Why You Need to Buy A Bread Machine for Your Kitchen
When it comes to the quality of your bread, the best is the one you knead yourself, and right after that is the bread you make using a bread machine.
My son, Patrick, took a nose dive from the couch into the coffee table, like most toddlers do when they are just learning to walk, so I had to take him to the hospital. He took it like a trooper though, laughing and playing 10 minutes after the fall had happened. They had to give him a couple of stitches though, so that there won’t be a mark as he is growing up, and he will be fine; thanks for asking, by the way!
The point, however, was that this was a terribly stressful time for me and Linda, as you may imagine, but, at the same time, the fact remains that life goes on whether we like it or not. So, someone had to do the cooking and so, although I prefer to use a food processor to knead the dough for bread separately, I just did not have the time to go through all the motions separately. I could have simply bought a bread from the bakery, I am not that posh as to refuse to buy bread from them, but, for me, there is a better alternative: I decided to use my bread machine.
When it comes to the quality of the bread you could have, I think the best bread is the one you knead yourself, by hand or with a food processor, so that you control how long you let it rise, and then you know exactly when the cooking process starts. After that you have the bread that you can make using a bread machine. Right after that is the bread from your local bakery, and finally you have the bread you would buy from a store. As is the case with cured meats of any kind, I do not trust and do not think you should trust any label. In fact most bread manufacturers will admit that they use different preservatives to keep the bread fresh and on the shelves for longer. They do not have a choice since there are many more buyers who only care if the bread feels soft to the touch, than there are concerned parents who really want to steer away from chemicals of any kind.
But I digress…
We have many bread recipes on our website, and almost all of them are from people who are actually living in that area of the world where those breads were originally designed.
And we even have a list of the best food processor that you can use to knead your bread, but for those times when you simply do not have the time for it, you should really make use of a bread machine.
What to Look for in a Bread Machine
Currently I have what I would describe as average size counter top space, and I know that there are a lot of people who would describe my kitchen as huge. In fact, the first time I saw it, I was so excited to see just how big it was. And yet, after just a couple of months, I discovered that my kitchen was cluttered with all kinds of machines that, although useful at times, were simply taking too much space. A bread machine, in my opinion, is one of those things that are pretty useful, but only a couple of times a month, so you need to make sure that you have some place to store it.
The thing about bread machines is that they are a food processor and an oven all rolled into one, so they to take up a lot of space. So make no mistake, while it is very important to make sure that your bread machine has the capacity to make a large enough loaf for the entire family, it is equally important for you to be comfortable with it while you are not using it. And, by the way, while this has never happened to me, you should be aware of the fact that the machine is not as tall as you picture it while baking, but actually it is as tall as the way it will look while you are putting your ingredients in, which is to say, with the lid open.
The Loaf Size
I have already said something about this, but it is well worth mentioning again: you need to know just how big of a bread your family needs. The smallest bread machines will make a 1 pound loaf of bread, and that is enough for one most medium sized families for one meal. But that means you will need to make a second loaf for a second meal, and so on. There is also the fact that the smaller bread machines, although even some of the larger ones have this problem, create bucket shaped loaves. Those are ok if you are just going to eat the bread around the family dinner table, but they are not so great if you are planning to make sandwiches with them. However, most manufacturers choose to go with the bucket shape because it has a smaller foot print on the counter top, and they are not so fussy when it comes to mixing the ingredients together.
Removable Kneading Blades
The last big issue you should consider is whether you mind finding kneading blades in your bread or not; or if you want to go searching through the soft dough for your blades or not. Personally I hate making a sandwich and realizing that I have come to the part of the bread where the kneading blade got stock in the dough though the cooking process. That creates a very uneven and frail slice that you simply cannot use for a proper sandwich. There were also the times when I forgot about the blades all together and I went in with the knife a little too aggressively, so I ended up scratching up the kneading blade and dulling the edge of the knife. However, the reason why most people would want to buy a bread machine is precisely because all they need to do is turn it on and forget about it until they hear the beep telling them the bread is ready.
Whatever the case may be, now that we have gone over some of the thing you should pay attention when choosing your bread machine, we can go ahead and check out some of the best bread machines currently on the market. I must confess that I did not personally test all of these, but I have used several and I will mention the ones that I have used myself.
The Top Bread Machine If Money Is not an Issue
If money is not an issue for your family, and you are looking for the best bread maker on the market, I would go for the Zojirushi BB-PAC20 Home Bakery Virtuoso Bread Maker. It is capable of baking a 2 pound loaf of bread in a minimum of 2 hours.
