longer to rise), remove dough to lightly floured board and press or roll out into a rectangle shape approximately 10 x 12. Roll up from short side and pinch seam to seal. Place in greased 8 x 4 inch loaf pan with seam side down. Tuck ends under. Cover dough with a tea towel or wax paper and allow to rise in pan till dough is one inch above the top of the pan--could take 1 hour or more.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake 25 - 30 minutes until internal temperature reaches 190 degrees. Cover with foil halfway through baking time to prevent excessive browning. Remove from pan and allow to cool on wire rack before slicing to prevent squashing. If you're really hungry, go ahead and slice it carefully. After all, that's one of the best things about homemade bread--eating while it's still hot with melty butter on top.