7 Bread Machine Mistakes That Could Wreck Your Loaf

A bread machine can be a baking savior, but there are certain things to look out for. Learn the easy mistakes to avoid if you want a full and fluffy loaf.

Whether you were inspired by The Great British Baking Show or picked up your apron during the pandemic stress-bake-palooza of 2020, we see you out there trying to be "ace of bakes." And we love the carb creations we see you sharing on social media, and with friends and neighbors. As a more hands-off or less stressful option, many Americans turn to a bread machine for an easier homemade bread option. But this appliance presents a new set of questions and potential bread machine mistakes. Does it matter when you add the yeast? Can I crack the lid? Is there a way to prevent wrinkly crust?

Spoiler alert: The answer to all is YES, and our Test Kitchen experts are here with some major bread machine troubleshooting. (Before we get started, here's how to convert recipes so you can use them in your bread machine.)


7 Common Bread Machine Mistakes

Mistakes happen. Here's what to do if you encounter any of these snags while using your bread machine.

1. Not Taking into Account Your Kitchen’s Climate

Just as elevation impacts the results of your baked goods (check out our complete guide to high-altitude baking for more on that topic), the temperature and humidity in your kitchen can make or break the results of your loaf. Aim for moderate conditions. Too much heat or humidity might lead to a too-quick rise and a crevice near the center of your bread. Conditions that are too cold might delay proofing or rising, resulting in a super-dense loaf. The bread machine works on a timer and hums along at its regular pace. Regardless of the conditions, it's up to you to adjust accordingly (or bake another day).

2. Being Afraid to Open the Lid

Speaking of adjusting, one common bread machine mistake is thinking the appliance is like a pressure cooker or blender and cannot be opened once it's on. Think again—it's actually a good idea to flip that lid and peek at the dough, especially about 10 minutes into the kneading stage. Touch the top of the dough and if your finger is coated in dough, it's too wet and needs more flour. If the dough feels like poking a dodgeball, it's too dry and needs more water. Remember, it's easier to add ingredients than to take them out (actually, that's impossible). When adjusting the texture, incorporate a teaspoon of flour or water at a time. Try the "finger test" again, and add more if needed.

3. Measuring Ingredients (Especially Flour) Improperly

Just like with any baking recipe, starting with an accurate amount of flour is vital for that bakery-quality texture. While some experts say you need a digital scale to do this, we're happy to tell you that you can measure flour properly using measuring cups. Learn how to measure flour the Test Kitchen way, and remember that dipping the measuring cup in the flour and scooping it out generally results in a 25-gram surplus of flour. Multiply that by the three to five cups required for a loaf of bread, and your end product's consistency will be quite off.

4. Adding Ingredients in the Wrong Order

Now that you've measured and prepared the ingredients, it's important to follow the correct order for adding them to the bread machine bucket. We know: They all end up in the same place, but for the yeast to activate and operate properly, each manufacturer includes instructions in the owner's manual explaining the order to use in adding ingredients. Generally, our bread machine troubleshooting suggestion is to add liquids first, followed by the dry ingredients. (Bonus: This also prevents the flour from dusting up in your face or around the kitchen, which can happen if you scoop it into an empty bucket.) The final ingredient added to your bread machine recipe should be the yeast.

5. Leaving the Paddles in the Machine as the Bread Bakes

Hate those holes in the bottom of your bread? They don't have to exist.

Just before the bread enters the "final rise" phase, you'll hear the bread machine start pounding down the dough. Use that as your cue to open the lid, push the dough to the side of the bucket, and carefully lift out the paddles.

6. Allowing the Loaf to Rise the Final Time Without Reshaping

Don't close that lid quite yet. Take this time just before the final rise to shape your loaf in a format you'd like it to bake in. This can be a sandwich-ready log, or split it into two evenly-sized rounds for one loaf to enjoy now and one to freeze for later. You can also form ropes to twist or braid, or make a "bubble loaf" for a pull-apart bread, of sorts.

7. Removing the Bread from the Machine Before it Cools

Once the bread is baked, there's one final bread machine mistake to avoid. If you immediately remove the loaf and set it on your room-temp kitchen counter, the cooler air might cause condensation on the top of the loaf that can lead to a wrinkly top crust. To help mitigate this, take the bucket out of the machine, remove the bread from the bucket, then place the loaf back in the machine (leaving the bucket out). Close the lid most of the way, leaving it cracked about 1 inch, and the bread will cool at a more steady pace in the warm machine.

Now that you've aced that perfectly tender, ready-to-slice loaf, prepare the sandwich fixings and study these tips on how to store your bread so it stays fresh as long as possible.

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