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In my opinion, no apologies are needed for admitting to making fresh, wholesome bread in an automatic bread machine, commonly referred to as an ABM.
As I wrote in Making Bread in a Breadmaker is Not Just for Wimps, I was an early adopter of the bread machine and purchased mine before there were any related cookbooks or an internet to go to for tips on using the darn thing. There was the old Prodigy network, though, and like-minded bakers would congregate and share bread making tips as well as our own custom-crafted recipes.
These days there are plenty of tips online for the first time owner of a bread maker but to make it easy for you, let me share my own tips for bread machine users – tips that have been honed from my own experience over the last 22 years.
14 Tips Bread Machine Tips For Great Success
1. Be mindful of the order you put the ingredients in the machine. With most machines, you start with the liquids then move on to the dry ingredients. The very last ingredient to add is the yeast. I make a little hollow in the mound of flour for the yeast. This ensures that it does not have contact with the liquids until the machine starts doing its thing.
2. Know the capacity, flour-wise, of your machine. This is necessary so that you can select a properly scaled recipe. One way to determine this is to go to the manual for your machine (or look online) and see what it says about the capacity of your machine in pounds.
Most will be 1 pound, 1.5 pound, of 2 pound machines. Barring that sort of information, a 1 pound machine will handle about 2 cups of flours, the 1.5 pound machine about 3 cups, and a 2 pound machine about 4 cups. If in doubt, start with a recipe that uses no more than 3 cups of flour and work your way up with experience.
3. About 5 or 10 minutes into the dough making cycle, open the lid, and if the machine is either struggling (loud clunking noises) or the dough looks dry, add more water, a tablespoon at a time. You should be seeing a nice, cohesive dough ball.
4. On the other hand, if the dough looks gloopy or soupy, add additional flour – sparingly – until a nice ball is formed. If the dough is too lose, the top will shrink during baking and while it will taste okay, it will not be very pretty.
5. Don’t freak out if you have a basic machine without a lot of cycles (sweet, French, whole wheat etc.) For the most part, I use a basic cycle for everything and my ABM breads come out fine.
6. If you are watching your fat intake, use applesauce instead of the butter or oil called for in the recipe. And if not, try butter powder instead of oils or stick products. You will be rewarded with superior taste, guaranteed.
7. Use real sugar. Sugar feeds the yeast and helps the dough to rise. You can use honey or molasses instead but just say no to sugar substitutes. They will not work.
8. Feel free to cut the salt called for in the recipe in half. I find that it makes no difference in the final results.
9 Bread flour is not the same as all-purpose flour. It is higher in protein and gluten and it is necessary to give your bread its fine grain.
10. If the bread rises well but collapses during baking, it is either rising too fast or the size of the recipe is too large. The next time, try cutting back on the yeast or sugar or using a recipe that uses less flour overall.
11. Some breads, by their very nature, are dense and heavy. This is especially true if you are using a significant proportion of whole grains. If this is happening with white breads, try cutting back of the salt, which inhibits rising.
12. If you are not satisfied with how your whole wheat breads turn out, try this trick. Allow the machine to run through its kneading cycle. Then turn off the machine and start it up again. This will result in a longer kneading period and just might be the trick to success with whole wheat and grain breads.
13. If you are experience failures, ask yourself this: if the flour fresh? If you are using flour that has been stored properly (cool, dark, low humidity – sound familiar?) it will be fine. But if it has been stored for the past five years in a ninety degree garage – well, you get the point. I store my day-to-day flour in a large bucket in the pantry. My house stays pretty cool so this does not present a problem. I also have flour stored in my freezer and as well as in Mylar bags with oxygen absorbers for longer term storage.
14. Although I prefer to make artisan breads and pizzas using the “artisan bread in five” method, you can also remove your dough at the end of the kneading cycle and hand form it into a loaf, rolls or pizza for baking in a traditional oven or even in your Dutch oven.
