Tips for Using a Bread Machine
Advantages of Using a Bread Machine
Bread machines are useful for all types of bread making: yeast breads, quick breads, or specialty breads or cakes. They can also be a time saver when creating recipes for baking in a standard oven, like preparing fresh pizza doughs or creating a specialty dough that is ready for making up on a counter like braiding.
While bread makers are sometimes fool-proof (just add in the ingredients, punch a few buttons and let it do the rest), there are some basic guidelines that should be followed for a successful loaf of bread.
Add in the ingredients in the recommended order: first the liquid, then the flour, and last the leavening. Liquid ingredients and the eggs should not be used fresh from the refrigerator. And make sure the leavening is active and not expired.
Read on for information about basic bread ingredients, and troubleshooting a bread machine.
Flours and Dry Ingredients:
- The two types of flour you can find are all-purpose flour and bread flour. All-purpose flour is a blend of different flours, like hard and soft, to make a general all-purpose bread. Bread flour has a higher protein content that produces more gluten. Using bread flour will give a better structured bread. Rye flour is never used alone since it doesn't have enough gluten. Self-rising flour has leavening already inside of it, along with other ingredients such as salt. This is almost always avoided in a bread making machine. Whole wheat flour is just that - it has the entire wheat kernel intact, just ground up and milled. This is more nutritious but is most often mixed with other flours since whole wheat flour-only breads are usually more dense.
- Salt and sugars are important for both color and flavor, and other functions. Sugar helps to feed yeast in yeast breads, and will give color to the finished bread. Salt works to limit the function of yeast, but also provide flavor.
- Yeast works through fermentation to make the loaves of bread rise. Both active dry and quick rise types may be used. Baking powder can be found in two types: single acting and double acting. Baking powder works alone with a liquid to form leavening. Baking soda is a leavening that requires an acid, such as buttermilk, vinegar, molasses, etc. Baking soda and baking powder cannot be used in place of the other, but can be used together in a recipe.
Liquids and Other Ingredients:
- Oils and fats, like butter and shortening, affect the texture of the bread, and help it give the bread a longer shelf life.
- Eggs provide richness and add to the texture. Always beat the eggs when adding to the bread mix.
- Milk, water and fruit juices should all be at least to room temperature or preferably warmed up to 80 degrees before using in the bread mixture.
Specialty and Bread Flours
Each manufacturer will have it's own troubleshooting guide and methods to correct baking problems, but here is a basic guide to troubleshooting bread and baking problems when using a automatic bread maker machine.
Bread is dense:
- Not enough water in the recipe, or too much flour and not enough yeast.
- The yeast was old.
- The water was too hot or too cold, and it prevented the leavening to achieve its full potential.
Bread is too coarse:
- Too much liquid in the mix.
- There was too much leavening added to the mix.
Bread falls in the center:
- Too much liquid and not enough flour.
- An ingredient was left out in the recipe, or there was a problem with the recipe itself.
The slices stuck to the knife after slicing:
- The bread wasn't given a chance to fully cool down first.
- There was too much liquid in the mix and the texture was doughy after baking.
The bread machine won't operate:
- The machine is not plugged in.
- A paddle or pan was not properly installed.
- A selection still needs to be entered before baking can begin.
Yeast Bread Glazes
Most breads benefit with a glaze. Here are some to try. Brush on the glazes at your machine's recommended times.
- Milk Glaze: Brush the freshly-baked bread with whole milk or cream to give it a shiny crust. Do this when the bread is just pulled from the bread pan or the crust will not soak up the milk correctly and dry to a shiny sheen.
- Egg Glaze: Brush a mixture of one egg to one tablespoon water over the top of dough just before it will be baked.
- Melted Butter Glaze: Brush melted whole butter or margarine over warmed, freshly baked bread to give it a softer, flavorful crust.