Tips and tricks for making the best bread

How to use a bread maker: Tips and tricks for making the best bread

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This article gives advice on using a bread machine. It aims to answer some common questions you might have. To operate a bread machine, you just need to press a button. They are easy to use and can provide freshly baked bread.

How to avoid mistakes people make when making bread in a breadmaker

Success in baking depends on many factors, like proper handling of equipment, precise measurements, and having the right tools for the recipe. If you start by following these golden rules for success, you are guaranteed the best use of your bread machine and the best results with minimal fuss.

The more you know about the machine and ingredients, the better your bread will be, and the more you’ll enjoy the task.

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Read your bread machine manual

People often forget to read instructions. Before using your machine, learn how each feature works and follow the recommended order for ingredients from the manufacturer. Are you supposed to put liquids in first or on top? Take a bit of time to find out.

Here are a few recommendations you may or may not find in the manual.

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Start Simple

Making bread is like doing a science experiment because you need to use the right amount of ingredients to get the correct texture. It’s best to start with making white bread because it’s easier to do this successfully than to try a more complicated recipe with lots of whole grains. If you can make white bread, you will be better at making harder recipes. To help you learn, you can try some easy and reliable Fast2eat bread recipes.

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Get organized before you begin

Before you start, collect and measure all your ingredients in the order your bread machine’s manufacturer recommends. It’s also helpful to keep your dry ingredients in one spot so you can easily see what you need to restock.

Need room temperature butter? You better pull that stick out of the fridge plenty early.

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Bread-making supplies for the perfect loaf every time

As a home baker, you’ll need some bread-making supplies. The things you need will depend on how you make your bread. If you use a bread machine, you’ll need some additional supplies in addition to the machine, kneading blades, and loaf pan. These include measuring spoons, a liquid measuring cup, a dry measuring cup, a Silicone spatula to wipe the flour from the pan, and a timer. Most bread machines have a built-in beep, so you won’t need a separate timer unless you aren’t near your machine.

Optionally when using the "dough" setting

There are many different kitchen tools and equipment you can use to bake bread. You can use various pans, such as loaf pans, muffin, brioche pans, pizza stone, baking steel and even flower pots, to create different shapes and sizes of loaves and rolls. These can be lined with parchment paper or silicone pastry mat to make them look unique. You may also find specialized tools like scrapers, baker’s lame, baker’s blades, razor Cutter, and knives cutters helpful to shape and score (slash) your dough. During baking, you can use a pastry brush to add egg washes or other enhancers to the crust. Glass bowls may help your bread rise. There are many more bread-making supplies available, but this list should be helpful for beginners.

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Do not exceed your bread machine’s capacity

It’s important to pay attention to the capacity of your bread machine, as just because it says it can make a one-pound loaf doesn’t mean you can add a whole pound of flour. This can damage the machine or cause the bread to dry out or burn. To avoid this, choose the right recipe and know the capacity of your bread machine, as well as which size loaf is best for your bread pan. You can find many bread machine manuals online to help you.

Here are the maximum flour capacities for common bread machine sizes:

  • 4 1/2 cups for a 2lb machine,
  • 3 1/2 cups for a 1.5lb machine, and
  • 2 1/2 cups for a 1lb machine.

When trying a new recipe, compare the amounts of ingredients to the recipes you usually use in your bread machine.

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Be cautious about substitutions

At first, follow the recipe closely to increase your chance of success. Swapping whole wheat flour for white or even all-purpose flour for bread flour may not work as a one-to-one substitution. Different types of flour absorb different amounts of moisture and have varying levels of gluten.

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Choose the right yeast

Always use Bread machine yeast or Active dry yeast when making bread. Different types of yeast should not be substituted for each other as they have unique properties. Regular yeast should not be used in place of instant or bread machine yeast. As you gain more experience, you will become more familiar with how to use each type of yeast in different recipes.

With “Quick/rapid” and “Express” settings, always use “Instant (quick/rapid-rise) yeast.” You can’t use “Active dry yeast” as it takes too long to work correctly.

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Follow the ingredients order

To make bread, the order of adding ingredients is important. Some bread machines require you to add wet ingredients first, while others require dry first. To figure out the right order, check your bread machine’s user manual before you start baking.

When liquids go in first

Note: This information is for most bread machines. Please carefully read your manufacturer’s directions and follow instructions for adding and layering ingredients.

First, we add the liquid ingredients; second dry ingredients and last, yeast. I recommend placing ingredients in the pan in the following order:

  1. FIRST: Liquid ingredients (milk, water, juice, buttermilk)
  2. Eggs and fats (oils, melted or softened butter, margarine, shortening, cottage cheese)
  3. Liquid sweeteners (honey, molasses)
  4. Whole wheat flour
  5. Bread flour or all-purpose flour
  6. Other flours and grains
  7. Dry milk powder
  8. Dried or fresh orange or lemon zest (peel)
  9. Seasonings (dried herbs, dried flavourings, seeds, and nuts)
  10. Salt and sugars
  11. LAST: Yeast

Remember, yeast will activate when in contact with any wet ingredient, not just water or milk. Eggs, fruit, cheese, vegetables, and butter, can all activate the yeast. It is better to distance it further apart as possible. By doing so, you will be preventing an immature reaction.

