If you are interested in buying a Bread Maker there are a number of factors that you should consider before settling on any one particular product. To assist you with the buying process we have produced this simple buying guide of product features and things to consider.
What size of bread loaf will you make?
A good starting point is to consider how much bread you will want to make and how often. Bread machines can produce loaves of bread in sizes ranging from 1 to 2.5 pounds with the most common size sitting at around 2 pounds. Some bread makers will make only one size of loaf whilst others may produce bread in a number of different sizes.
The amount of bread that a person or a family will eat will also vary greatly. Homemade bread is more perishable as it does not contain all the artificial preservatives found in commercially produced bread and so it may make sense to bake smaller amounts but more regularly. Alternatively if you have a large family or are large consumers of bread you probably need a bread maker closer to the 2.5 pound mark.
Another way of estimating how much bread you might make is to think of it in terms of bread slices. A standard loaf has approximately twenty slices of bread. Although thickness of slice must be considered the following table will provide a very rough guide to weight and by slices.
* 1.0 lb Loaf = 8 slices
* 1.5 lb Loaf = 12 slices
* 2.0 lb Loaf = 16 slices
* 2.5 lb Loaf = 20 slices
Pre-Programme Options to look out for
The modern day machines come with a wide array of pre-set programmes to make baking bread and other bread products as easy as possible. Take a good note of what programmable features your bread maker has and ensure it meets your requirements before buying it.
All standard bread makers will make white and whole wheat breads however if you are a bit more adventurous then you can have lots of fun making a wide variety of artisan breads, doughs, cakes and jams. Also look out for gluten-free programs if this is something you require.
The digital programs that are pre-set are easy to follow and are controlled via a digital display interface. All bread makers come with a comprehensive manual and easy to follow instructions so it will be fairly easy to understand how to programs the baking process. To get you started bread makers will also provide you with a range of basic bread recipes.
The Delay Timer
A delay timer is a standard addition to most modern bread makers. This is a great function for the modern household as it allows you to set the baking start time whenever you want and also time the end result to whenever you want. If you plan ahead you can set up the baking so that the bread is ready when you get in from work or even for first thing in the morning when you wake up. Check the product guide for the length of timer delay. The majority of products will provide a 13 hour delay however some can go up to as much as 24 hours delay if this is what you require.
Delay timers will also allow you to keep the oven on past the completed baking time. This is a good little feature if you want to keep your bread warm for a period of time.
The Crust Color
Crust colors are another factor which can be pre-programmed with light, medium or dark crusts are all achievable.
We all lead busy lives and sometimes you will want to make bread at very short notice. Look out for bread makers that will provide a rapid bake programme which can turn around a loaf in 1 to 2 hours as opposed to a standard white bread baking time of around 3 to 4 hours.
A lot of appliances will have the ability to create specific types of dough which can then shaped by hand and finished and baked in a conventional oven. This is particularly useful for products like rolls, croissants, pizzas or buns for example.
It is a little known fact but bread makers are a great utensil for making jams, marmalades and chutneys. The paddle takes all the hard work out of the stirring process and the hot small oven is ideal for making your favourite recipe with the minimum of fuss and mess.
Adding other ingredients to your bread?
If you want to be a bit more adventurous and make bread with fruit, nuts, seeds or even chocolate chips then it is important to know if this can be done as a manual or automatic process. Some bread machines will allow you to store the additional ingredients in a small compartment for automatic dispensing at a pre-determined time. Others will require that you monitor the baking process and add them manually by opening the lid and dropping the ingredients directly into the baking pan. If you have to add ingredients manually ensure the machine will give out an audible beep to notify when this is required.
Bread Maker Dimensions
The bread machine products come in all shapes, sizes and weights. Think about where you bread maker will go in your kitchen and measure the space before you buy. Some bread makers can also be very heavy and bulky so if you are going for a larger model find a spot where it can sit in your kitchen and where you don’t need to move it around. If you are limited for space then go for one of the more portable mini bread makers that are available on the market today.
The majority of loaf pans are rectangular in shape which is probably the shape of loaf that you are expecting however you may also find square and also cylindrical ones. Some also come with special pans such as baguette baking pans. For ease of cleaning afterwards ensure the pan is non-stick.
Some machines require a period of time to preheat before you start. Some can be longer than others. This phase warms the ingredients and ensures the yeast activates properly. Softening the flour and allowing early absorption allows for improved gluten development and better tasting bread.
Breadmakers are like any other kitchen product. The vast majority of units will provide years of satisfactory service however from time to time faults do occur and products fail. Although unlikely you should think about factors like :
- Is it an established brand / product or is it new on the market?
- Read customer reviews to see what the customer service like.
- Are the parts easily available if it breaks or is out of warranty?
- What is the warranty period and is it worth it to extend the warranty period?
As you can see there are a lot of features and factors to consider when deciding what machine to purchase. Whether you just plan to bake a small 1 pound loaf each week or the start a regular production line of artisan bread products there is definitely a product out there for you.