Bread makers are a godsend if you want fresh bread but don’t have the time to knead the dough and make the loaf by hand. Fresh, homemade bread is far superior to store-bought bread and much healthier too.
Once you start using your bread maker you’ll be wondering why you’ve been spending money on supermarket bread all this time!
But have you ever found yourself wondering how do bread makers work? Whether you want to find out more about bread makers before you get one or you bought one and now are wondering what to do with it next, don’t worry. We have you covered with all the top tips of how to use your bread maker for the first time.
Get to Know your Bread Maker
Every bread maker will come with a manual which shows you how to use your machine. The manual will have everything you need to get you started, including some tasty and easy recipes.
For your bread machine to function properly, it should have a non-stick bread pan with a handle and a paddle (some bread machines have 2 paddles). Make sure that these are included and that they are not defective or missing. The bread pan doubles as a mixing bowl and as a baking pan. You can remove both the bread pan and the paddle very easily from the machine by either twisting them or pulling them out.
Depending on the type of maker you have, there will be a lid with the settings on the side. Your machine might have a viewing window with a light and a digital control panel. You may even have a dispenser above the lid that automatically dispenses extra ingredients like nuts, dried fruit or herbs.
Your manual will tell you how much bread your bread maker will yield. Usually, they vary between yielding 1 pound loaves to 2 pound loaves, or sometimes even more!
Many bread makers are accompanied by a recipe book which is very handy as you’ll have all your bread recipes gathered in one place. If you are new to making bread, start off with a simple bread recipe.
You’ll want to add the water first, then the flour, followed by the oil, salt and sugar and lastly, the yeast.
When you add the water in the bread pan, make sure it is at room temperature or warm. Warm tap water also works well and is quicker than waiting for cold water to get to room temperature. You don’t want to use hot water as this will kill the yeast and your bread will not rise and come out very dense.
Bread flours or strong flours are the best flours to use for your homemade loaves as they contain more gluten. The more gluten the flour has the better it will rise and the chewier the bread will be. Plain flour will work fine too and it is great to experiment with if you are making your first loaf.
3) Oil, Salt and Sugar
Oil is a great addition to your bread recipe as it adds to the softness and gives it a richer taste. You can also use other fats such as butter, margarine and even bacon fat to give your bread a rich, salty taste.
Salt is a must when making bread. Aside from adding flavour to it, it also controls the rise of your loaf, making sure that it doesn’t spill over the bread pan.
Sugar helps soften the texture of your bread and gives it a nice golden brown colour. Sugar also contributes to a crispier crust and also helps the dough rise faster. If you don’t want to use refined sugars, you can always substitute it with honey instead.
Depending on the type of yeast you are using, you might have to activate it with water. If you are using active dry yeast, you will have to mix it with the warm water first and set it aside for a few minutes. Once it has started to bubble, you can add it to the rest of your ingredients.
If you are using instant yeast (which is what we would recommend as it‘s easier to use and faster) it doesn’t need to be activated so you can pop all your ingredients in the pan. Make sure you put the ingredients in order even if you are using instant yeast. Make a well in the middle of the flour and place the yeast in there. The yeast shouldn’t touch any liquid until the mixing process begins. If the yeast touches liquids too early it can ruin your whole loaf.
I tend to add all my ingredients directly to the pan while it’s in the bread machine. If you want to avoid spilling any of your flour over the side, you can remove the bread pan from the machine and clip it back into place once you have put all of your ingredients.
Top baking tip: Add the flour so it covers the water. Then add the oil, salt and sugar around the sides of the bread pan so when you add your yeast, it doesn’t touch any of the other ingredients.
Using Bread Maker Settings
1) Bread Cycle
Whether you have a digital screen or just buttons, your bread maker will give you a bread selection option. It usually defaults on the basic bread cycle but you will be able to choose between whole wheat bread, rapid, dough, sweet bread and even jam in some machines.
Once you have selected the bread cycle, you may be able to select a crust colour, if your bread maker offers this option. Choose between 3 crust colours; light, medium, dark. Your bread maker will default on medium but you can choose the one you want by pressing the crust button. The default setting is probably the best as it gives you bread a nice golden brown colour with a crispy crust.
Each bread cycle differs in time. A basic white loaf might take less time than whole wheat bread and the rapid setting will take less time than the basic setting. Once you select your bread cycle, the machine will automatically select the equivalent timer for that type of bread. Typically, the basic cycle will take around 3 hours.
Many bread makers also have a delayed timer. You will be able to adjust the time manually of when you would like your bread to start baking. You can set the delayed timer for up to 13 hours in advance, depending on your bread maker. All you have to do is set the timer before you go to bed and you will wake up to freshly baked bread the next morning!
The Final Product
Now that you have added your ingredients to the bread pan and selected your bread options, it’s time to shut the lid, press the start button and watch the magic happen!
If you’ve added extra ingredients to your dispenser, it will automatically release them while your dough is kneading in your bread maker. If your machine doesn’t have an automatic dispenser, then you’ll have to keep an eye (or ear) out for the beep. Add your extra ingredients after the first beep. Your bread maker might be different, so make sure you have a look at the manual as it will give you more information as to when you can add in your extra ingredients.
3 hours later, your house will be filled with the aroma of homemade bread! Pop some oven mittens on and take the pan out of the machine. Remove the bread and let it cool on a wired rack. As tempting as it might be to tuck into the warm loaf straight out of the pan (guilty!), let it cool down for at least 15 minutes so it’s easier to slice.
Making bread has never been easier. Now that you know how bread makers work you will make perfect bread each time!
Bread machines are really not that hard to get to know and the more you use your machine the easier it will become. Taking your machine out and popping your ingredients in will become second nature. And once you have nailed a simple loaf, you can move onto more complex flours or even try making some jam!