Make a shallow hole in the dry ingredients and put the yeast in it without touching any liquids or salt, which can stop it working. If you’re using the Delay option, it’s important to keep the yeast from being activated too soon. Sugar, salt and flour react in different ways. Put the sugar in one corner and the salt in the other on top of the flour. Keep dried fruits, vegetables, and spices separate from the liquid parts in the bread pan. Adding them to the liquid can spoil the bread’s chemistry. Alternatively, add fruits and nuts after the Knead 1 stage is finished and the machine beeps.

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Measure ingredients correctly

When cooking, make sure you measure your ingredients correctly. Even a small difference in how much you add can change the outcome of your dish. Baking is like a science experiment, so you need the right amounts of each ingredient to make sure they work together correctly. Check here for helpful measuring tips.

That could make all the difference between a perfect loaf versus a doorstop.

You can measure ingredients by volume, ounces, grams and more. It’s not difficult, and proper measuring will pay tremendous dividends — with consistently excellent results, no matter what you are baking. However, you can use the measuring tips and tricks to ensure your bread maker creates the perfect loaf.

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Be careful of the ingredients temperature

Yeast likes warmth. Unless told otherwise, keep liquids between 27-32°C/80-90°F to ensure optimal yeast activity.

  • If liquids are too cold, such as at 21°C/70°F or below, won’t activate the yeast, and your dough won’t rise.
  • If too hot, such as 50°C/120°F or more, the yeast will die.

It would be best if you also are careful with the other ingredients: Don’t use frozen flour. Also, use lukewarm milk instead of cold milkrinse eggs under warm water and cut butter or margarine to mix well. Use the right amount of yeast at room temperature for optimal results.

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Use fresh ingredients

Make sure your ingredients are fresh, especially the yeast if you’re baking bread. If the yeast isn’t fresh, your dough won’t rise, so it’s better to buy new yeast than use old yeast that might not be good. Check the activity of the yeast if you’re not sure. Check the spices and herbs too – if they don’t smell good, they might not be good. Use fresh flour, especially if you’re using whole grain flour, which doesn’t last as long. Store flour in a cool, dark spot. If you’ve stored your flour for a long time, it might not be good. It’s best to use fresh bread flour.

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For baking at high altitudes

If you live in a place above 900m/3000ft, you may have already learnt how to change recipes for cakes or muffins. This is because higher altitudes can make flour drier and dough rise faster. But don’t worry, we have some tips for high-altitude baking.

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How to use the delay timer (also called "Delay-bake" or "timed-bake")

You can delay the time your bread maker starts to have fresh bread ready when you get up in the morning or when you come from work.

Before you use the Delay Timer, we recommend you use recipes that have produced excellent results.

Note: You cannot use the Delay Timer for Express Bake settings (bread in under 1 hour).

The delay hours and minutes will be added to the preprogrammed times for the specific program.
The time indicated in the display is the time until the end of the cycle.

Freshness first with delay timer function

Caution: For food safety reasons, NEVER use the time delay function for more than 1 hour when using perishable ingredients such as milk, eggs, fruit, yogurt, sour cream, cheese, bacon, fresh vegetables, etc.

Many bread machine recipes call for dry milk and powdered eggs, which are safe for the “Delay timer.”

Using a delay timer during the Summer

Reduce the liquid in your recipe by 1 or 2 tablespoons when using the Delay Timer during hot weather. This is to prevent the dough from rising too much. You may also reduce the salt by 1/8 or 1/4 teaspoon and try cutting the amount of sugar you use by 1/4 teaspoon at a time.

To set the delay timer:

  1. Add all recipe ingredients to the bread pan.
  2. Select the correct setting for your bread (French, Sweet, etc.).
  3. Select the colour.
  4. Figure out how many hours and minutes there are between when you press the “start” button and when you want the final baked bread. For example, if it is 8:00 A.M. and you want bread ready for dinner at 6:00 P.M., that is 10 hours.
  5. Use the “Timer Up” button to advance the time in 10-minute increments. In our example, you will do this until the timer reads “10:00.” If necessary, use the “Timer Down” button to decrease the time. Press and hold down the “Timer Up/Down” buttons to advance the time quickly.
  6. When the “Delay timer” is set where you want it, press the “Start/Stop” button. The colon ( : ) will flash to indicate that it is working, the countdown will begin, and your bread will be ready when you planned.
  7. The “timer” will count down in one-minute increments. When the display reaches 0:00, your bread is complete, and the beep will sound.
  8. If you make a mistake or wish to start over, press and hold down the “Start/Stop” button until you hear a beep. The display will show the original setting and cycle time. The “Delay time” is cancelled, and you can start again.

