Terms of the Trade: What is a Bread Machine?

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The fastest, most hands-off method for making bread in the home is with a bread machine. A popular small home appliance for decades, bread machines, or bread makers, as they are sometimes called, do most all of the work, including mixing, kneading and baking. While homemade bread from a machine may become stale faster than store-bought bread, this is only because preservatives aren't used. This is actually a good thing and inspires families to enjoy their homemade food staple on sandwiches, for breakfast or other meals. What does go stale can be used in stuffing or other recipes. Making homemade bread might also inspire you to share your creation with friends and neighbors.

How It Works

Bread machines are fairly compact devices, smaller and less weighty than a microwave. A bread machines consists of a bread pan or tin into which the ingredients go. A detachable rotating paddle connects to an internal cam. This piece mixes the ingredients. The tin is placed within the special purpose oven, the whole thing being fully self-contained. First, the necessary ingredients are first gathered together and placed into the tin in the correct order. The sequence is important, especially the placement of yeast and water, as these ingredients cannot mix too early or the loaf may be ruined. Once the ingredients have been added, the tin is placed into the oven and the process activated. Bread machines allow one to set the timer as per the instructions and return to it once the loaf is complete.

hands pouring bread dough into a bread baking machine

Bread Machine Features

Consumer-grade bread machines are designed to make rectangular or cylindrical-shaped loaves between 1 and 2 pounds or approximately 700 to 900 grams. Common operational features include a programmable timer of up to 24 hours, digital controls and/or LCD display, viewing window and a keep-warm cycle. Other features usually include a nonstick tin for easy cleaning, crust color control, auto dispensers for fruit and nuts and a convection fan for better results. Bread machines operate on standard 120-volt power, so no special wiring is required.

Baking Options

Most bread machines from brands such as Zojirushi, Breadman, Sunbeam, Panasonic, Cuisinart, Hamilton Beach and others offer at least 10 different baking cycles. Some offer 100 or more. These are handy for different types of bread, including standard white, sourdough or whole grain, just to name some. Bread machines may also be used for dough-only recipes, such as when making pizza. Very versatile, bread machines can be used for numerous recipes, allowing one to make virtually any kind of bread with ease.

bread dough ready to bake in machine

Accessories and Recipes

All bread machines come with a few useful and necessary accessories, including measuring implements, the detachable paddle and an instruction manual. In the manual, one will find a number of bread recipes, making it easy to get started making homemade bread. In addition to compiling all of the necessary ingredients, packaged mixes are available. These contain all of the required dry ingredients to make all types of bread. Simply add to these water and any other wet or perishable items to make a great loaf of bread quickly and without much mess.