Are you a beginner or a professional kitchen enthusiast looking for the perfect way of baking delicious cakes, gluten-free bread and pasta options? Well, there are many ways of mixing and kneading dough when preparing bread. You may opt to use a food processor or a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment. You may also opt to buy ready-made bread instead of having to go through the hassle of baking your own customized bread.
But, why choose to bake with a bread maker? First, a bread maker is solely designed to bake bread therefore; this machine automatically removes all the guesswork associated with testing the dough when mixing.
Secondly, a bread maker gives you full control of your ingredients and grants you the freedom to use any additives and ingredients of your choice for nutritional purposes. Therefore, whether you wish to add sugar, dairy or gluten-free foods in your bread, a bread maker will ensure that every process is undertaken perfectly without any guesswork.
So, what is a bread maker?
In definition, a bread maker, also known as a bread machine, is an electronic countertop appliance designed specifically for baking bread. Bread makers function in a similar manner though the features may vary depending on the price and the model.
Now, if you’re a beginner or simply a professional looking to separate authentic bread makers that bake appetizing and delicious bread from those that bake awful loaves that resemble a dog’s dinner, here are some key features you’ll need to check out to avoid any disappointments.
A decent baking pan is one essential feature you need to consider to avoid dealing with huge messes after baking. To make your baking experience much more manageable, you need to invest in the best non-stick baking pans. The best pans should have plastic rather than a metallic non-stick surface and a handle to make it easier for you to remove the pan from the machine.
The best bread makers come with insulated outer walls that prevent the exterior from getting hot when baking. Although that’s the case, some models that feature stainless steel outer casings might get warm at some point forcing you to use oven gloves or tea towels when removing your hot baked bread from the machine.
Although this is not necessary, a viewing window is essential as it allows you to keep an eye on the baking progress. A viewing window also prevents you from opening the lid more often as this can reduce the temperature inside the machine causing the bread to bake unevenly.
Another useful feature you must keep an eye to is the audible sound. Although this isn’t necessary, an audible sound is a useful feature for people who are too busy around the house and want to be alerted when the baking process is done.
Baking is a very precise process that involves a few grams or tablespoons of ingredients here and there. A precise ratio of these ingredients is therefore required as a little mistake can bring a big difference in the taste, feel and look of your final loaf.
Therefore, to eliminate any guesswork in your baking process, your bread maker should come with a measuring beaker and a measuring spoon to keep the ratios right.
How to use a bread maker
Know your machine
Before you start baking with your new bread maker, you need to get acquitted with your machine. You need to read through the owner’s manual to become familiar with the settings and cycles. Since bread makers vary from brand to brand, this step is highly essential as it allows you to understand the settings, the control panel and the menu system depending on what you’re planning to bake.
Some of the common settings you may find in a bread maker include;
- Basic white: an all-purpose setting you may use when baking any type of bread.
- Timed bake: this setting allows you to add specific ingredients into the machine then process them later. Since the ingredients will have to wait for long before they’re processed, make sure to use non-perishable ingredients. Avoid using this setting for recipes that call for eggs, milk or cheese as they’re all perishable ingredients.
- Whole grain: if you’re baking bread using whole grains such as whole wheat, this setting will be highly useful as it increases the rising time needed for such heavy loaves.
- Delay setting: are you an avid bread lover always on the go? Well, this setting will make your bread maker your best companion as it allows you to set your machine before going to bed to wake up to a freshly baked bread.
- Rapid bake: in case you’re in a hurry and you feel you can’t miss taking your morning breakfast, the rapid bake setting will let you bake your morning bread faster and easier. Although the setting will save you time, the results are rarely as good as when the bread is allowed to bake for a longer time.
Select a loaf size
Now that you know everything about the settings, the next step is to know the capacity of your bread maker. Bread makers are not made equally. Some are larger than others. While some machines are capable of handling 1 pound loaves, others are able to handle 1 ½ pound loaves while others are able to make up to 2 pound loaves.
Therefore, before preparing your recipe and listing the ingredients, make sure that you read the owner’s manual for pan capacity to avoid exceeding the ingredients.
Adding ingredients to the machine
The next step is to add the ingredients into the bread maker. In most cases, manufacturers recommend users to add liquid ingredients before adding dry ingredients and the yeast on top. Some recipes may demand to add the ingredients in a different order but it’s highly recommended that you add the ingredients according to the machine’s or manufacturer’s directions to avoid messing up.
When baking bread, it’s highly recommended that you use either bread machine yeast or rapid rise yeast as they usually mix well with most dry ingredients during the kneading process.
In case of any liquid ingredients such as eggs, milk, fruits or butter, it’s highly recommended that you keep them under normal room temperature. Remember yeast needs warm environments to grow in so the minute yeast gets into contact with liquid ingredients, it automatically activates.
Checking the dough
Here, you’ll need to check the dough consistency in the first 3 to 5 minutes of the kneading process. If the ratio of flour to liquid is precise, the dough will definitely form a smoothly rounded ball. However, if you notice that the dough is dry and crumby or it forms two balls, then you need to add some liquid (one tablespoon at a time) until it forms one smooth ball.
On the other hand, if there’s too much moisture on the dough, then you may need to add some flour (one tablespoon at a time) until the ball hardens.
Cleaning the bread maker
Soon after the baking process is done, it’s highly recommended that you wash your bread maker before the dough residues stick on the sides of the appliance. Now, when cleaning the machine’s accessories such as the baking pan, you should avoid as much as possible to use dishwashers as they can easily damage the non-stick surfaces of your bread maker.
Simply soak the pan and the paddle in warm soapy water then wash them gently with your hands or with a soft soapy cloth to avoid scratching the surfaces.
In case you need to scoop ingredients in or out of your bread maker, it’s highly recommended that you use plastic utensils over their metal counterparts to avoid scratching the non-stick surfaces.
Any bread maker baking options?
Oh YES! Are you looking forward to impress your guests at a party or simply bake something extremely new for your bread loving family? Well, you’re not lost. Bread makers come with multiple settings that let you bake any type of bread ranging from brown, white, wholemeal to seeded loaves.
In addition to that, people who are allergic to gluten or those suffering from celiac disease (a condition caused by intolerance to gluten) will have a chance to bake their own customized gluten-free bread using unique ingredients and bread mixes.
Other than baking bread, a bread maker can also prove to be handy when it comes to baking cakes (provided it has a “bake-only” setting). Simply mix the ingredients (stirring, beating, and folding) then leave the baking cycle to the bread maker.
Some bread makers have proven to be handy when it comes to making homemade jam. Simply add the fruits and the sugar and leave the rest to the bread maker.
If you’re a pasta enthusiast, a bread maker will do a perfect job of kneading the pasta dough leaving you with one more step of rolling the pasta dough using a pasta machine before cooking it the normal way.
Bread makers come in various sizes and designs depending on what you’re baking. Some are small others are large while some other models are more rectangular than others. Depending on what you enjoy baking most, it’s highly recommended that you read through the owner’s manual to understand more about the machine before shopping for one.