Important notes:

  1. To get optimum results using the “Delay timer,” the yeast mustn’t come in contact with the salt, nor with any liquid, while the ingredients are standing in the bread pan. Salt would inhibit the yeast’s rising power. The liquids would activate the yeast before the mixing began.
  2. The “Delay timer” is calculated as the working time plus the delayed time. The time indicated in the display is the time until the end of the “setting.” Actual baking times will not change. The delay hours and minutes will be added to the preprogrammed times for the specific program. Example for basic bread 2.0 lbs: “Delay time” set to 10:00 hours = a “Delay time” of 6 hrs. & 35 min. Plus the working time of 3 hrs. 25 min.).
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Open the lid and check the dough as it kneads

It is the most important thing you should do when using a bread machine. If you open the lid to check and poke at the dough, nothing wrong will happen. It won’t “interfere” with the bread machine as it works.

Take a peek 10-20 minutes into the mixing process. Follow the method described in Check the dough ball.

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Taking the paddles out of the bucket

If you take the paddles out of the bread machine before baking, be aware that some machines have three rises. This could mess up your bread and waste your ingredients. However, if you know your machine, you can take out the paddles before the final rise. You may need to do some timing calculations based on the instructions in your manual, but once you figure it out, you’re all set. When the final rise is about to start, reach into the machine and take out the paddles. The machine will knock down the dough, which means the final rise is about to begin.

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The “Start/Stop” button

NEVER press “Stop” when making bread because this will cancel the entire “setting,” and you must start from scratch.

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Alert when the bread is ready

Some bread machines make an audible sound when the bread is ready. It is helpful if you know you’re going to be busy around the house while the bread is baking and want to be alerted when it’s done. I usually set a kitchen timer to remember to remove the bread as soon as it finishes if I don’t hear it.

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Let the bread cool down

Tips and tricks for making the best bread

For best results, wait at least 15 minutes before slicing; the bread needs time to cool.

The bread smells incredible coming out of the oven, and the most challenging part of baking bread is not cutting into the loaf immediately. Every bread baker goes through the temptation of tearing into a freshly baked loaf of bread.

Letting your bread cool optimizes its flavour and texture, and there are theories to explain why this is true:

  1. Steam escapes – Cutting into hot bread allows moisture to escape faster than letting the bread release slowly. When the bread sits to cool, the steam will release at a natural pace. If the steam escapes too fast, your bread will become dry more quickly.
  2. Loss of flavour – Bread develops flavour as it cools down. Suppose the bread has a high percentage of rye flour. In that case, cooling down is even more critical for moisture distribution and flavour development.
  3. Starch molecules gelatinize – As the bread cools down, starch retrogradation occurs. Starch retrogradation is what gives your loaf a dry, hard texture. Water will continue to move outward, drying up your loaf and firming the crumb. This starch process is why you can reheat a loaf of bread in the oven and make it soften when you heat its temperature to 65°C/150°F. Cutting a loaf before this process completes puts your bread at risk of becoming gummy, doughy, or sticky in texture. It will give squished slices instead of the airy and firm ones most prefer. It will cause the molecules to remain dense and water-logged.
  4. Allow the bread to cool gently – Faster cooling immediately after withdrawal from the bread maker or oven can also cause it to fall. Allow the bread to cool gently at room temperature so the starches can firm up.

If you cannot control yourself

If warm bread from the oven still tempts you after these theories, and you can’t wait for that first slice, you should rip the bread rather than cut it with a knife. When you rip the bread, you avoid squashing the starch molecules.

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Storing – Keeping your bread fresh

There are no preservatives in your homemade bread, so store the cooled loaf in a lightly sealed plastic bag for up to 3 days. If desired, enclose a stalk of celery in the bag to keep the bread fresh longer. Storing in the refrigerator causes bread to dry out faster.

Freezing

To freeze fresh bread, let it cool completely before bagging (double-bag in plastic) and freezing.

Thawing and preparing frozen bread

Take the bread out of the freezer and let it thaw in the fridge until it is no longer frozen (at least 6 hours or overnight for a loaf and 2 to 3 hours for individual slices). Heat your oven to 190°C/380°F and ‘refresh’ the bread for 3 to 5 minutes.
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Try, try again

Bread is alive, so consistently learning to make great bread takes practice and patience.

It takes time to make perfect bread. But, it’s not difficult to make good bread, even if it’s not perfect. Any fresh bread is delicious! Over time, you will learn how the dough should look and feel and be able to make any necessary adjustments.

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This article is part of “How to bake awesome bread

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I hope my easy tips will give you the confidence to step into the kitchen and prepare delicious meals to eat with a handful of close friends.

Have you made a Fast2eat Recipe? I love seeing your take on my recipe!

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