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6+ Bread Maker Tips You Need To Make Marvelous Bread

Sneak Peek: This is a collection of 6 bread maker tips (+ 1 bonus tip about dense bread) for both beginner and experienced bread machine users.

Are you just now unpacking a new machine or digging one out of the attic? If Santa brought you a bread maker or you have been inspired by the shut-down, you might be wondering where to start.

You could read the manual. (Just kidding! Who has time for that?)

Here are more than six bread maker tips to build your confidence. At the end, I’ll tell you the most popular bread recipe on this website. It’s beginner-friendly and a good place to start.

frustrated toddler probably thinking about a bread maker and needing some tips, tricks and secrets

Why do I need tips and tricks? Isn’t a bread maker supposed to be easy?

When I first started using my bread machine, I was infatuated with the smell of fresh bread–especially when using a timer to make it overnight. What an enticing wake-up call!

But as I always say, “Even bad bread tastes good when it’s warm.” Don’t be fooled.

The reality of tighter-than-they-were-before jeans inspired me to be pickier. I decided that good-smelling bread didn’t justify the thick crusts, holes in the bottom, and awkwardly-ugly loaves I was offering my family.

Even bad bread tastes good when it’s warm. Don’t settle for dense bread.

I threw out the bread maker manual and started experimenting with recipes I already loved. I questioned everything.

6 Bread Maker Tips for Beginners - Sweet Milk White Bread

Condensed Milk Bread is mixed and kneaded in a bread machine, but baked in a conventional oven.

The result is a different way to use a bread machine along with more than 50 bread-maker recipes published on this website. But don’t worry about all that right now.

Remember that any advanced skill (making high-quality yeast bread qualifies) is going to take practice and experience.

Adjust your early expectations while keeping your standards high. You don’t have to compromise.

6 Bread Machine Tips + 1 about Dense Bread

1. Start simple.

  • (If you are already an experienced bread-maker, skip this one.) If you have never made bread before, use a bread machine mix from the grocery store and observe the consistency of the dough in various stages.
  • Begin with a simple recipe like pizza dough. It’s my favorite, and it’s almost fool-proof.
pizza and foccacia made in a bread machine
Focaccia and Pizza–A very good place to start
Beginner-Friendly Classic Dinner Rolls from Your Bread Machine

2. Be cautious about substitutions.

In the beginning, try to follow the ingredient list as carefully as possible to maximize your chances of success.

  • Substituting whole wheat flour for white or even all-purpose flour for bread flour is not necessarily a 1-to-1 proposition. Different flours absorb different amounts of moisture and have varying amounts of gluten.
  • All yeast is not the same. You can substitute active-dry yeast for instant or bread machine yeast. (Instant, bread machine, and rapid-rise yeast are interchangeable.)

    However, active dry yeast is slower on the uptake. Add 1/4 teaspoon extra yeast if you are substituting for instant yeast.

    Instant yeast saves time as it does not need to be dissolved. Traditionally, active-dry yeast needed to be dissolved. The modern formulation means that it can now be added directly to your flour.

    If it makes you feel better, go ahead and dissolve it according to the package directions. No worries!

3. Don’t be afraid to open the lid.

Take a peek 10-15 minutes into the mixing process. I cannot stress this tip enough to avoid inedible surprises!!!

  • If nothing is happening, the blade may not be present or engaged.

    Many times I have plunged a wooden spoon or spatula through the unmixed ingredients to push a paddle down into the proper position so it could do its job. I’ve even forgotten to install the blade before adding ingredients to the pan.
  • If the dough is too moist, it will level out like a thick soup. Add flour one tablespoon at a time until it makes a tacky ball that sticks to the wall of the pan and then pulls away.
  • If the dough is too dry, it will form a ball that doesn’t touch the sides or may slap loudly against the side of the pan. (If it’s very dry it won’t even form a ball.) Add water one tablespoon at a time until you get a tacky ball.
illustration of my tip for getting  perfect dough in a bread maker

Top left–too wet; Top right–too dry; Lower–Just right

Although experience is helpful, I’m hoping you’ll have beginner’s luck and your bread will turn out superbly the first time.

When you learn how to gauge the consistency of the dough and can add water or flour as needed, the bread-machine world will be your oyster.

4. Stick with the “DOUGH” cycle on your bread maker.

In case you haven’t read my blog before, I rarely bake bread in my machine. I use the dough cycle to mix the ingredients. Then, I remove the dough to a floured board where I shape it. Finally, bake it in a conventional oven.

This method gives me more control, more shaping options, and a better crust on the finished product. If I’m going to ingest luxury calories, they must be worth it. Bread actually baked in a bread machine rarely makes the cut.

bread machine with dough cycle highlighted

My favorite button on a bread machine.

What if you have no oven or you are a fix-it-and-forget-it kind of baker?

If you prefer to use the bread machine for the entire process, keep reading.

