This article is part of “Everything You Need to Know to Start Baking Awesome Bread Using a Bread Maker.”
Everybody knows that I love to bake homemade bread from scratch. Using a bread machine couldn’t be easier, and it makes some fantastic bread! A bread machine combines convenience with flexibility. If you enjoy a fresh loaf of bread, but don’t have the time or space to bake from scratch, a bread machine is for you.
If you have never baked homemade bread before and find the instructions a wee bit intimidating, I encourage you to try it. It may seem intimidating at first, and the various steps do take a bit of time to learn, but overall, it is truly easy.
The simplest way to learn how to bake bread is to follow a basic recipe. Try Fast2eat Bread Recipes (much more to be published – keep checking); they are kind of foolproof 😉 really easy and the bread delicious.
Using a bread maker tips and hints
While bread machines offer freshly baked bread at the push of a button, there are special hints to ensuring quality bread almost every time.
Important measuring tips
Use exact measurements is THE most important secret of making bread. To measure the ingredients precisely and accurately is the key to successfully baking bread. Although bread making seems very basic, it is a science, and the proportions of ingredients are critical.
Read the following information to understand better the importance each ingredient plays in the bread-making process.
For liquids ingredients
Fill a standard measuring spoon or measuring cup to the level indicated.
With wet ingredients, use ONLY measuring cups with the cups/ml/ounces marked clearly on the side. I.e. Measure the liquid ingredients in see-through measuring cups with accurate markings.
After filling the measuring cup, place it on a flat surface and view it at “Eye Level,” not at an angle, to make sure the amount of liquid is exact. Then, double-check. All measurements must be accurate.
For solid fats ingredients
Fill a standard measuring spoon or measuring cup to the level indicated and level off with a kitchen utensil.
For dry ingredients
Use a standard measuring spoon or measuring cup – not a tableware spoon or coffee cup.
With dry ingredients, always “level off” the measurement with the back of a knife or a spatula to ensure the measurement is exact. All ingredients measured in measuring spoons and cups must be level, not rounded or heaping.
Another helpful tip is never to use the cup to scoop the ingredients (for example, flour). Fill the measuring cup with a spoon before levelling off. By scooping, you could add up to one tablespoon of extra ingredients. This will compress the ingredients into the cup and cause the dough to be dry, which will result in a short loaf of bread. Do not tap or shake the cup to put more flour into it.
Before you begin, make sure you have the following measuring equipment:
- Liquid measuring cup
- Dry measuring cups
- Measuring spoons
Measurement equivalency chart
The following chart will help you convert measurements used in the recipes.
For example: 1/2 tablespoon = 1–1/2 teaspoons
(3/4 cup + 2 tbsp)
(1/2 cup + 2 tbsp)
(1/4 cup + 2 tbsp)
Do not exceed your bread machine’s capacity
Make sure that you do not exceed your bread machine’s capacity for a particular setting. If your bread pan overflows or the heating element makes contact with dough or jam, it can spoil the machine. Many bread machine manuals are available online.
For a 2lb bread machine, do NOT exceed 4 1/2 cups dry ingredients.
The SECOND most important secret of making bread:
Add ingredients into the bread pan in the exact order given in the recipe.
Read all recipes from top to bottom, and remember:
- FIRST: liquid ingredients
- SECOND: dry ingredients
- LAST: yeast – Dig a shallow hole in the dry ingredients and place the yeast in the hole so that there’s absolutely no contact between the yeast and any liquids or salt. This is especially important when you’re using the Delay Bake option. You don’t want the yeast to be activated too soon in the process!
Note: This information is for the most Bread Makers; please carefully read your manufacturer’s directions and follow instructions for adding and layering ingredients.
Fruits and nuts are added later after the machine has completed the first knead.
Place dried fruits, vegetables, and dried spices away from the liquid ingredients in the bread pan. If they soak up water, they can undermine the bread’s chemistry.
Also, to assure optimal yeast activity, make sure ingredients are at room temperature (that is, between 27-32°C/80-90°F) unless otherwise noted. Temperatures too cool or too high can affect the way the bread rises and bakes.
Check the dough ball.
This is a secret well known to people who make bread the old-fashioned way. While hand kneading the mixture, they adjust the dough’s consistency by adding a little flour or a little water until the dough ball is just right. Although the bread maker kneads the dough for you, this secret is still true.
Making changes to the dough is easy but always remember:
- This can be done during the knead cycle only, usually after about 10 minutes (or 35 minutes for Whole Wheat Bread as it rests for about 25 minutes).
- Do NOT remove the pan, KEEP it locked in the machine.
- Do NOT turn off the bread maker to adjust dough.
Here’s what you should do:
Open the bread machine’s lid during the second kneading cycle and check the dough ball’s consistency.
The dough is “just right” when it is smooth in appearance, soft to the touch, leaves a slight residue on your finger, and the bottom of the bread pan is clean of dough residue.
If there is flour in the pan’s sides, use a Silicone Spatula to wipe the flour from the pan.
