Nothing makes a house seem like a home faster than the aroma of baking bread. Luckily the time honored tradition has become quicker and easier thanks to the increasing functionality and success of modern bread making machines. To bake, simply add the ingredients, push a few buttons and sit back and wait.
However with an assortment of bread makers ranging in size, shape, and programmable capabilities, how’s a loaf-lover to choose? The answer, of course, is as personal as your choice of daily bread.
To find the bread maker that suits your taste and lifestyle best, check out the following six considerations and find out what you really knead to know:
1. Know There’s A Range of Models
A great way to narrow the wide field of choices is to decide if you want a basic machine or one with lots of options and additional features. Beginners might want to start with a basic model until they are certain they will make the most of a more extensive machine. Ultimately, how you intend to utilize the machine will determine what features you will require.
2. Size Matters
Bread machines are bulky by nature and require a commitment of kitchen real estate in order to store. Know where you plan to stow your bread maker when not in use.
Similarly, small machines produce small loaves, and big machines bake bigger loaves, what size bread pan do you really need? A machine that yields the right amount of bread for a single person or a couple, may not make enough for a growing family; conversely, baking too much bread may lead to waste.
It is estimated that a 1-pound bread pan machine should yield 8 slices, while a 1 1/2 pound pan should provide 12 slices; a 2 pound pan 16 slices; and a 2 1/2 pound pan 20 slices.
Know how many folks your loaf needs to feed.
3. Pick Your Pan
Most bread makers have a bread pan (ranging in size from 1 to 2 1/2 pounds) in which you add, mix and bake the ingredients. The shape of the loaf, as well as the number of slices, will be determined by the size and style of the bread pan. Economical machines will often feature a vertical pan which creates a tall loaf with a rounded top. Some pans produce square loaves, while others create a traditional horizontal loaf. This is important if you envision slicing your bread to make sandwiches, or have another specific usage in mind.
In addition, the type of pan (either thin aluminum or heavier cast aluminum) can determine the crust of your bread. Machines with thin aluminum pans tend to make a lighter and thinner crust than machines with thick-cast aluminum pans, which tend to make darker and thicker crusts. Carb connoisseurs take note.
4. White or Wheat?
Knowing the kinds of bread you intend to make with a bread machine will go a long way toward selecting the right one for the job.
If you are only going to bake white bread, select a simpler model, since white bread requires only the basic, or white, cycle to produce a good result.
If it’s dreams of whole grains, wheat, sourdough, French bread, pizza dough or banana bread (to name a few) that dance in your head, however, you’ll need to consider a machine with extra “cycles.”
For example, whole wheat or whole grain cycles allow longer rising times for the dense loaves; while a cycle for French bread decreases kneading time and adds more time for rising.
In addition, some machines feature quick or rapid cycles that cut baking time by an hour; while others are programmed with a regular bake cycle that is always a speedy two or two-and-a-half hours. Fast and fresh!
For the advanced bread maker, some machines feature a programmable setting that allows users to determine the length of each timed cycle.
5. Bells & Whistles
Let’s be honest. There are those among us who go ga-ga over gadgets. You know who you are.
For this contingent, there are swoon-worthy bread machines boasting settings that affect everything from the color of the crust to delayed start times, and buzzers that alert bakers when it’s time to add mix-ins like nuts or raisins. To go even further, some machines can also make jam or cook rice.
6. Warranty Worthy
Whatever the style, settings and cycles you fall in love with, don’t commit unless the manufacturer is willing to show you the love in return. Warranties for bread makers can vary in coverage from 3-months to a year.
Generally expect a bread maker that is producing three loaves a week to last approximately three years. Longer if you’re lucky.
That’s a lot of dough. You may need more butter, and possibly more chairs around the table.
Have a bread making tip to share? Let us know in the space below.