How to get a better-looking loaf when you use the bread machine to bake your bread:

  • Determine when the final rise starts during the REGULAR cycle. Check your manual.
  • At the beginning of the last rise, remove the dough from the pan and take the dough blades out.
  • Reshape the dough. You could braid it, make large or small balls (see picture below), twist it, or flatten and roll it up to make a loaf that is evenly distributed in the pan.
  • Place the dough back into the bread machine pan and let the cycle continue uninterrupted. (I unplug my machine to stop the process. When I replug it, the cycle takes up where it left off. Your machine may be different.)

This extra step will give your loaf a nicer top, a uniform shape, and smaller holes in the bottom of the loaf after it is baked. The crust will still be thick and cardboard-like, but that’s the price one pays for convenience.

This Herbed White Bread dough was removed from the bread machine before the last rise and divided into four portions. Each portion was rolled into a ball and placed back into the machine without paddles. This loaf was baked in the bread maker.

5. Invest in quality bakeware and accessories.

If you decide you want to bake your bread-machine-mixed dough in a regular oven, you will want a nice crust on your bread. Purchase high-quality pans. 

A few suggestions

The last three items are highly recommended if you aspire to be an excellent bread-baker. See some of my favorites in my Amazon store

  1. Two heavy-duty pizza pans (for pizza) with a dark finish (Check e-bay for these. Often sold off from defunct pizza restaurants.)
  2. Two (8 or 9-inch with 2-inch high sides) heavy-duty cake pans with dark interior or gold finish
  3. An 8 x 4-1/2-inch loaf pan and a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan for recipes containing approximately 2-1/2 to 3 cups of flour
  4. A heavy-duty half-sheet cookie sheet.
  5. Instant-read thermometer or this smaller one (paid links)–helps to gauge when the bread is fully baked
  6. Dough scraper
  7. Freebie shower caps–perfect for covering pans of formed dough for second rising
 best bakeware and tools for baking bread

Heavy, dark-colored pans, instant-read thermometer, and a dough scraper

6. Consider the ambient temperature.

(Ambient temperature refers to the area or room where your bread machine sits.) Even though bread machines contain a heating element, the room temperature can make a huge difference in how fast the dough rises.

If your house is chilly, the dough may not rise to double in the time allotted by the DOUGH cycle. Leave the bread dough inside the machine to continue proofing.

To do otherwise will keep the yeast from developing to its full potential resulting in less flavor and dense texture.

What to do when your house is too cold:

covering bread machine during cold temperature
  1. Consider moving your machine to a warmer spot in the house.
  2. Throw a blanket over it.

If you are using the DOUGH cycle:

  1. Transfer the dough out of the bread machine pan into another bowl. Cover it. Set it inside a slightly warm oven (85˚F) or on top of a water heater or any warm place.
  2. The dough may not rise to double in the time allotted by the DOUGH cycle due to the cooler temperature. Leave the bread dough inside the machine to continue proofing as long as necessary. Otherwise, the yeast won’t develop properly resulting in less flavor and a dense texture.

Bonus Tip: Why is my bread too dense?

This is the most common complaint I get from new bread makers. Your bread will be dense when it does not rise as it should in the time allowed by the bread machine timer. The possible causes are many.

Here’s a sampling:

  1. Did you measure the flour correctly? Because the percentage of flour is so high in a bread recipe, mistakes are magnified. Too much flour will make your bread dense and crumbly. If you intend to make very much bread, a digital scale is worth the money.
  2. Did you use whole grain flour? Don’t expect them to rise as high or as fast. Use the whole wheat setting or use the DOUGH cycle and take more control of the process.
  3. Did you drastically reduce or leave out the salt or add a lot of salty ingredients? This will mess with the yeast. Salt and yeast work together like brakes (the regulator) and the gas peddle (source of energy). Without salt, the yeast will wear itself out when you need it most. With too much salt, the yeast will be sluggish.
  4. Did you substitute all-purpose flour for bread flour? Since bread flour has more gluten, it will help your bread rise higher. This is not usually a big issue with dinner rolls, but it can be with loaves.
  5. Did you use active dry yeast instead of instant yeast? Active dry yeast is a bit slower. Add 1/4 teaspoon more.
  6. Were all of your ingredients at room temperature when you started the machine? This is very important when you use your machine to mix, knead, and BAKE your bread. How is your bread maker supposed to know that you used cold flour straight out of the freezer? Cold ingredients will slow down the action. Consequently, the dough won’t rise as fast.

“Why is my bread dense?”

Download a FREE printable guide to help you diagnose the cause of dense bread when you sign up to receive my free updates and exclusive bread-making tips in your inbox.

Don’t worry. I won’t share your address. Unsubscribe any time.

The Final Analysis…

Using a bread machine or bread maker is like using an automatic washer and dryer. If you insist on using them for ALL of your clothes because “that’s what it’s made for,” you’re going to have some disasters. Fading, shrinking, and complete unraveling comes to mind. Using machines successfully usually requires human discretion.

Likewise with a bread machine. If you insist on using it to mix-knead-and-bake every bread recipe because “that’s why you bought it,” you may have some unappetizing and surprising results. A dense loaf, a thick crust, or the occasional crater-top are just a few examples. Using human discretion, the DOUGH cycle, and your oven will solve a lot of problems people complain about.

