Bread makers have been around for a while now, and although they are not a necessity in the kitchen, they certainly make the process of creating your deliciously doughy loaf effortlessly. They are ridiculously easy to use and they do all the hard work for you, it’s no wonder why so people invest in a bread machine. But are bread makers worth it? Let’s find out!
Why Use a Bread Maker?
The main reason why you would use a bread maker is that they are massively convenient. If you have a busy lifestyle yet want your house to flood with the aroma of a homemade loaf, then bread makers are ideal.
You simply add the water, flour, oil, salt, sugar and yeast in the bread tin, press the start button and off it goes. In a few hours you will have freshly made bread and all you had to do was put the ingredients in the pan. Your bread machine will mix the ingredients, knead the dough, rise it and bake it to perfection.
Many bread machines also have a delayed timer which makes it even more convenient for you. The delayed timer means that you can put all the ingredients in the machine and set it to start baking for up to 13 hours later. You can do this before you go to sleep and you will wake up to freshly baked bread every morning.
Another great reason to own a bread machine is that they do so much more than just make a tasty loaf. You can make cakes, jams, pastries, pizza dough and so much more. I bet you didn’t know bread makers were so multifunctional?
Bread Maker v Hands
Kneading dough by hand can take up a lot of time and leave you with a stiff arm. A bread machine is great as it does the kneading for you. Even if you just use your bread maker to knead the dough and then do the rest by hand then it’s still worth it.
It is also very easy for things to go wrong when kneading dough by hand. You can over-knead the dough… or not knead it enough which will ruin the texture of your loaf. Bread makers knead dough the right amount of time and prove it at the right temperature, so the chances of things going are next to none – as long as you measure your ingredients right of course!
Making bread by hand gives you the freedom to shape your bread any way you want. You can braid it, knot it, make small bread rolls or just shape it into a nice round loaf.
A bread machine will only make a rectangular loaf or square loaf, depending on the size of the pan. If your bread tin is horizontal you might be able to shape your bread into a braid or two small rolls. But generally, you are very limited in how you can shape your loaf in the bread machine.
In terms of adding extra ingredients, it’s easy to do this by hand and through a bread machine. Many modern bread makers automatically dispense ingredients such as dried nuts, fruits or herbs during the kneading stage.
By hand, you simply incorporate your extra ingredients before the second rise. Add your favourite ingredients, shape your dough and set it aside for the second rise.
Bread machines do not make bread any faster than making bread by hand. Bread machines can take 3 to 5 hours, depending on the type of loaf you are making. Bread by hand, including kneading, proving, shaping and baking can also take up to 3 hours. So you won’t be saving yourself on time with a bread maker.
Having said that, many bread machines do have a ‘quick’ or ‘rapid’ bake which is useful if you are in a rush, but the quality of the loaf will not be great. You can’t rush the art of making bread!
Bread Maker v Oven
You might be thinking what is the point in getting a bread machine when you can just bake bread in the oven. Baking bread in the oven is much more efficient especially if you want to make more than one loaf.
A bread machine will only yield one loaf at a time. If you want to make multiple loaves with your bread machine then you’ll either have to get multiple machines or have it constantly working.
An oven has more space and shelves, making batch baking much easier and efficient.
Top baking tip: If you want to make multiple loaves but don’t want to spend time kneading and proving, let the bread machine knead the dough for you and bake your loaves in the oven.
I think we can all agree the crust is the best part of homemade bread. We certainly fight for it in my house! Unless you get a bread machine with a top heating function, then you won’t get a good crust to your bread like you would out of an oven. The top crust especially doesn’t get much heat when baking in the bread machine, so it can come out soft.
This can easily be fixed by letting your bread machine do most of the work for you but before it starts baking, remove your dough and bake it in the oven. This will ensure that you get perfectly kneaded dough with the perfect crust.
Bread from the Bread Maker v Store Bought Bread
If you have a look at your bread package, you will see the list of usual ingredients – flour, sugar and yeast – but there are also lots of other ingredients that you have probably never heard of. Store-bought bread contains so many additives, preservatives and salt to make it bake faster and have a longer shelf life, and therefore making it quite unhealthy.
With homemade bread, you can control the quality and quantity of the ingredients that go into your loaf. If you want to reduce your salt intake then you can choose not to put salt in your dough, or you can substitute sugar with honey. These things are not possible to do when you buy bread from the supermarket.
Store-bought bread is not as healthy and the quality is not that great. When you make bread in a bread machine you get the quality you desire each time by choosing what ingredients go in the bread pan.
What is cheaper, buying bread or making bread? This really depends on how much bread you eat and the type you buy from the supermarket. If you buy the cheapest loaf you can get your hands on then you won’t make your money back any time soon if you invest in a bread maker.
Bread makers can cost £35 to £350 and even more. The cheapest flour can cost around 45p to the more expensive flour which can cost up to £3.50. Whether it is worth buying a bread maker in terms of price depends on how much bread you will be making, the type of bread maker you will get as well as the type of ingredients you use.
So, are bread makers worth it? Definitely! They are ultra-convenient, they do all the hard work for you and you get perfectly baked bread each time with no effort. Who doesn’t want that?
The quality of a loaf from a bread maker also beats store-bought bread any day of the week. You just don’t get the same quality from bread that comes out of a package compared to the fresh, warm loaf that comes out of your maker.
Truth be told, a bread maker does take away the element of personal touch if you were to make your bread by hand. Making bread is a skill and you really feel like you have achieved something if you make the perfect loaf by hand. But if you are a busy person who wants to wake up to a warm, fluffy, soft loaf every morning then a bread maker is worth every penny!