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There is nothing quite like the smell of baking bread as it wafts through your home. In addition to the wonderful aroma, there are several other benefits of baking your own bread. When you bake bread at home, you know exactly what ingredients are being used.
You can also combine spices, cheeses, and other ingredients to make deliciously flavored loaves. Baking bread isn’t necessarily hard either—especially if you know how to use a bread machine.
Bread machines help you get the perfect loaf every time. However, you’ll need to know how to use one before you get started. This includes adding the right ratio of ingredients, using the proper settings, and giving the loaf enough time to cook.
Being able to properly cool the loaf and clean the bread machine is also important. This article will break down everything you need to know to use a bread machine so you can start enjoying the benefits of warm, delicious loaves.
Get to Know Your Bread Machine
Even though this article is going to teach you how to use a bread machine, there are some things you’ll want to know before you start. The easiest way to get familiar with your bread machine is to read the user’s manual.
This will teach you what the different buttons mean, how to assemble any moving parts, and how to do things like using the handles and open the lid.
Of course, you might be reading this article because you bought a bread machine from a yard sale or received it as a hand-me-down and did not receive the manual. The biggest difference between bread machines other than their size is the available settings.
Most bread machines have settings that make it easier to create the perfect loaf. For example, you might have a button to adjust to loaf size and crust thickness. Many bread machines also make things other than bread like pizza crust, pasta dough, and even jam.
Of course, many companies expect that their customers might lose their manual or receive a machine without them. You can look this information up online if you know the manufacturer and model of your bread machine.
How Does a Bread Machine Work?
Once you know how the parts and buttons work, bread machines make it easy to create the perfect loaf. Usually, you add the wet ingredients and then the dry ingredients or you add the dry ingredients and then the wet ingredients.
When you do add the liquid first, you’ll want to cover it completely with the dry ingredients and create a seal. Then, the yeast sits on top of the dry ingredients where it is not going to get wet.
The order that the ingredients are added in matters because bread machines can be designed vertically (which is most common) or horizontally.
Usually, the horizontal machines have two kneading paddles instead of one. The bread dough will be kneaded, left to rise, and then baked once you start the cycle.
What’s the Capacity?
The average bread machine can make a loaf that is as small as one-pound but may be big enough to accommodate 2-pound or 3-pound loaves. Your bread machine will not be able to bake properly if you add too many ingredients.
For a 1-pound loaf, you can expect to add 2 3/4-cups of flour and 7/8 cup of liquid. A 1 ½-pound loaf requires about 3 cups of flour and 1 cup of liquid. Finally, a 2-pound loaf takes around 4 cups of flour and 1 1/3 cups of liquid. With this ratio, you can adjust the wet/dry ingredients as you would like to add more flavor and originality to your loaf.
Choosing the Ingredients
Bread is a great staple food because you can make it with four ingredients. You’ll use the same ingredients you put in traditional bread when baking in a bread machine:
- Flour- Bread machines use the same bread flour you’d use if you were making bread by hand. There is more gluten in bread flour, which helps it achieve the texture you are used to.
- Yeast- Yeast is the most common leavening agent in bread because it causes it to rise and create the structure that you are used to in bread. However, double-acting baking powder or a mixture of baking soda and an acid like buttermilk or lemon juice and milk can also be used.
- Liquid (usually milk or water)- When you add liquids to the bread maker, they should be at room temperature. Warm environments allow the yeast to blossom, while temperatures that are too cool or too hot can inhibit your bread’s ability to rise.
- Salt- Salt is important for controlling the fermentation process of yeast, which helps preserve the shelf life of your freshly baked bread. Salt also imparts some much-needed flavor.
- Sugar- Sugar is not necessarily a necessary ingredient, but it does create a softer loaf that is easier to brown.
- Fats- Fats stop the bread from sticking to the pan. They also help create a softer, richer loaf.
The ingredients above will make a basic loaf, however, you can add other flavors and ingredients to the bread as you wish. Some people add herbs and spices like rosemary, fennel, or garlic, while others might add cheese or cinnamon and sugar to their bread.
There are also gluten-free bread recipes that require a long list of ingredients. Once you stray from a basic recipe, start by following some recipes online. This will help you get an idea of how much extra ingredients you can add without ruining the structure of the bread.
Using the Timer
Once the ingredients are in place, be sure the bread pan is positioned properly in the bread machine. Most machines have arrows that you use to adjust the amount of time the bread will cook. If the bread is overbaked, it will be hard and dry. If it is underbaked, it will be doughy in the middle.
Some machines have a setting for different bread types and crust thickness so you won’t have to set it yourself. Others might require you to push a set of arrows to adjust the timer.
Fortunately, if you used a recipe for the first trial run in your bread machine, there should be information about how long to bake the bread in the recipe. On average, bread takes between 1 and 3 hours to bake.
Hopefully, this article will be a useful tool as you navigate how to use a bread machine for the first time. With a little practice, you’ll be able to enjoy fresh-baked bread and all the joy that comes with it any time of the year, day or night.