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6 Bread-Machine Secrets You Need To Know

Whether you are just now unpacking a new machine or digging one out of the attic, don’t miss these tips from a bonafide bread machine lover. I can’t wait to share secrets and recipes to help you make many delicious bread memories–the kind your family will talk about and enjoy for years.

6 Bread Machine Secrets for Beginners - Sweet Milk White Bread

Sweet Milk White Bread mixed and kneaded in a bread machine, but baked in a conventional oven.


If Santa brought you a bread machine, you might be wondering where to start.

frustrated toddler

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

Once you unpack and wash all the parts, here are a few recommendations you may or may not find in the manual.

6 Bread-Machine Secrets Especially for Beginning Bread-Bakers

#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. Try focaccia with it, too.
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. Don’t substitute regular yeast for instant or bread machine yeast. Each type must be handled differently. As you get experience, you will learn how to use either type of yeast in any given recipe.

#3 

Don’t be afraid to open the lid.

Take a peek 5-10 minutes into the mixing process. I cannot stress this enough to avoid inedible surprises!!!

  • If nothing is happening, the blade may not be present or engaged. Many times I have had to plunge my freshly washed index finger through the unmixed ingredients to push it 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 touches 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 perfect dough in a bread machine

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

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

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

#4 

Stick with the dough cycle only.

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 better be worth it. Bread baked in a bread machine rarely makes the cut.

bread machine with dough cycle highlighted

My favorite button on a bread machine.

#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 good pans. 

Here are my suggestions. The last three items listed are excellent if you are a serious bread-baker.

  1. Two heavy-duty pizza pans 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. 4×8-inch loaf pan for recipes containing approximately 3 cups of flour
  4. Instant-read thermometer or this smaller one (paid links)–helps to gauge when the bread is fully baked
  5. Dough scraper
  6. 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.)

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.

Another option…

Consider moving your machine to a warmer spot in the house. Even though bread machines contain a heating element, the room temperature can make a huge difference in how fast the dough rises.

Third option…

Transfer the dough out of the bread machine pan into another bowl. Cover it. Set it inside a slightly warm oven or on top of a water heater or any place you know to be warm.

If you have a question or things aren’t working out like you hoped, leave me a comment and I will get back to you ASAP.


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Happy bread-baking from your friendly bread-machine fanatic, Paula

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Sue White

Wednesday 1st of July 2020

Hi, could you tell me please, my panasonic bread maker is old and the bread sticks to the pan. So I decided to make just the dough in the breadmaker ,and shape it and cook it in the over which works fine. But , the dough only recipe takes less water which I’ve done and the bread is far nicer and last for days a lot fresher. What if I had used the amount of water for dough only recipe but did the complete cooking as well in the breadmaker. Would less water make it softer and last longer.

Paula

Wednesday 1st of July 2020

Ah yes! This is exactly why I recommend using a bread machine only for mixing the dough, not baking it. Because a bread maker has no brain, it can’t determine exactly when the bread is ready to be baked, nor does it know exactly how long. The makers of the bread machine can only guess. I have written about this extensively.

How To Use a Bread Machine To Make Fabulous Bread

5 Surprising Reasons I Don’t Bake Bread in My Bread Machine (But I Use It All the Time)

Good luck Sue. Write back if you still have questions.

Margaret

Sunday 7th of June 2020

I have done something very stupid. I made the sponge for the crusty round bread. After 5 min. scraped the sides down - and instead of letting it rise. I added the other ingredients!! Well, didn't know what to do at that point but rather than throw it out. I put it in a bowl covered with plastic wrap.(I mixed the ingredients together) and it has been rising it is now about 3 1/2 hours and I realize I have no idea what to do now!

Do I punch it down, kneed it a bit and give it a second rise? If so how long? Do I let it go longer? I'm clueless at this point. Thanks so much!

Paula

Monday 8th of June 2020

Hi Margaret,

I'm just now seeing this so I suppose it's too late to help you now. I'm dying to know what you ended up doing. Just for fun, I'll answer your question anyway.