(Read Baking bread and why you should do it for the artisan bread in five basic method and recipe.) Pizza dough is very easy to make. Once you see how fast it is and the results you will wonder why you didn’t make your own pizza at home a long time ago.
Gluten-Free Bread Options
For some great recipes for gluten-free bread, check out the BDS post “Gluten-Free Bread On A Budget The Fast and Easy Way”.
You can make some very good sandwich bread for gluten-free sandwiches during the week using the recipes in the link above.
Bread Making Must Haves
Interested in a new bread machine? There is the Cuisinart CBK-100 Programmable Breadmaker which I would love to have but I plan to make due with my trusty Oster. This Oster Expressbake Bread Maker looks like and updated version of my own ABM (automatic bread machine). There is also the West Bend 2 Lb. Breadmaker which is highly rated.
Honeyville Powdered Butter: Butter powder makes a great addition to homemade bread. You can also purchase Thrive butter powder at my Virtual Online Shelf Reliance Party.
The Bread Machine Cookbook: My own recipe for Poulsbo bread was printed The Bread Machine III Cookbook, it is out of print but this book by the same author is still available at Amazon.
Lodge Cast Iron Loaf Pan: This is next on my “cast iron that I covet list”. As you know, cast iron heats up evenly and retains heat for super cooking results. Mmmm . . . think of the quick breads, meat loaves and more from a cast iron loaf pan!
Ove’ Glove Hot Surface Handler: These oven gloves withstand extreme heat up to 540 degrees F. If you could see the scars that I have from my pre-Ove Glove days, you would know why I endorse them. They can be used by both left and right-handers and are washable in the washing machine. A Survival Woman must have if you do any cooking at all.
Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day: This is the latest edition in the Artisan In Five series and possibly the best. And yes, I need to write about and review this book. But that takes longer than five minutes LOL.
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking: At an average cost of 50 cents a loaf, this bread is easy, delicious and inexpensive to make.
Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients: Ditto.
Danish Dough Whisk: Besides the book, this is the one must-have. This gizmo makes mixing up the dough a lot – and I mean a lot – easier.
The Final Word
Two things came to mind while writing this article. First, I am getting old – man oh man – it was over 22 years ago when I purchased my first bread machine. And two? That original bread machine is still running although these days I use a more sleek, compact model but even so, my Oster is over ten years old.
If you do not already have a bread machine, why not run on over to the local thrift shop or Goodwill and pick up a pre-owned machine for $10 or less to get you started. Bread is so easy to make at home and you can save some money and get a loaf more comparable to higher-end store-bought breads. You just might get hooked!
19 Responses to “14 Bread Machine Tips”
Is there a way to take the dough out just before the final rise to remove the paddles so the baked loaf will come out better and without the big holes is the bottom from removing the paddles after baking?
Yes. Just listen for the last kneading cycle (and mark down how long it takes for that cycle, for subsequent times), and when it is done, lift the lid and quickly remove the ball of dough, then lift up the paddle. Shut the door again so you don’t let the heat escape. You can reshape the bottom of the ball and put it back in. It will still have a small hole in the bottom, but not the big hole created by the paddle. I have a Cuisinart 200 convection and mine beeps when it is time to take out the paddle.
I live in Colorado. 5872 feet. How do I get the right measurements for altitude for a oster bread machine
Most of the recipes on pinterest have the cycles listed in the recipe. If not, just use the basic cycle and it should come out fine. I use basic 90% of the time over the listed recommended cycles.
I bake all of my own bread including bagels, pretzels, pita and pizza dough. I am refined sugar free so either use coconut sugar, honey or no sugar at all which also works just fine as long as you use salt.
For many years I ran through the whole process with the machine letting it bake my bread as well. Now I can’t remember when I last did that. I use the bread machine for the labour intensive bit and then take it out when the dough cycle ends – shape it, let it rise again and then bake it.
You can use any bread recipe you want with a bread machine but as was stated in the article just make sure that you put the ingredients in, in the order that the instructions say to.
Don’t be afraid to try new things – pita, bagels, and pretzels are a lot easier that you think!!