Do you remember when you were a child and the smell of freshly made bread that your grandmother lovingly baked for you? Now, can you remember when the last time you experienced that in your own home was? Would you like to have freshly made bread in your home every day? It is more than possible, almost effortlessly, if you own a bread making machine.
Baking a loaf of bread is not just putting the dough in the oven and waiting for it to be done. Many bakers will tell you that baking bread is like art – you have to knead it to the existence literally, and the process itself can be tricky. If you have tried kneading the dough at home, you know why it is so difficult.
Mixing the ingredients is the easiest part, but, then you have to make the dough taking care that you do not overdo it, so the dough becomes too hard, or that you do not knead it long enough. Then you have to wait for the dough to rise, maybe re-knead it again before actually putting it in the oven.
The conditions have to be right as well; the ingredients have to be on room temperature, you have to mix the yeast, adjust the oven on the right temperature for the exact type of dough/bread you are making, and then watch it like a hawk to make sure it does not burn.
Luckily, a bread making machine is there to do almost all of that for you.
How does it work?
A bread maker machine usually comes in 3 main parts: the bread maker, the bread pan, and kneading blades. Before you start, make sure that everything is there and get to know your bread maker. Read the instruction manual; the rules should be pretty straightforward.
One of the good things about a bread maker is that it usually comes with a recipe book, with all the necessary ingredients (measured), however, if you are a skilled baker you may change them to fit your needs. If you lost the included recipe book, you can find it online according to the manufacturer and model of your bread maker.
A usual bread maker can bake a 0.5, 0.7 or 1kg loaf. Make sure that you use the correct weight program as the bread will burn if you put less though that required, or would make a huge mess, potentially causing the appliance to break down if you put more ingredients than allowed.
Once you have decided on the weight of your bread, put the ingredients in the baking pan. Follow the advised order – pour liquids first, then add the dry ingredients like flour and salt, then add butter. The very last thing you should add is yeast because, in contact with the milk, the yeast becomes active and can cause the mixture to spill. Make a well in the middle of the flour or sprinkle all over.
The next thing that you should do is to choose the right baking program. The duration of the program depends on the bread you are baking and the weight of the loaf. For example, sweet bread will not bake as long as whole wheat bread.
A common bread baking machine has options like white bread, whole wheat bread, sweet bread, French bread, a rapid or super rapid program (usually for white and whole wheat bread), gluten-free bread, dough/pizza dough, and even jam.
The kneading program will go through the kneading cycle and will then rest, allowing the dough to rise before baking.
The ‘dough/ pizza dough’ programs knead the dough, so you do not have to. After the program finishes, take the dough out of the baking pan and shape it into whatever you like (pizza, pretzels,…) and bake it in a regular oven.
For bread with added fruits and nuts (sweet bread program, usually), add the seasonings after the kneading cycle and before baking. This will prevent the fruit from being squished in the kneading cycle.
Another fun thing the bread baking machine offers is to adjust the crust colour from light brown to that perfect golden brown, or even dark brown if that is what you like. And you do not even have to watch it; the maker will do it for you.
After the baking cycle has finished, you might have two options: leave the bread to cool down or keep it warm for a while. Both programs are available.
A postponed start is also an option in many baking machines. Check the baking duration and adjust the maker to start kneading when it suits you: during the nigh, so you wake up to a freshly made loaf for breakfast, or while you are at work, so it waits for you to get back.
For this to work best, it is good that the bread maker has a yeast dispenser so that the yeast will not mix with dry ingredients the liquids too early. It is not impossible to avoid that without the yeast dispenser if you sprinkle the yeast evenly over the dry ingredients.
A preheat option allows you to pour milk or butter right from the fridge, as it will reach the desired room temperature with this program.
A bonus to the bread making machine is that it can cook jams. They are delicious and really easy to make. Follow the sugar and fruit quantity, add some lemon juice, and choose the ‘jam’ program. In a couple of hours, you will be able to enjoy a tasty jam with your bread without making a mess of your kitchen.