Let's say you've got a bread machine, but no manual. Maybe you bought it at a yard sale, inherited it from a relative, or just lost the manual. So what do you do with this contraption before you? You can store it in a cabinet and add to your "I'll use it someday..." clutter, or you can read these instructions and start baking bread!
- Get to know your machine. Take some time to inspect it. There's a hinged lid which can be lifted and shut; there may be a window in it, and probably a small vent too. Next to the lid you should see a control panel with a few buttons (and maybe a light or two if you have a fancy version). Inside the bread machine there is a bread pan or bucket. There should be a handle on it, which is probably folded down so the lid will close completely. The bread bucket works as both the mixing bowl and the baking pan. In the center of the bread bucket will be a little bread paddle or kneading blade. It is responsible for kneading and mixing the dough. When the dough bakes, it bakes around the kneading blade. You must remove the blade from the bottom of the loaf after the bread is baked.
- You must have all three parts in order to make bread. The machine itself, the bread bucket, and the kneading blade. If any one of these parts is missing you must replace it. The kneading blade is the smallest part and the one most likely to be missing. It is also the least expensive to replace. If you need replacement parts then do an Internet search to find the manufacturer of your machine. Go to their website and email them about what you need.
- The bread bucket and kneading blade are removable. To take the bread bucket out, your machine may require you to pull hard, depending on how it snaps in. Look it over, grab the handle, and pull. Don’t worry. You aren’t breaking it. After you get the bread pan out, examine it. If you turn it upside down the kneading blade will fall out. There will be a peg inside the bread pan that the kneading blade fits over. To put the bread bucket back into the machine and snap it into place, you may have to shove down really hard. Yours may go in very easily or you may have to turn the gear under the bread bucket just slightly to get it to fit into the machine the right way.
- Find out your bread bucket capacity. Take the bread bucket out set it next to the sink. Get a measuring cup and fill it with water. Pour the water into the bread bucket. Do it again and again and again, until the bucket is full. Count how many cups of water you are adding to the bucket, until you get a total. This part is important, so measure carefully. When you choose a recipe it is important that you match it up to the size of the bread bucket you have. You would not want to make a 2 lb recipe in a 1 lb machine. It would result in a big mess.
- If your bread bucket holds 10 cups of water then you can make 1-1/2 pound loaves of bread.
- If your bread bucket holds 12 cups or more then you can make 2 pound loaves of bread.
- If your bucket holds less than 10 cups then you can make 1 pound loaves of bread.
- Become familiar with the settings. Have a good look at the buttons and display screen on the control panel. You will probably find a Select button, a Stop/Start button, Crust Color and Timer or Arrow buttons. Unplug your machine. Plug it back in. The machine will be on its Basic (or default) setting now.
- Close to the select button you will see several choices. The most common ones are White or Basic; Whole Wheat; French; Sweet; Rapid, & Dough. To set the machine to a particular cycle you have to keep pressing the Select button until it gets to the cycle you want. Sometimes each cycle is identified by a number. For instance, White or Basic is usually 1. Whole Wheat is 2. French is 3; and so on; you get the idea. Each cycle takes a different amount of time to mix and cook the bread.
- The crust setting is not available on all machines. If you do see a button labeled Crust then it will have 3 settings available: Light, Medium & Dark. The default setting is medium. When you unplug the machine and then plug it back in, it will automatically set itself to the medium setting. If you prefer a light or dark crust instead, then you press the Crust button to change the setting. Usually the Crust button will not work until after you select the dough cycle and before you press Start.
- Using the timer is described in a separate section, below.
- Get your ingredients. There are a few basic ingredients you need to make bread in a bread machine. They are yeast, flour, salt, sugar, liquids and fats.
- Yeast used in a bread machine should always be labeled “Active Dry” on the label. Sometimes you can buy yeast in a jar that says it is specifically for bread machines. Packets of yeast, available in the baking aisle of the grocery store, usually hold 2-1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast. You may use one packet of yeast to replace 2 teaspoons of yeast in most bread machine recipes. The extra 1/4 teaspoon of yeast won’t make that much difference. Don’t use rapid rise yeast. It's not worth the extra cost, and the time savings is negligible once you get the hand of making bread.
- Bread flour makes better bread. Bread flour is made from hard wheat so it has more gluten, or wheat protein, in it than regular all-purpose flour. All-purpose flour is a blend of hard and soft wheat. This makes it serviceable for biscuits, cakes and quick breads, which prefer soft wheat flour; and also serviceable for yeast bread, which prefers hard wheat flour. It is called all-purpose flour because it is designed to be used for all baking purposes. Bread flour is made for yeast bread. If you don’t have bread flour then you may use all purpose flour for most bread recipes. Your results will not be exactly the same as if you had used bread flour, but you will still have good results, and you will still get good bread. Sometimes you will need to add a tiny bit more flour to your dough if you use all-purpose flour. This isn’t always true but it is sometimes.