Don’t forget: Learn how to use a bread machine (in cooperation with your brain and your oven) to make marvelous bread. Sign up for my free bread-machine email course.

Before you go…

I hope you won’t settle for bad bread just because it smelled good while it was baking. You might start with the most popular recipe on this website: Crusty French Bread. It’s perfect for beginners. Then let me know how it turned out. I can’t wait to hear.

Would you like more tips and tricks for using a bread maker?



If you have a question or problem you need help with, please write it in the comment section below so I can respond back. You can also email me privately: paula at saladinajar.com.

Thank you for visiting!
Paula

website owner with a bread maker and homemade ciabatta in her kitchen

Want more exclusive tips and secrets to help you in the kitchen? Sign up to get my free email delivered to your inbox. (Don’t worry. It won’t be too often.)

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Sharon

Monday 1st of February 2021

Hi Paula ~ Thanks so much for sharing your passion and expertise. Your guidance and encouragement have made bread making with my bread maker more successful and fun! Still having one challenge and wonder if you have any advice ~ when my bread maker first starts kneading or sometimes if adding flour, it flies up and out into the bread maker compartment and then can cause an unpleasant "burning" odor". Have tried unplugging and wiping up, but sometimes there is some residue and resulting odor. Wish I could prevent it from happening in the first place. Appreciate any suggestions you have. Thanks, again for making a chore into a joy. Blessings to you and yours ~ Sharon

Paula

Monday 1st of February 2021

Hi Sharon, Thank you for your kind words. Interesting question. You have a vigorous machine. How much flour is in the recipe you are using? Just curious.

You might try laying a piece of plastic wrap over the top of the pan during the mixing and kneading process, then remove it for the rising and baking.

Another option if you are open to it: Use the DOUGH cycle only, remove the bread from the pan, shape it, let it rise on the counter, and bake it in your oven. That way it won't matter that some flour flies into the heating elements because you won't be using them and your bread will be 100% better.

Leslie

Thursday 14th of January 2021

I like to make sourdough bread and I'm having difficulty finding good recipes to use in my bread machine. Any suggestions? I'm enjoying your post, it's very well done.

Paula

Thursday 14th of January 2021

Hi Leslie, Thank you for your kind words. I'm testing a sourdough recipe in my bread machine as we speak. Have you seen my sourdough dinner rolls recipe? I should have more recipes coming soon. I hope you subscribed to my newsletter so you get notifications when I publish new bread recipes.

Liz

Tuesday 12th of January 2021

Hi,I got a breadmaker for Christmas but it doesn't have a dough only button. The basic white setting runs for 3h 20min. Approx what time would I be looking at to remove the dough if I want to remove the paddle or maybe bake in oven? I've only made a couple of packet breads in it so far on one of the quick programmes but the paddle gouges a big hole in the bottom of the loaf. Am wanting to continue to use it so want to be able to improve the bread it makes.

Liz

Wednesday 13th of January 2021

@Paula, Thanks. It's a Russell Hobbs (UK) and was a gift. Guess I'm just going to have to do some experimenting and watch a couple of cycles! Thanks anyway.

Paula

Tuesday 12th of January 2021

Hi Liz,

I'm so sorry your machine doesn't have a DOUGH cycle. I thought they all did by now. Hopefully, your bread maker manual will tell you how long each stage is for the basic white setting. I would stop the machine before the last proofing or rising period. If they don't provide times, try making a loaf and hanging out close by. As you hear the machine make noises, open the lid and see what's going on in there. Record the times for future reference. (By the way, what kind of machine do you have?)

Hope this helps.

Marlene

Tuesday 10th of November 2020

I am in Canada and my Black and Decker manual has side by side recipes for US and Canada, suggesting that here we use either bread or all purpose flour. Would this be the same for your recipes?

Paula

Tuesday 10th of November 2020

Hi Marlene, I've never baked with Canadian flour. From what I can tell, you can use either bread or all-purpose flour because your all-purpose flour is so high in protein. So it sounds like you would be safe to use all-purpose flour in nearly all my recipes.

Deb

Sunday 18th of October 2020

Hi, I was wondering... if you bake your dough in an oven, would it not be just as easy to mix the dough in a food processor, let it set and then bake it? What is the advantage of using a bread maker just to make the dough? Thanks

Paula

Sunday 18th of October 2020

Good question, Deb. I'm a huge food processor fan and use mine almost every day. To answer your question: Using the food processor to knead dough means you have to know when to stop the kneading. As you may know, it happens FAST. It's not hard with an easy recipe for pizza dough. But other recipes can be a little trickier if you're not a seasoned and experienced bread maker. Since the bread maker is on a timer, it always kneads the dough perfectly as long as you have a good recipe, measure correctly, and know how to make adjustments along the way. I think it's easier for beginners. I also think it can be a little bit hard on your food processor, but that's a personal observation based only on the way kneading dough makes mine walk all over the counter.