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6+ Bread Maker Tips You Need To Make Marvelous Bread

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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.

bread machine crash course sign-up

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.

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

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Liza

Monday 5th of April 2021

Hello, I am trying to replicate my late mother-in-law's homemade bread. She did not have a bread machine. I do have one and I like using the machine to mix the ingredients but then I take the dough out of the machine and mold the dough, let rise, and bake in the oven. I'm trying to get a chewy not airy bread. I've not had success. I think she used potato water. I've tried with both pot. water and mashed potatoes. Neither worked. Is it that I'm using a machine? If you have any ideas, I would be most grateful! Your hints are great!

Paula

Monday 5th of April 2021

Hi Liza,

It sounds like you use your machine exactly as I do. I always bake the bread in my machine, too. I don't think it's the machine although you are probably getting a better knead than she did if she did it by hand. Potatoes will almost always make softer bread. Bread flour will make a chewier bread. Do you have her recipe? If not, I would try a recipe that is not highly enriched. You might try my recipe for French bread but make it in a loaf pan instead of shaping it into a batard and see what you think. I have a feeling you will like it although I could be wrong since I have no idea what your mother-in-law's bread was like.

Gail Petty

Sunday 4th of April 2021

Letting bread machine do full process but Crust is hard. What can I do to correct?

Paula

Monday 5th of April 2021

Hi Gail,

You could try changing the settings for the crust if your machine has that option. Also, be sure to remove the loaf as soon as it's baked. Otherwise, the best thing I can suggest is to use the DOUGH cycle, pull the dough out of the machine, shape it yourself, let it rise again, and bake it in your oven. It's the only way I've found to get a fabulous crust. The bread machine only heats up to 290-300˚F so it seems to produce crusts that resemble cardboard. It's OK if you are only wanting bread for toast, I guess.

Helene

Thursday 18th of March 2021

I have had bread machines for many years....have worn out 4 of them already...they only last about a year and are now hard to find as the fad has worn off. My problem is when to add the raisins. They are either pulverized specks or my last recipe for Easter paska, said knead the raisins in just before baking in the oven, which I did. The raisins wouldn't go in! But stayed around the sides and I thought while rising would eventually be inside the bread....but nope! Sat around the edges and burned...sigh. Help!

Paula

Thursday 18th of March 2021

Hi Helene,

I'm glad you wrote. Does your bread machine beep when it's time to add raisins, cheese, or nuts? If so, that's when you should add the raisins. If not, here are a couple of suggestions.

1. Figure out how long the kneading cycle lasts. For example, if your particular machine takes 20 minutes to knead the dough, set your timer for 15-17 minutes when the kneading starts. When your timer goes off, add your raisins. This will give the machine a few minutes to work the raisins into the dough.

2. If you use the DOUGH cycle as I do, remove the dough from your machine at the end of the cycle and place it onto your work surface. Shape into a loose ball and cover for 15-20 minutes so it can relax. Then knead the raisins into the dough by hand. One way to do that is to roll the dough out into a big square. Roll up the dough like you were going to make cinnamon rolls. Now form that dough into a ball or whatever shape you want and the raisins should be fairly well distributed. Whenever you can't handle your dough because it's too bouncy, cover it with a towel and let it relax for a while. When you come back, it should be more obedient.

I hope this helps. Let me know.

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.