Man vs Machine
Cooking can be fun.
I especially enjoy the process that precedes the actual cooking: going into a crowded supermarket, browsing long aisles packed with condiments, flavor packets, rice bags, sauce packets, and organic produce. I like coming home to an empty kitchen, tying on an apron around my waist and propping up a recipe book on a clean counter and getting to work.
Of all the type of cooking that can be done baking is my favorite, but, you will have to admit, it is a messy activity; you cannot escape the mess unless you’re a TV chef who is bound by contract to never spill anything because the audience has to see you as a superman. But as a normal human being, who really enjoys baking in a loose t-shirt and boxer shorts, I am bound to crack an egg too aggressively and make a mess, wipe my sweaty face with flour stained hands, or leave a buttery trail on my counter. But in-spite of the inevitable chaos that comes with baking, I bake because of the experience of it. It is a passion that I advanced myself in time, and developed my own baking bread tips to make amazing bread every day. I love kneading dough and shaping a massive ball, I love pulling apart the dough and shaping it into small rolls or bagel bites, and I love the sumptuous smell of fresh, homemade bread. Besides, we have no excuse anymore simply due to the fact that all the tools necessary to make artisan style bread at home are available to us. Whether you are using a bread machine, or making bread from scratch with a banneton, and a Dutch oven; you can perfect and enjoy a healthy homemade bread regularly in the convenience of your home.
Let’s keep it real for a second…
While taking some time out of your day to play with ingredients and try out new bread recipes is fun, baking can be a tedious and time consuming process. I’ve often found myself having to start a recipe all over again because the dough was too wet, or because I added 3 tablespoons of salt instead of 2. In addition to misreading a recipe and starting afresh, there’s also the uninspiring cleanup that follows a particularly frustrating day in the kitchen. There have been times when the thought of whisking eggs, or carefully monitoring the oven temperature, seemed too daunting, and in those moments, I was grateful for my bread machine.
The story of the bread maker started in Japan in 1986, and gained notoriety in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States almost a decade after its inception.
Bread makers owe their popularity to how simple their features are and how convenient it is for, both novice and experienced, bakers to reduce their prep time in the kitchen. They come with a number of easy-to-use settings that allow bakers to make a variety of breads and dough. With a bread maker, you don’t have to worry about whisking another egg or kneading another ball of dough because the machine takes away the entire hands-on process.
Here are some of the best models in the market today. Some of them are my all-time favorites with the best features.
Cuisinart CBK-200 2 -Lb Convection Bread Maker
- 16 preprogrammed menu options, 3 crust colors, and 3 loaf sizes offer over...
- Low Carb and Gluten-Free preset menu options and recipes. A Cuisinart...
- Special menu option takes basic dough through several long, slow cool rises...
- Unique convection feature circulates air for superior crust color, and...
- Audible tone indicates time to add fruit, nuts and other "mix-ins." Second...
Some of the very first things that I ever check when evaluating a bread maker is its loaf capacity, number of programs, and the fruit dispenser options. That is why the Cuisinart CBK-200 is always on top of my best bread machine lists. Besides, I am not the only one since it gets 5-star reviews from thousands of other verified users continuously.
You can make more than 100 different bread recipes with this handy kitchen appliance. In addition to the regular dough selection, you also get to prepare gluten-free and low-carb options. I feel like I am making artisan bread whenever I use this bread machine. This is because the special menu included that allows you to put the dough through several slow and long rises to obtain chewier texture and rustic crust. In general, all bread makers are pretty straight forward. You only put the ingredients and receive a standard bread. However, Cuisinart CBK-200 has so many features for you to intervene in the process to shape the bread more artistically.
The unique convection system helps tremendously to improve the crust color. Air circulation inside this marvelous bread machine has superior engineering design to enhance the crust color and texture. This results in a much more sophisticated loaf. In the end, quality bread making requires proper fermentation, heat flow, and kneading. The best part is that you get all these options with different settings when you make bread with Cuisinart CBK—200.
The bread machine warns with an audible tone to let you know that it is time to add nuts or fruits. Alternatively, there is also another tone available to indicate that you can take off the paddle. You can even take off the dough and shape by hand before the loaf is cooked. Additional options include 12-hour delay start, timer, bake only option, 15-minute pause, and power failure backup.
It comes with a sturdy structure that is made from brushed stainless-steel and includes stay-cool handles. I must admit that this is a special bread machine that I love to make homemade bread regularly.
- 19 x 16 x 13 inches
- Weighs 16 pounds
- 12-hour delay start timer
- 16 programs
- 3 crust colors
- Max loaf size is 2 pounds
- 680 watts
Hamilton Beach 2 lb Digital Bread Maker – 12 settings
- FRESH HOMEMADE BREAD IN JUST 3 STEPS: Just add your ingredients to the...
