Sneak Peek: Learn step by step how to convert a bread recipe to a bread machine. Expand your bread machine recipe collection quickly. If you are looking for the Soft Garlic Breadsticks recipe that used to be on this post, click here.
Do you have a favorite recipe for Grandma’s bread or an old newspaper clipping for bread you’ve always wanted to try? Wondering if you can use a bread machine?
Go find the recipe. Let’s talk about how you can convert it. Keep a tradition going or start a new one with the help of your bread machine.
The first thing you should do:
Before you start, figure out the maximum amount of flour your machine can manage.
Look through the owner’s manual. If you don’t see the answer, review the recipes in the manual for the average amount of flour specified.
If you have no manual and you can’t find it online, measure the pan with water. Fill the pan with 1 cup at a time until it is filled to the top. Keep track of how many cups of water you poured into the pan and compare it to the numbers below.
Determine the capacity of your bread machine by the number of cups of water the bucket holds. For instance: 1.5-lb. machines hold 10 cups of water; 2-lb. machines hold 12 cups or more of water, and 1-lb. machines only hold 8 cups of water.How To Find Out the Size of My Bread Machine Loaf
Approximate amounts of flour in various weights of bread:
|1-pound loaf||2 to 2-⅔ cups flour|
|1 ½-pound loaf||3 to 3-¾cups flour|
|2-pound loaf||4-5 cups flour|
Does it matter if my traditional recipe is bigger or smaller than the recipes in the owner’s manual?
- If your recipe contains more flour, it can be hard on the machine. You may hear the motor straining to knead it.
- Too much or too little dough may result in less than optimum kneading.
- If you are going to mix, knead, and bake the bread in your machine, a large batch may rise out of the pan and even spill over the sides. I don’t want to think about cleaning up the mess when the overflowing dough bakes inside the machine.
- When you bake a batch too small for your machine, the loaf will be short and squat. Imagine baking a Jiffy Cornbread Mix in a 13 x 9-inch pan. Like that.
How to convert a traditional bread recipe for a bread machine:
Step 1. Total all the flour.
Always look at the amount of flour first. Be sure you have added together all flour and flour-like ingredients (such as oatmeal and Vital Wheat Gluten).
If the original recipe calls for more than the capacity of your bread maker, you will have to scale the recipe down.
For example, when I find a recipe specifying 8 cups of flour, I know that my first step is to cut the whole recipe in half so it will fit into my bread machine.
If the amount of flour called for in the original recipe is acceptable for your machine, proceed to Step 3.
PLEASE NOTE: If you plan to bake your bread in the machine, I would replace all-purpose flour with bread flour. The extra protein in bread flour will help your bread rise higher but may require a little more water. Remember that in Step 3.
Step 2. Refigure the other measurements accordingly.
In other words, if you divided the flour by two, you will need to divide all the other ingredients by two.
- Dividing some measurements can be awkward. For example, you may need to halve a third of a cup of sugar. Make it easy on yourself and ask Alexa or look it up on your phone. I found the exact amount of half of 1/3 cup of sugar on Google.
- The crucial ingredients to get right are the flour, liquid, and salt. Practice measuring flour correctly. It’s important if you hope to avoid dense bread.
- Seasonings can be adjusted to your preferences. You can guess at a 1/3 teaspoon of a spice you love by using a heaping 1/4 teaspoon. Spices are rarely deal-breakers.
- If you have an odd number of eggs, use a liquid egg substitute. Another approach is to beat a slightly larger number of eggs and measure out a scant 1/4 cup of an egg for each egg specified. Or use a whole egg (instead of half) and reduce the overall liquid in the recipe by 2 tablespoons.
- If you change the dry and wet ingredients into their weight based on grams (ask Google how much various ingredients weigh in grams), it makes dividing and measuring easier.
Step 3. Total all the liquids.
Milk, buttermilk, yogurt whey, fruit juices, and vinegar should all be treated like water in this step.
If eggs are included in the recipe, one large egg is equal to a scant 1/4 cup liquid. Include that in your liquid count.
If other wet ingredients are called for such as Greek yogurt, mashed potatoes, sour cream, vegetable puree, applesauce, bananas, etc. regard them as half liquid. Adjust your overall liquid accordingly. If the recipe contains honey or maple syrup, it will contribute some moisture, but the amount is variable.
Oil and butter are not included in the liquid. (See discussion below.)
You will need roughly 3/8 cup of liquid per cup of flour.
Put another way, a standard loaf requires slightly over one cup of liquid for 3 cups of flour. This is not a hard and fast rule, but a place to start. All liquid is not equal.
In the sample recipe shown below, my new flour measurement is 2-½ cups + 2 tablespoons (315 grams). This means I will need a little less than 1 cup of liquid in my Herbal White Bread. According to the recipe, I would need more than that if I mixed this recipe by hand.
Step 5. Are the different types of yeast interchangeable?
When using a bread machine, I recommend you use instant, quick, or bread machine yeast. They are interchangeable. It doesn’t need to be dissolved and works with bread maker recipes.
Even if the original recipe calls for active-dry yeast, I would substitute instant yeast using 1/4 teaspoon less than specified.
While you CAN use regular active-dry yeast in a bread machine, it is slower to rise than instant yeast. Although modern-day active-dry yeast is formulated to make dissolving unnecessary, it’s still OK to dissolve if you like.
Yeast is not always easy to figure when you are scaling a recipe. Compare it with a similar bread machine recipe you’ve had success with already. I usually go a little higher than a strict calculation would indicate.
For example, in the recipe below, I divided the yeast in half. I should use 1 teaspoon of yeast (2-¼ teaspoons active-dry yeast replaced by 2 teaspoons of instant yeast then divided in half).
