The Most Important Thing You Should Do When Using A Bread Machine

The most important thing you should do when using your bread machine

Your bread machine does not have a brain! A timer and a thermostat maybe, but no brain. I know a lot of people buy a bread machine hoping it will magically make the perfect loaf of bread with the press of a button. You might get lucky and it happens…..if you use the right recipe, and the humidity is the same as wherever the recipe-developer resided, and you measured your flour in the same way the recipe-developer did, and the room temperature where your bread machine sits is exactly the same as theirs was, etc.

Making bread is an art, not an exact science. Sometimes you have to make adjustments based on the environment, the ingredients you use, and the finished product you desire. Knowing when, what, and how much requires experience, a sixth sense, and sometimes, good luck.

The Most Important Thing You Should Do When Using a Bread Machine

Whether you are using your bread machine as a mix-knead-rise appliance (like I do), or you want to mix, knead, rise, and bake in your machine, my #1 piece of advice is to open the lid and check out the dough inside. Do this 5 minutes or so after starting the machine and then again after the machine has been kneading 5-10 minutes. If you walk by 15 or 20 minutes into the cycle, open the lid and peek to see if all is well. The only time you do not want to open the lid is in the middle of the rising period as you will be letting some heat escape, thus prolonging the rising time.

The goal is for the dough to stick to the side, then pull away cleanly as it kneads. The dough in the video below is the perfect consistency for the average loaf of yeast bread. It’s pliable, shiny, smooth, and not too sticky.

Is your dough too dry? Does it refuse to form a ball, or does it make a ball that slaps loudly against the side of the pan? Add a tablespoon of liquid, give it a chance to mix up for a couple minutes, and check again. Keep doing this until the dough looks right.

Is the dough too wet? Does it look gooey and sticky? Add a tablespoon of flour at a time, watching until you see the dough stick to the sides and then pull away cleanly. Allow a couple minutes for the dough to incorporate the flour before adding more. Remember that some doughs need to be quite wet, like brioche or ciabatta. If you are a beginner, I would avoid those kinds of recipes until you have dependable success with a simple loaf.

Another time I recommend you peek inside the machine is at the end of the dough cycle. I will address that topic in an upcoming post.

p.s. If you are new to the bread machine world and want to increase your chances of success, may I suggest you start with a bread machine mix from the grocery store or use a basic recipe from the manual that came with your bread machine. Or, you could use one of my bread machine recipes formulated to be mixed and kneaded in a bread machine, then removed from the pan, shaped, and baked in a conventional oven. Check out my recipe index for lots of possibilities.


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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Betty January 24, 2015 at 10:36 pm

A good reminder…sometimes I don’t know the dough isn’t just right until the bread machine starts thumping and trying to walk across the counter! 🙂


Paula January 25, 2015 at 2:54 pm

Whoa! That would be some dry dough for sure!


ben January 20, 2015 at 6:14 pm

What model bread machine is that?

I’ve been looking for a one that can do small loafs.. any thoughts on this one?


Paula January 22, 2015 at 9:26 am

Ben, You can read about my Zoji here. The one pictured in the Youtube video looks like this one. I suspect it is excellent for smaller loaves although I haven’t tried it personally. Mine is also good for smaller loaves because it has two blades. I almost never use my bread machine to bake bread so don’t know how well it actually bakes a small loaf.


Becky January 20, 2015 at 3:23 pm

Gosh, you mean you want us to think? Geez, Paula, that’s no fun! LOL! But as a bread machine user, I can second that advice. It is crucial to making good bread. I didn’t think a few times when my karma was not good, and I had failures. This is excellent advice.


Paula January 24, 2015 at 3:32 pm

Thanks for the confirmation, Becky. I’ve had my share of failures, too.


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