If the dough ball is wet
Touch the dough. If it feels a little sticky and there is a slight smear of dough under the kneading blade, no adjustment is necessary.
If the dough is very sticky or wet, clinging to the sides of the pan, and is more like a pancake batter than a dough, sprinkle in flour, add one tablespoon of flour at a time, until the dough ball appears smooth, round and dry, and circles nicely in the pan.
Allow the flour to be mixed completely into the dough before making any more adjustments. Sprinkle a little more flour if needed.
To prevent heat from escaping, open the cover of the bread maker only to add flour.
If the dough ball is too dry
If the doughball appears stiff, flaky or dry, the bread maker appears to be labouring, or you hear your bread maker begin to make “knocking” sounds, the dough ball is too dry.
To correct this problem, sprinkle in lukewarm water (that is, between 27-32°C/80-90°F), a teaspoon at a time, until the dough ball appears smooth, round and dry, and circles nicely in the pan.
Be careful not to add too much water. Allow water to be completely mixed into the dough before making any additional adjustments and keep the lid closed to keep heat in the appliance.
For baking at high altitudes
If you live above 900 metres/3000 feet, you probably already know how to adjust other recipes like cakes and muffins. Higher altitudes tend to:
- make flour drier
- make the dough rise faster
To compensate for high altitude baking, we recommend the following:
If the dough is too dry
Increase the amount of water to the recipe, sometimes as much as 2–4 tablespoon per cup.
If the bread rises too high
Reduced air pressure at high altitudes causes yeast gases to expand more rapidly and the dough to rise more quickly. The dough can rise so much that it will collapse when it begins to bake due to overstretching of the gluten structure.
To slow the rising of the dough:
- Reduce the amount of yeast. For each teaspoon of yeast, try reducing the yeast by 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon at a time until you find the right amount.
- Reduce the amount of sugar. For each tablespoon of sugar, reduce the amount by 1 to 2 teaspoon at a time until you find the right amount.
- You can also reduce the amount of liquid by a teaspoon or 2 at a time until you find the right amount.
Important: Some experimentation will be needed when using your bread maker at high altitudes.
Just wait fifteen minutes.
For best results, wait 15 minutes before slicing; the bread needs time to cool.
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 bread fresh longer.
Storing in the refrigerator causes bread to dry out faster.
The dough can be frozen after the first growth, mold the balls and freeze them apart. Once frozen, place them in Ziploc bags. When thawing, follow the preparation steps after the first growth.
To freeze fresh bread, let it cool completely before bagging (double-bag in plastic) and freezing.
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.
The dough lasts 6 months and baked 3 months.
Using the delay timer
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.
We recommend that before you use the Delay Timer, you try out a few recipes. Use recipes that have produced good results for you in the past.
Important: You cannot use the Delay Timer for Express Bake settings (bread in under 1 hour).
Before using the Delay Timer:
- Add all recipe ingredients to the bread pan.
- Select the correct setting for the kind of bread you are making (French, Sweet, etc.).
- Select the colour.
To set the delay timer:
- Figure out how many hours and minutes there are between now and when you want 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.
- 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. (To advance the time quickly, press and hold down the “Timer Up/Down” buttons.)
Important: 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 Timer is cancelled, and you can start again.
- When the Delay Timer is set where you want it, make sure to press the “Start/Stop” button. The colon ( : ) will flash to indicate that it is working, and your bread will be ready when you planned.
Note: 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.
Important: When using the Delay Timer during hot weather times, you may wish to reduce the liquid in your recipe by 1 or 2 tablespoons. 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.
Freshness first with delay bake function
Caution: NEVER use the time delay function when using perishable ingredients such as milk, eggs, fruit, yogurt, cheese, etc.
Use Fresh Ingredients
Always make sure the ingredients are fresh. The reasons are:
Flour – If you have stored your flour for a long time, it may have become wet from absorbing moisture, or dry, depending on the area of the country in which you live. We recommend using fresh bread flour.
Yeast – Fresh yeast is probably the most important ingredient in baking bread. If the yeast is not fresh, your bread may not rise. It is better to buy new yeast than to take a chance on yeast that has been stored for a long time.
If you are unsure of the freshness of your yeast, you can test the freshness of your yeast before using:
- Fill a cup with warm water, then add and stir in 2 teaspoons of sugar.
- Sprinkle a few teaspoons of yeast on the surface of the water and wait.
- After 15 minutes, the yeast should foam, and there should be a distinct odour. If neither reaction happens, the yeast is old and should be thrown away.
Important: Do not press “Stop” when making bread because this will cancel the entire cycle, and you will need to start from scratch.
* (“Long-term dietary intake of gluten was not associated with risk of coronary heart disease. However, the avoidance of gluten may result in reduced consumption of beneficial whole grains, which may affect cardiovascular risk. The promotion of gluten-free diets among people without celiac disease should not be encouraged.” Source: http://www.bmj.com/content/357/bmj.j1892)
- Everything You Need to Know to Start Baking Awesome Bread Using a Bread Maker
- Fast2eat Bread Recipes
Read bread-making further information in my book:
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