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 for Success with Your Bread Machine
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 insures 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 abut 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 no the same as all-purpose flour. It is higher in protein and gluten and 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 a 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.)
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. You just might get hooked!
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Bargain Bin: Today I share some links to bread making supplies.
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.
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.
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.