The interesting part is that they heat calibration is so well done that even the 2 hour program will encourage the yeast to develop quite fast and the bread will be nice, soft and aerated. Of course, if you want the best results you will have to go for the longer 3 and a half hours program. The good thing is that you can pre-program the machine for as long as 17 hours ahead of time, which will allow you have a loaf of bread ready for breakfast or dinner, even though you may want to bake a whole wheat bread, which requires even more than 3 and a half hours of cooking. There are 2 programs that I loved. The first one was to make jams, and since this is strawberry season, I made a test batch that was absolutely delicious. The other program is called the Home Made, and it allows you to set in your own times for kneading, rising, and baking.
The biggest reason why you may be willing to spend so much money on a Zojirushi bread maker, though, is the lid and seal around it. It is so well designed that it keeps the heat in and focuses it on the top of the bread so that even the top crust will be nice and brown just like it would be if you baked the bread in an oven. The other impressive thing to consider is the fact that the lid is heavy enough that even if you put a little bit too many ingredients or too much yeast, the dough will not raise the lid and slid over the sides of the cooking pot into the cooking chamber itself. That may not seem like that big of a deal, but I was actually forced to through away my first bread maker because I used yogurt instead of water in an attempt to be original, and the dough rose over the sides of the baking pot, spilled into the machine and I had to through away the machine instead of trying the almost impossible task of cleaning it.
The Top Bread Machine If You Are Working on a Budget
While the Zojirushi is not only one of the best bread machines on the market, but also a very nice piece of eye candy for your kitchen top, there are other alternatives on the market today that are not quite as expensive. The best example for that type of bread maker is the Conair Cuisinart CBK-200. On paper it actually looks better than the Zojirushi. It has a huge 680 W power rating, which means it will be able to handle any type of dough, even the dryer ones that use whole wheat flour with ease, and it will be able to blast the dough with a lot of heat for really fast cooking. It also has 16 pre-programmed settings as opposed to the 10 that the Zojirushi comes with. Still, the impressive thing about the Zojirushi is that it manages to do the same things as the Cuisinart but using far less power. What is even worse is the fact that the Cuisinart does not have the Home Made program that would allow you to set your own preferences.
However, this is not about why you should spend some extra dough on the Zojirushi, but about why the Cuisinart is a very interesting alternative.
For one, I personally love the Conair Cuisinart CBK-200 2-Lb Convection Bread Maker because it has 3 loaf size categories from small to medium. I for one love cumin in my bread, and I can have it with gem as was as with bacon, but my wife hates it with anything sweet. So often enough I will bake a small cumin bread for myself and a larger bread for the entire family. There is also the fact that this specific model, the CBK-200, uses a convection oven technology, to distribute the heat perfectly around the loaf. That means you will get a perfectly golden brown – or brown, depending on your preference – crust every time.
Moreover, the reason why I would choose the Cuisinart almost every time over the Zojirushi, and even over almost any other bread maker on the market today, is because it seems to have programs for any type of bread, including gluten free.
And, if you will remember, I actually had to through away a bread machine in the beginning of my experimenting with this technology, because I got the ingredients wrong and the whole thing got too messy to be recovered. So the fact that the Zojirushi comes with its own recipe book and those program settings is a big plus. Not to mention the fact that I start any recipe with the medium sized loaf so that even if there is to be some significant rising in the dough, it will still not spill over. Besides that, there are a few more interesting options like the fact that you can set up the machine with a maximum of 12 hours of delay, so you can wake up to the smell of freshly baked bread. There is also the fact that you can set the machine on a 15 minute break, at any time during the cooking process, and the bread will turn out just as good. In fact, it has a power failure backup system that will keep the bread going for 30 minutes after the power has cut out.
As far as the design of the machine is concerned, I would go with the Cuisinart design as well as with the Zojirushi, but that is because I keep my machine in a cupboard and only take it out when it is needed. If I were to keep it on a kitchen top all of the time, I would probably still go with the Cuisinart because I am not that fancy in the design of my kitchen and I am always looking for that better deal. However, if you do have the money and you are interested in how good your kitchen looks, you should go with the Zojirushi.
Of course, the fact remains that there is a wonderful gap between the Zojirushi BB-PAC20 Home Bakery Virtuoso Bread Maker and the Conair Cuisinart CBK-200 2-Lb Convection Bread Maker that can be filled by anyone of the other 10 options I have given you. There are smaller, cheaper models, as well as fancier ones. There is a Zojirushi one pounder that I would recommend for any bachelor or weight conscious newlyweds that also want a good looking kitchenette. Finally, the Panasonic you can find in the list has a yeast dispenser tech that looks very interesting to me because there are virtually dozens of ways in which the yeast can be encouraged to develop, and they all affect the flavor and the consistency of the bread.
So if you do decide to go with any of these 2 options – or, indeed any of the options I have given you – make sure to drop us a line, either in the comment section, on Twitter or Facebook, and let us know what you thought about our choices.