Know Your Bread Machine
Because bread machines vary from brand to brand, take time to read the owner's manual and become familiar with the cycles and settings. Some typical options include:
- Basic White: Use this all-purpose setting for most breads.
- Whole Grain: This cycle has increased rising times needed for heavier breads that use whole grains, such as whole wheat and rye flours.
- Dough: When you plan to shape, rise, and bake the bread in a conventional oven, choose this option. It mixes and kneads the dough and usually allows it to rise once before the cycle is complete.
- Timed-Bake: This setting allows you to add the ingredients to the machine but process them at a later time. Since the ingredients will be standing in the bread machine for a while, avoid using this setting for recipes that call for fresh milk, eggs, cheese, and other perishable ingredients.
Select a Loaf Size
Often bread machine recipes list ingredient amounts for 1-1/2-pound and 2-pound loaves. Check your owner's manual for pan capacity to select a loaf size.
- For a 1-1/2-pound loaf, the bread machine pan must have a capacity of 10 cups or more.
- For a 2-pound loaf, the bread machine pan must have a capacity of 12 cups or more.
Adding Ingredients to the Bread Machine
Usually manufacturers recommend adding the liquids first, followed by dry ingredients, with the yeast going in last. This keeps the yeast away from the liquid ingredients until kneading begins. Add the ingredients according to the manufacturer's directions, even if the recipe you are using shows adding them in a different order. Select the cycle or setting listed in the recipe or according to the manufacturer's directions.
Checking the Dough
Take a peek at the dough consistency after the first 3 to 5 minutes of kneading. Bread dough with the correct amount of flour and liquid will form a smooth ball.
- If the dough looks dry and crumbly or forms two or more balls, add additional liquid, 1 teaspoon at a time, until one smooth ball forms.
- If the dough has too much moisture and does not form a ball, add additional bread flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until a ball forms.
Bread Machine Baking Tips
The Better Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen has tested thousands of bread machine recipes in a variety of bread machine models. Here are our pointers for reliable results:
- Use bread flour unless specified otherwise. The high-protein flour is especially formulated for bread baking.
- Bring your flour to room temperature if stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
- For breads containing whole grain flour -- especially rye flour -- consider adding gluten flour. This improves the texture of the loaf. Look for gluten flour at a supermarket or health food market.
- Add the salt listed in the recipe. Salt controls the growth of yeast, which affects the rising of the dough. For those on a restricted salt diet, experiment with reducing the salt a little at a time.
- Yeast feeds on the sugar in the bread dough, producing carbon dioxide gas that makes the dough rise. The yeast needs to be fresh to work properly, so use it before the expiration date. Store yeast packages in a cool, dry place, and opened jars of yeast tightly covered in the refrigerator to ensure freshness until the expiration date on the package.
- Keep cleanup easy by spraying the kneading paddle of the bread machine with nonstick cooking spray before adding the ingredients.
- Immediately after removing the baked bread, fill the machine's pan with hot soapy water. (Do not immerse the pan in water.) Soak the kneading paddle separately if it comes out with the loaf of bread.