So, I have a confession to make… I hate baking. Well, let me correct myself, I hate baking cookies and cakes. I make about 4 decent deserts. But I have become a master bread baker… in my own home. Yes, I have a bread machine that I use several times a week. Yeah, I know you have one too. Well, dust it off, because I’m going to show you how to use it like a pro.
Truth be told, as much as I use my bread machine, I don’t bake any bread in it anymore. See the beauty of the bread machine isn’t that it bakes the bread – that’s easy to do. The REAL beauty is that it makes the dough. Yes, my “ah-ha” moment. Now I make gorgeous loaves of bread fresh from the oven, mouth-watering artisan bakes that look like I bought them at a bakery, and I do very very… very little.
Now don’t get me wrong – I do make some effort, like buying flour and opening containers. Oh, and I do shape the loaf and plop it into a pan. This takes all of 2 minutes. So all that being said, here’s how to use your bread machine like a BOSS!
The Bread Machine
I am very loyal to my Cuisinart Bread Machine. Mostly because it’s the only brand I’ve ever used. I’m on my second one now, the last one I had for 10 years. But, there are lots of great machines on the market. What really needs to be considered is the size and dough setting.
- Tip: I like a large capacity bread machine. At least 2 pounds, that way you can easily do two loaves without burning out your kneading mechanism. It’s easy to double a dough recipe, as I did in Bread Machine Anadama Bread!
I have two AMAZING cookbooks that are my go-tos. I’ve had several others, but these two are the best.
The first is The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook: A Master Baker’s 300 Favorite Recipes for Perfect-Every-Time Bread-From Every Kind of Machine, by Beth Hensperger. It’s perfect for first time users and as you get better and better, it has more advanced breads. It also pretty much has a recipe for every single type of bread you could even comprehend making or eating.
- Tip: I find the recipes to be pretty spot on, except I always have to add about a tablespoon or two of additional liquid to my dough to get it where I like it.
The second is America’s Test Kitchen’s Bread Illustrated: A Step-By-Step Guide to Achieving Bakery-Quality Results At Home. No, this is not a bread machine book nor are any of the recipes for bread machines. But, as I mentioned before, your bread machine makes dough… amazing dough with no work! And let me tell you, this book has fantastic bread recipes! But on top of that it has amazing tips, techniques, and shaping illustrations to make you a baller with bread. And it’s easy!! Sooooo easy!
Tip: I have managed to convert every bread recipe in this book for my bread machine. I simply add the ingredients as the machine instructions state (mine is liquid, dry, and yeast) and then let it go on the dough setting. Follow the instructions for shaping, last rise, and bake… BOOM! Incredible bread! Check out my Bread Machine Hoagie Rolls to see how easy it is!
Tools of The Trade
1 Pound Loaf Pans – I personally use USA Pan Bakeware Aluminized Steel 1 Pound Loaf Pans and they are the best I’ve used. My Boyfriend surprised me with a set of these and they are invaluable. They have a nice insulation for even heat and crust and are non-stick so your loaf easily pops out for cooling. Plus they’ll last you forever and are made in the USA!
Tip: I recommend having two of these. Since you’re just making dough in your bread machine, you can easily double a 1 or 1-1/2 pound loaf recipe in your bread machine and make 2 fantastic loaves.
Pizza Stone – must have for any sort of artisan bread or pizza. It’ll give you a nice crisp crust on the bottom of your bread or pizza. Plus it lives in my oven, I don’t need a special place for it.
Spray Bottle – one that’s cheap with a good mister and only used for water.
- Tip: To achieve really gorgeous, golden brown, crisp crust, a mist of water before putting your bread in the oven is all you need!
Parchment Paper – NOT to be confused with wax paper which is utterly useless in general. But parchment paper is fantastic and you’ll need it now and then.
Tea towels or cloth napkins – this is not a major necessity, but I prefer them to greased plastic wrap. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to grease plastic wrap, but it’s a major pain in the rear. So I like to use these to put over my dough to rise.
Digital Thermometer – Bread actually has a “done” temperature, it’s between 205 – 210 degrees. Find a thermometer that registers to at least 250 degrees. It makes a huge difference in baking my own bread! I can’t tell you how many times I pulled a beautiful loaf out thinking it was done, and it’s still got some raw dough in the center. Now that never happens. Another great tip from Bread Illustrated: A Step-By-Step Guide to Achieving Bakery-Quality Results At Home.
The nice thing about using the bread machine, is that I can make quality bread pretty cheap. Bread flour can be pretty inexpensive (you can even make your own bread flour with all purpose flour and vital wheat gluten). But, I have become a little snobby with some of my ingredients – because, in my experience they make a better quality loaf. I try to use all organic ingredients, like whole milk, eggs, and sugar. But on top of that, here are some of my recommendations:
Bob’s Red Mill Flours – Bob’s Red Mill makes amazing specialty flours, oats, and grains that are readily available in the natural food section at most groceries stores. I love their corn meal, rye flour, rolled oats, and vital wheat gluten. It’s such nice quality.
Red Star Brand Yeast – Please, get good yeast! I have, in a pinch, bought other yeasts available at the store, but this is the most consistent yeast I’ve ever used.
- Tip – I keep my yeast in a container in the fridge or freezer, it’ll last you forever and will stay potent.
Honey – I LOVE baking with different local and specialty honeys instead of using sugar, it can really change up the taste of a tried and true loaf. It’s actually become a bit of an obsession. I have nearly a dozen types of honey in my pantry now.
- Tip: I substitute honey for sugar in a bread recipes all the time, in fact I rarely use sugar anymore. I put in just as much honey as it calls for sugar. When it’s in the mixing stage, I sometimes need to add a little more flour to compensate for the extra liquid.