How to Use a Bread Maker to Bake Your Best Loaf Yet

When your bread machine does the mixing, kneading, and baking, it's a breeze to make homemade breads. Follow these tips to get beautiful loaves in no time.

There's nothing quite like the smell of homemade bread filling your house. Sure, the whole process of kneading dough can be considered therapeutic, but what if you don't have the time to go through all the steps? Or maybe you've struggled to work with yeast to get that proper rise on that French bread recipe. No matter where you are in your bread-making journey, knowing how to make bread in a bread maker is a bit different than making simply following a regular bread recipe (though you can convert your favorite recipe to fit your machine!). We've gathered some useful info on how to get the hang of using a bread maker as well as bread machine tips for beginners to get started.

bread machine hamilton beach
Courtesy of Amazon

Making Bread in a Bread Machine

First and foremost, you want to get to know your specific bread machine. There are a ton of different brands that make bread machines and the newest models have a lot more tech-savvy settings than the one's from the '80s. So while it may not be the most exciting literature, go ahead and take time to read the owner's manual. This way you'll be familiar with the cycles and settings. Here are some examples of settings you might see on popular bread makers like this one ($100, Amazon).

  • Basic: Use this all-purpose setting for most breads.
  • French: For lighter breads that use fine flour and will have a crispy exterior.
  • Gluten-Free: Since it's made with different flours, this setting is useful to get the best texture.
  • Dough: When you plan to shape, rise, and bake the bread (think pizza or cinnamon rolls) in your regular oven, choose this option. It mixes and kneads the dough and usually allows it to rise once before the cycle is complete.
  • Express: In a hurry? Amazingly, a lot of models can get your bread ready in as little as an hour from start to finish.
  • Timed-Bake or Delay Time: 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.

Buy It: Hamilton Beach 2 lb Digital Bread Maker, Programmable, 12 Settings ($100, Amazon)

French Bread
Blaine Moats

Select a Loaf Size

Often bread machine recipes list ingredient amounts for 1½-pound and 2-pound loaves. Check your owner's manual for pan capacity to select a loaf size.

  • For a 1½-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

Manufacturers usually 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.

Buy It: Saf Instant Yeast, 1 Pound Pouch ($6, Amazon)

Checking the Dough

Take a peek at the dough consistency (it's totally safe to open the lid) after about the first 10 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 Making Machine Tips

Based on the results of different recipes and bread machine models, here are the Better Homes & Gardens Test Kitchen's pointers for reliable results:

  • Use bread flour unless specified otherwise. The high-protein flour is specially 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 low sodium 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. Many parts are dishwasher safe, but check the manufacturer's instructions before you run it through a cycle.

Now that you know how to use a bread machine, we're thinking it's probably your new favorite appliance. Wake up to the happy smell of fresh donuts. Make some loaves to go with delicious appetizer dips. Whip up some easy pizza dough to go with your favorite toppings. The opportunities are endless.

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