- Salt is a necessary ingredient in machine made bread. It regulates the rising process so that the bread dough doesn’t spill over the bread bucket into the machine. Salt also adds flavor to the bread. Bread made completely without salt doesn’t taste as good as bread made with some salt.
- Sugar, honey and other sweeteners soften the texture of the dough and the finished loaf. They also contribute to the browning of the bread and the crispness of the crust. The main role they play, though, is as easy-to-use-food for the yeast. Yeast can use the starch in flour for its food but it is much happier if it gets an easy to use food like sugar or honey. Most bread machine recipes call for at least a small amount of sugar. However, bread machine breads do best if they don’t have too much sugar added to them. When making sweet dough from scratch it isn’t unusual to add a full cup of sugar to the dough. When making sweet dough in the machine,, though it is better to use 1/4 to 1/2-cup of sugar or honey at the very most. This is because the dough rises faster and higher in a bread machine than it does when prepared by hand. Too much sugar is too much food for the yeast and it gets over-excited. This can result in a machine made mess that is unpleasant to clean up.
- Liquids used in a bread machine should be room temperature or a little bit warmer. You should never use hot liquids in a bread machine. Liquids that are too hot will kill the yeast. Room temperature liquids make the yeast happy. If you are using tap water then warm tap water is fine. If you are using yogurt or buttermilk you may want to take it out of the fridge to warm up a bit before you use it in the bread machine. (This isn’t strictly necessary, especially for breads baked on the Basic Cycle or longer. If you are using the Rapid Cycle though it is imperative that the liquids be warm or at least at room temperature.)
- Fats make the finished loaf richer, softer, and also keep the dough from sticking to the non-stick surface of the bread pan. Usually between 1 and 4-tablespoons of fat are used in a 2 lb loaf of bread machine dough. You can use most fats interchangeably in a bread machine. Margarine, oil, shortening, lard, chicken fat, bacon grease or butter will all give you pretty much the same results. Some of the fats will add a different flavor, and the texture of the bread will change very slightly, depending on which type of fat you use. Solid fats do not have to be melted before adding them to the bread machine. It helps if they are at room temperature, but this isn’t always practical.
- Add the ingredients in the right order. If you are going to mix and bake the dough right away then it really doesn’t matter which order you add the ingredients. If you want to program the machine with the Delay Cycle to start while you are away, then the order becomes very important. The ingredients must be added in a way that will keep them inert until the machine begins its mixing. Therefore it is a good idea to get in the habit of adding the ingredients in this way from the beginning.
- Put the liquids into the machine first.
- Next add the flour. As you are adding the flour, urge it out over the top of the water so that that it sort of seals the water in.
- Then you can add the other dry ingredients like salt, sugar, dry milk powder and seasonings.
- The last thing you should add is the yeast. Most recipes suggest that you make a shallow indentation or well in the center of the flour and sprinkle the yeast into it. This is important because it prevents the yeast from coming into contact with the liquid until the machine begins mixing. If the yeast and liquid get together before the machine is scheduled to begin, then the yeast will become active and likely make a big mess out of the machine.
- Put your ingredients in the bread pan and snap the bread pan into place.
- Use a recipe that you have already tested and that you trust.
- Place the ingredients into the bread bucket in the correct order, as described above.
- Select the cycle you prefer.
- Using math, figure out how much time before you want the loaf to be finished baking.
- Use the arrow buttons to adjust the time on the display screen to match the number of hours your figured out above.
- Close everything up and press Start. Walk away now, and let it do its magic.
- Milk, buttermilk, and yogurt make the finished loaf of bread softer and give it a finer crumb. With milk or buttermilk, you can use warm tap water and add powdered milk or dry buttermilk with your dry ingredients. If you have any whey leftover from making cheese it makes a very finely crumbed bread. It tastes really good too, better than you would think. Also runny yogurt that didn’t set up quite right is great in breads.
- If you are making bread with water and you want to try something fun for a change, add a spoonful of vinegar along with the liquid ingredients. You will not taste the vinegar in the finished bread but the acid in it will keep the bread fresh for a little while longer after it is baked. This is an old-fashioned trick that still works well today.
- How to Use a Bread Maker
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- How to Bake Milk and Honey Bread
- How to Make Rice Cooker Bread
- How to Make Irish Soda Bread
Sources and Citations
- http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/ - Original source, shared with permission.
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