After mixing it all together, I would have let the bread machine knead it (important step) and either left it in the machine to rise, or remove it to another bowl to rise. After rising to almost double, shape the dough and let it rise one more time before baking. I'm guessing it would still taste pretty good, it just wouldn't have the delicious flavor you get from letting the yeast develop in a sponge for a few hours.

Karen Birkholz

Friday 29th of May 2020

I have a Cuisinart bread maker, i have made several loaves and everyone has a yeasty smell and taste. I have tried cutting down on yeast many times. I just tried a loaf that called for one and a half teaspoons of yeast and I added 1/2 and still yeasty smell. I have washed my machine with lemon and baking soda and nothing works.????

Paula

Friday 29th of May 2020

Hi Karen,

I'm so sorry about your bread. In general, bread can smell yeasty if the temperature while it proofing is too high or if there is too much yeast. Are you baking your bread in the machine? If so, you might try using the DOUGH cycle and then removing the dough. Shape it and let it rise on the counter. Then use your own oven to bake it. I do this all the time so I can have perfect bread.

Seems like you are on the right track to reduce the yeast, but I guess that didn't help either. Have you tried a different brand of yeast? Are you using whole wheat flour? Is it super fresh? I will continue to think about this and research it. If I find a better answer, I let you know. paula

rick

Friday 22nd of May 2020

am going to try baking bread-read your comments; if am using machine for kneading etc and then bak in oven, what bread machines do you suggest I review and which do you prefer thanks

Paula

Friday 22nd of May 2020

Hi Rick,

When you don't bake in your machine, you don't have to be as picky. A machine that kneads the bread well is really all that matters. However, it's hard to predict that in advance. I love my Zojirushi but they are pricy. If you stick with a well-known brand, you should be fine.

Carolyn M

Monday 4th of May 2020

Just read all the comments, and saw that you've already mentioned it's best to cook the bread in the pan it's done it's final rise in. Which means if I cook it in the oven, I can't let it rise in the machine, unless my pan fits there. (no idea yet) You mention letting it do the final rise in the microwave or oven. I understand that, but how long do I leave it for then? The final rise in the machine is 70 mins-if I do that in the microwave, it will cool down after 20mins max, so is it still going to work? Or the oven, at what temp would I put it on to use it for that final rise? And do I turn it off? Sorry, very much a newbie here! I've had success with the machine, but really want the proper shaped loaf that we will get in the pan! (and thanks William Legro below for your excellent questions!!)

Paula

Tuesday 5th of May 2020

Hi Carolyn, I'm going to try to answer both of your comments in one go. Just to confirm...yes, the final rise needs to happen in the vessel where the bread will be baked. I do not care for the way a bread machine actually bakes bread. So I take it out at the end of the dough cycle OR when the dough has risen to not quite double. These two are not always the same. After you shape the dough, place it in a slightly warm place.

One option is a microwave oven. Boil a cup of water for 5 minutes or so and then, put the bread in the oven next to the water. Don't turn on the oven again. I can't tell you how long it will take for that second rise. It all depends on the ingredients and the temperature inside the microwave. Just open the door and check after 30 minutes. Check again when you think the dough might be ready.

If you want to use a conventional oven for the second rise, turn it on BEFORE you put the bread in there for 1 minute. Then turn your oven off. Place your shaped dough in the oven (covered) and let it rise in peace. Check on it occasionally to see how it's doing. If the oven loses a little bit of heat, that's OK. Some conventional ovens have a bread proofing setting. If you have one of those, set it on 85˚F and leave it on while the bread is in the final rise.

Your story about the bread machine mix that got too high is a perfect illustration of why I do not bake bread in my machine. Your dough evidently over-proofed. Your bread machine is not smart enough to recognize when the dough is perfectly proofed. It operates on a timer. When you take control of the rising times, your final product will be much more predictable.

Give your dough plenty of time to rise. The longer it takes to rise, the better the flavor. So if your kitchen is cool, don't worry. Leave it on the counter (covered) and give the bread more time. You will be rewarded in the end.

In answer to your first comment, I know of no way to remove the dough from the pan after the second rise and move it directly to the oven without losing all the air and spoiling the shape.

Write back if you still have a question.