- 12 CYCLES: Bread maker settings include: basic, French, gluten-free, quick...
- GREAT FOR DOUGH PREP: Prepare a variety of yeast doughs such as dinner...
- CONTROL THE NUTRITIONAL CONTENT OF YOUR BREAD: Prepare healthy homemade...
- EASY TO CLEAN: Non stick, dishwasher-safe pan & 2 kneading paddles interior...
Here is another best seller. No one can argue that Hamilton Beach makes perfect kitchen appliances, and it is no different when it comes to versatile bread machines. Although, this one comes with fewer options than the previous one on this list, I still believe that it is a valid alternative. Size wise, it can also pack up 2 pounds of loaves similarly.
The preprograms allow you to be enjoy quality bakes without much effort. You can make various kinds of bread ranging from French to no-yeast quick breads. It is true that accomplishing a true baguette with a bread machine is not possible, but you still get to enjoy delicious hearty bread at home with this bread machine.
I love the large size digital screen that allows you to control the cooking options. All you have to do is to put the ingredients, select the program, and hit the start button. You can take advantage of the delay timer if you want the machine to prepare the dough 12 hours later. Choose from 3 different settings for the crust color; light, medium, or dark crust. I also like this one for the fact that you can add nuts or dried fruits through the dispenser just like the Cuisinart CBK 200 above.
The pan is dishwasher safe, cleaning this piece of equipment is no hassle. Take the pan off the machine once you are done, and put them together with the paddle into the washing machine. Plus, the bread machine comes with two paddles. You can use one while the other paddle is in the dishwasher.
Don’t forget that you can also prepare delicious pizza dough with this Hamilton Beach bread maker. Other settings include jam, cake, whole grain, and more. The body has cool touch characteristic, so, you can handle it safely without burning your hands.
- 4 x 14.1 x 12.2 inches
- Weighs 11.86 pounds
- Comes with recipes
- 12 programs
- 3 crust colors
- Max loaf size is 2 pounds
Breville BBM800XL Custom Loaf Maker
- Automatic fruit and nut dispenser releases ingredients at the right moment...
- Unique collapsible kneading paddle thoroughly mixes ingredients then...
- Smart lcd screen with progress indicator displaying 13 automatic settings,...
- Loaf sizes include 1.0-pound, 1-1/2-pound, 2.0 ln and 2-1/2-pound (Family...
- 46 step by step recipes (basic, whole wheat, gluten free, crusty loaf,...
As I mentioned earlier, that I like it a lot when a bread machine has fruit and nuts dispenser. I care about this since I like to bake my breads with seeds and dried nuts to enrich their taste and nutrition. This smart bread maker from Breville has an automatic fruit dispenser that adds the nuts and seeds automatically just at the right time. You do not have to watch out the clock to do that anymore. Capacity of the fruit dispenser is 3/4 cup.
The paddle system in this appliance is also unique in the way that it is collapsible. Almost everyone always complains about the paddle mark in the breads that are baked in bread machines. Most of the time, you have to take out the paddle from the baked bread manually. Well, not with this one! The paddle collapses automatically after the ingredients are mixed and the dough is formed. Finally, someone fixed this simple but annoying bread maker paddle issue.
You can make any loaf size from 1 to 2 pounds. There is large LCD display on top for your convenience. You can control and make adjustments all electronically.
- 8 x 15.7 x 13.9 inches
- Weighs 16.85 pounds
- Automatic fruit dispenser
- Collapsible kneading blade
- 9 programs
- 3 crust colors
- Max loaf size is 2 pounds
Benefits of Bread Machines
A bread machine is a necessary addition to your already growing list of kitchen appliances. It’s simplicity is its primary, attractive feature: you only need to place in all your ingredients into the bread pan, choose the type of bread you want (French, Whole Wheat, Gluten-Free, or Multi-grain), choose your preferred loaf size, push the start button, and viola, the machine handles everything else and all you have to do is kick back with a glass of wine and a good book. Some bread makers come equipped with 11 different settings and a viewing window that lets you watch the bread rise while you wait. Some provide you with enough versatility to make jams, cakes and different types of pizza. There are the more sophisticated bread makers which come equipped with crust settings; you can choose between very light, light, medium, dark and very dark crust on your bread. They also have the added advantage of letting you create different loaf sizes, which cuts out the stress of fixing misshapen dough balls, or ending up with a loaf that is too big or small. Bread makers, with their delay timers, might also appeal to busy and hard-working bakers who don’t have the time to sort through ingredients and kitchen tools. The Panasonic SD Bread maker, for example, comes with a 13-hour delay timer and is convenient if you want to come to a ready made bread in the oven.
