How Do Bread Makers Work?

The Ultimate Bread Machine Guide

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. Totally worth the investment!

Fresh, homemade bread is far better than store bought bread and much healthier.

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 a bit more about bread makers before you get one or you have just bought one and are wondering what on earth to do with it, you’ve come to the right place.

We have you covered with all the top tips of how to use your bread maker for the first time.

What Is a Bread Machine?

panasonic bread maker sd-2511 black

Do I even have to go through what is a bread machine and what does a bread machine do? If you don’t know what a bread machine is, then you’re in for a treat.

Bread machines have become a huge commodity and have made our lives so much easier.

A bread machine comes in all shapes and sizes, prices and functions and does one important thing; make bread. 

They have even turned those who have never made bread in their lives into bread making professionals.

How To Use a Bread Machine

Get to know your bread maker

Every bread maker should come with a manual which shows you how to use your machine. The manual will have everything you need to get you started. 

For your bread machine to function it should have a non-stick bread pan with a handle and a paddle (some bread machines have 2 paddle blades). You might also get extra accessories with your bread machine, like measuring cups, extra paddles or extra baking pans. 

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.

Depending on the type of maker you have, there will be a lid with the settings on the side. If you have a fancier model, you 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.

The manual will tell you how much bread your bread maker will yield. Usually they vary between yielding 1 pound loaves to 2 pound loaves. 

My Panasonic bread maker makes medium, larger and extra large loaves. It also has a fruit and nut dispenser.

panasonic bread maker with fruit and nut dispenser

Adding Ingredients

flour, water, yeast, salt, sugar and oil

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 will find that every bread maker has different recipes and measurements. So, if you have a go to bread recipe that you are confident works, you can use that.

You don’t have to go by the recipes in the manual.

But, if you are new to the world of bread and bread makers, I recommend you start off with the simple bread loaf in the manual and work your way up to the much harder recipes. 

I have been very happy with the way my loaves come out from my bread machine so I tend to stick to the recipes in the manual.

In terms of adding your ingredients, you’ll want to add the water first, then the flour, followed by the oil, salt and sugar and lastly, the yeast.

 

1) Water

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.

 

2) Flour

Bread flour or strong flour are definitely the best flours to use as they contain more gluten.

You can make bread without bread flour, nut the more gluten the flour has the better it will rise and the chewier the bread will be.

If you don’t have any bread flour, plain flour will work well too. Plain flour is also great to experiment with if you are making your first loaf. 

 

3) Oil

Oil is a great addition to your bread recipe as it adds to the softness and gives it richer taste.

You can also use other fats such as butter, margarine and even bacon fat to add to the richness.

I add olive oil to my loaves. Not for any particular reason, it’s just the one I have available in the cupboard.

I don’t see a huge difference whether you add an oil or fats, so you can definitely opt out from adding them.

 

4) Salt

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. 

You can make bread without salt, but your bread will be quite bland and tasteless.

So, if you don’t have any health issues preventing you from consuming salt, I definitely recommend you add a teaspoon to your dough. 

 

5) Sugar

Sugar helps soften the texture of your bread and gives it a nice golden brown colour. 

Sugar also contributes to a crispier crust. If you don’t want to use refined sugars, you can always substitute it with honey instead. 

Sugar isn’t an essential ingredient when making bread so you can make bread without sugar or any sweetener. 

 

6) Yeast 

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 I would recommend as it‘s easier to use and activates 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 small well in the flour in the centre of the bread pan 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.

 Once you’ve added all of your ingredients in the bread pan, it should look something like this.

bread ingredients in bread pan

As you can tell from all the flour splattered on the sides of the pan, I am not the most graceful baker.

Weighing Ingredients 

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. 

Don’t forget to use your kitchen scales to measure all your ingredients! If you don’t already have kitchen scales, it’s time to get your hands on one.

They make life so much easier and can be used to weigh literally everything and anything.

How To Set Your Bread Machine

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 makers. 

2) Crust

Once you have selected the bread cycle, you may be able to select 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. 

The Panasonic bread maker that I use has quite a light crust in the first two settings, so I always go for the darker colour.

On your bread maker, the dark colour might be too dark, but you won’t know until you do some experimenting!

3) Timer

How long does a bread machine take? Well, that depends on the different cycles.

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. 

My bread machine has quite a long cycle. It makes the simple loaf in around 4 hours, which is quite a long time to be waiting for bread from a bread machine!

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

bread in the bread pan

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 smelling 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 cooling 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. 

If your bread machine doesn’t have collapsible paddles, you will probably find a huge hole at the bottom of your loaf. If you don’t want that, you can remove the paddle from the bread machine, you just have to time it correctly.

is homemade bread healthier?

And that’s how to use a bread maker to make bread. It couldn’t be any easier than that!

Making bread has never been easier! And 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 in your bread maker!

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