I know from experience that baking in the machine will require more yeast to raise the dough before the baking cycle kicks in. So I guessed and went up to 1-¾ teaspoon. It worked.
Step 6. Salt: You gotta have it.
I bring up salt since so many people want to cut it out completely due to dietary restrictions.
Salt acts as a control pedal for yeast. Without salt, your yeast will rise too high, too fast, and give out when you need it most.
As a general rule, use 1/2 teaspoon of salt for every cup of flour. You might be able to decrease that a bit after experimenting, but don’t leave it out.
If you can’t have any salt in your diet, look for recipes that have been designed specifically for no salt.
Does the type of salt you use matter?
Use whatever the recipe specifies. If it says “salt” I would assume that the recipe developer used table salt or sea salt. (Check the cookbook intro if you really want to know.) If you only have Kosher salt on hand, increase the amount by 1/4 teaspoon.
Step 7. Sugars
Yeasty bodies love to munch on a spoonful of sugar while producing microscopic bubbles that make your bread dough rise.
When the original recipe calls for a teaspoon or less of sugar and a small amount of water to use in pre-activating the active-dry yeast, I leave them both out because I use instant yeast instead.
Be aware that sweet doughs with a high ratio of sugar will make your yeast sluggish like most humans after Thanksgiving dinner. Allow time for a longer rise (a good reason to use the DOUGH cycle).
Step 8. Fats
Many older bread recipes call for shortening (Crisco). Butter is a good substitute for shortening. You can also substitute oil, but it may change the texture slightly (not in a bad way, just different). Again, experiment to see what works best for your tastes and a specific recipe.
Avoid coating the yeast with fat before it is mixed with flour. Pour the fat into the liquid under the flour when dumping ingredients into the pan. Alternately, add the butter about 1 minute after you start mixing up the dough. I open the lid and squish it through my fingers into the dough mixture.
Butter or fat should be soft (not melted) and cut into small pieces.
Step 9. Add-Ins
Based on the emails I get from excited new bread machine owners, many people hope to make their bread healthier by adding seeds, dried fruits, whole grain flours, etc. Proceed with caution in the beginning. Too many add-ins will weigh the bread down and cause denseness. Start with no more than 1/2 cup for a 1-lb recipe until you know how much your recipe will tolerate.
How to assemble the ingredients for a recipe converted to a bread machine:
1. The order matters.
Most machines work best when the wet ingredients are added first–then salt, fat, flour(s), and yeast last. Some brands of bread machines will tell you to put the dry ingredients in first and then the wet ingredients. Do whatever works best with your machine.
2. Room temperature matters.
Ensure that all ingredients are at room temperature before starting. Why? Because the yeast party doesn’t start until everything is nice and warm (but not too warm).
This is especially important if you are using the bread machine to mix, knead, and bake your bread. Cold ingredients cause a “delay of game” and are another reason for dense bread.
3. Hold back some of the liquid.
Predicting how much liquid you need is the hardest part of converting a traditional recipe to a bread machine recipe. The first time I make a recipe, I usually reserve about a fourth of the liquid to add to the dough after the kneading cycle begins, if needed.
4. How do I know if I need to add more flour or water?
The goal for perfect bread dough during the kneading cycle:
After kneading for several minutes, the dough should make a tacky and irregularly-shaped ball that sticks to the side briefly, then pulls away cleanly.
Getting your dough to this point is CRUCIAL to avoid a myriad of problems with the final product.
- Is the dough crumbly? Add liquid.
- Is the dough bouncing off the walls like a rubber ball? Add liquid. You may have to use a spatula to separate the ball so it will accept more liquid.
- Does the dough look like pancake batter? Add flour.
- Does the dough stick to the side and pull away but not cleanly? Add a small amount of flour.
If your dough doesn’t fit the description in the box above, add liquid or flour one tablespoon at a time. Give it a chance to mix in. Re-evaluate.
This step is actually the most important thing you can do when using a bread machine to ensure success.
5. When to add raisins, nuts, cheese, etc.
Wait for the beep close to the end of the kneading cycle before adding things like nuts or raisins. These ingredients will be pulverized and disappear into the dough if added with everything else at the beginning.
If your machine has no beep, or you miss it, all is not lost. Work the ingredients in by hand before you shape the dough if using the DOUGH cycle. Otherwise, remove the dough after one of the rising cycles, work the ingredients in by hand, and place the dough back into the bread machine pan.
Is there any bread I can’t make in a bread machine?
If you are open to the option of using the DOUGH cycle, you will be able to make almost any traditional bread recipe in a bread machine. Shaped bread (i.e. dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, sandwich bread in loaf pans, and French bread) can be fabulous when mixed and kneaded with a bread machine.
Bread doughs with a super high percentage of hydration generally develop gluten using time and not so much force (kneading), often under refrigeration. Recipes such as these Overnight Bran Rolls, along with many artisan and no-knead bread recipes are too wet to benefit from a bread maker. A stand mixer or mixing by hand is more efficient for mixing this type of dough.
I’m a “set it and forget it” kind of bread maker. Will this work for me, too?
Whenever you bake in a bread machine, it’s harder to produce a nice-looking loaf. The appearance and crust can’t compare to shaping bread by hand and baking bread machine dough in the oven.
With that disclaimer, you can certainly try making your favorite loaves from start to finish in your bread maker. If your bread rises too high and hits the lid, reduce the entire recipe starting with the flour and yeast. If it is too small and dense, troubleshoot with my FREE guide to avoiding dense bread offered below.
A bread machine has no brain–only a timer.
The more your dough is set up to behave according to what the timer expects (not always easy), the more likely you will have bread success.
What recipe have you been wanting to try in your bread machine? I can’t wait to hear about it. Pictures to my email are even better.