While bread makers come with an insurmountable of positive features and benefits, they also have their fair share of unfavorable reviews and ratings. It’s almost impossible to imagine a kitchen appliance being anything short of convenient, but bread makers do come with a number of cons. On one hand, they boast about cutting down the amount of time you spend in the kitchen measuring and mixing ingredients, but on the other hand, some aren’t flexible with their programs and may still require you to pay attention to set timers and final beeps.
Plus, you can also check out these crusty bread tips and show off your artisan baker skills while you still use a bread maker.
Bread makers can also be cumbersome in size and weight. Some brands have come out with smaller and thinner versions, but the average bread machine can weigh between 8-9 KG and can take up a lot of space on your kitchen counter.
Some also lack versatility with their features and programs – for example, The Lakeland Compact bread maker, although smaller in size, only comes with two settings and can only make a 1 pound loaf.
Bread machines can over knead dough; a problem you will rarely face if you use your own hands. It’s nearly impossible to create a perfect loaf of bread because of the built-in paddle inside the machine. The primary function of the paddle is to mix and the knead the dough and often times, the paddle gets stuck at one end of the bread and when it is removed, it leaves an obnoxious hole in the middle of the loaf. A hole in the middle of your bread loaf can’t really work if you want to make sandwiches for you or your guests.
Bread makers are not versatile enough to allow you make multiple loaves of bread at a time. You are limited to one loaf per timer, which can be a frustrating disadvantage if you want more than one loaf within a specific time period. On the other hand, most home bakers make only one or two loaves each time, since they are not running a professional artisan bakery at home.
Another disadvantage you may face with the bread machines is that some of them tend to adhere strictly to their preset programs. You can’t get away with just dumping your ingredients into the bread pan and leaving it to work on its own, with some of them, you have to program the machine correctly so you don’t end up with bread that is too hard or too tacky. However, most new models are fairly easy to program. One thing I like so much is the option to be able to program it before you go to sleep to have fresh bread waiting for you in the morning. You also have to double check that you’ve set the delay timer to the correct time because mixing up ‘AM’ with ‘PM’ on your time could leave you with an over baked loaf or no loaf at all. Here is a great bread maker with a delay timer.
Although bread machines are convenient to use, the clean-up process that takes place after the bread making is completed, is far from convenient. If you use a knife or a spatula to remove any left over bread pieces, you will end up causing more damage than good to the loaf tin. They are not dishwasher friendly, so extra care must be taken while you clean it with a sponge or a soft dish cloth. Be extremely gentle while you clean, paying close attention to the Teflon coated loaf tin which should not get damaged during the clean-up. Cleaning a bread machine can be especially laborious if you’ve used it to make jam, chocolate or cake. They can also be temperature sensitive so you have to ensure the temperature program is set to its appropriate season to avoid overheating on the exterior of the machine. Please note that this process depends on the brand and model of the bread machine you are using, and it can be super easy or cumbersome.
They are not the most cost-effective kitchen appliances. A sophisticated bread machine that comes with a series of programming options, temperature settings and fruit dispensers can cost you two hundred dollars ($200). A compact bread maker, which is supposed to be smaller and cheaper, can cost between fifty to seventy dollars ($50-$70), depending on the brand. When you add up the cost of a good bread machine, and the fact that you can only make a loaf at a time, you might come to the conclusion that hand making your bread is the cheaper option. They can also hike up your electricity bill because they use up a large amount of electricity, especially the more sophisticated machines. However, I truly believe that a bread machine can save you money in the long run. You need to be wise and fully take advantage of what it brings to the table both from economic and health view. Consider reading more on how can a bread machine save money for you in depth to decide for yourself.
If you intend to use your bread machine regularly, you might want to consider its imminent short lifespan. You can make about 1200 loaves of bread before your bread maker packs up, and this may seem like a high number if you don’t intend on baking bread everyday, but the loaf tin inside the bread maker has a much shorter life span. In order to extend it, you should definitely learn how to take care of your bread machine. The loaf tin is sensitive so using it to make specialty loaves, with seeds and grains, can lead to it getting scratched up and diminishing its life span in the process. Keep in mind that replacing a loaf tin will cost as much as purchasing a new one.
When it comes to choosing an appliance for your kitchen, it’s always important to weigh your options and consider some advantages and disadvantages before making a big purchase.
On one hand, the bread machines are convenient, easy to use, and hassle free for the most part. On the other hand, they are expensive, susceptible to damage, and have a short life span. However, there are no free rides in this life, and you have to know that you must compensate and face the hardships if you really want to enjoy easy bread making at home. In spite of their disadvantages, bread machines can be beneficial for beginners who want to try their hand at bread making or for expert bakers who don’t mind kicking their feet up and letting a machine do the work. They are definitely a useful addition to your kitchen counter top. If you want to go with the traditional approach and make your bread from scratch, then here is a complete bread making guide to help you with every step of bread production at home.