Who doesn’t love the taste of fresh, warm baked bread, straight from the oven, slathered in butter or margarine? Even the smell of bread baking in the house is a delicious smell and many people prefer to bake their own instead of buying it from the store. But making bread in an oven is complicated, to say the least. Not everyone can do it. Luckily, the latter half of the 20th Century brought us bread makers. If you’re thinking about buying one (which are much more advanced now than they were in the 1980’s) here is a guide to help you decide which.
What is a Bread Maker?
A bread maker is a stand-alone appliance that allows you to simply dump the ingredients in, close the lid and take out a fresh baked loaf of bread some hours later. Generally, a typical model will have a bread pan at the bottom of the appliance where paddles are located for mixing, and the rest of the device is a small oven, built specifically for making bread. Most designs also have various settings that you can change depending upon the type of dough that you are putting into it. Whether you are making white, wheat, whole grain or French bread, or even if you just want to mix some dough to make pizza, it allows you to choose the setting. Most also have a timer which means you can set it and forget it. Until the bread comes out, warm and delicious, that is.
How do you choose a Bread Machine?
Bread machines have come a long way in the past few decades, and even advancements over the last few years have made buying bread machines much easier. Most of the brands on the market will do the job, but there are some things to keep in mind when you are choosing a bread machine.
How Much Are You Going to Use it?
The first thing that you’re going to have to consider is how much you plan to use the bread machine. Obviously, if you are going to use it every day, you want to go with a quality brand that will last a long time, and has a lot of features. But if you only plan on using the bread machine a few times a year, a cheaper machine will do the job.
Features & Benefits
On some high-priced brands, they advertise a ton of features and benefits so that they can sell their “superior” bread machine at a much higher price. Don’t allow the added features of a bread machine to influence your decision, because you’re buying the machine to make bread. That’s just one simple function and every bread maker out there will do that.
Anytime you buy an appliance that costs more than $50, from a toaster oven to a new range, you should always get at least a year warranty or more if you can get it. Make sure that this isn’t a limited warranty where you’ll still foot the bill if the appliance goes bad.
One thing to keep in mind as you shop for one is that some machines have extraordinarily long preheating times. Of course, every bread maker is going to require preheating of some kind, but your machine should take no more time to preheat than your oven does, and ideally, less since there is far less space to heat.
The Bread Pan
The bread pan will actually control quite a few things about the actual product that comes out. The first is the shape of the bread. Some bread makers create an odd, lumpy shape that is no good for sandwiches and basically, the only way to eat it is to tear it off in chunks. Pans also determine crust composition. The general rule of thumb is, the lighter the bread pan is, the lighter the crust will be. However, you should look at reviews to make sure.
Most bread makers are pretty much the same size, but some are a little bigger than others and if you live in a small apartment with a tiny counter, you are going to want to make sure that it’s is going to fit on the counter before you buy. Otherwise, you might be making bread on your coffee table, plugged into an extension cord.
What are the Best Brands to Buy?
As previously mentioned, just about any bread maker on the market today will make decent bread. There are a few brands/models that stand out above the others on the market, but when it comes right down to it, it is all about the features you want, the type of bread pan you want and your personal preference. The brand that we think really stands head and shoulders above the rest is Breadman, mostly because so many of their bread machines are high-quality. However, Osterhouse, Cuisinart and Hamilton Beach are also highly rated brands.
More Things to Consider When Buying a Bread Maker
There are a few more things that you should keep in mind when choosing a bread maker. Having all of the information available will allow you to make the best decision on a bread machine itself, rather than relying on the brand name.
The design of your bread maker is all about your comfort. Do you like the way the program buttons are arranged? Do you like the pan shape? These are all factors that go into the design decision.
Company Customer Service
You also want to look at the company that makes the bread machine, no matter what brand it is. Find out if they have a reputation for excellence or if they have some seriously bad reviews. Find out about their customer service and of course, always check the warranty.
You also want to allow for whatever type of bread you plan on making the most. If the dough it difficult to mix and knead, then you might want to go with a machine with greater horsepower, otherwise your bread dough may not get mixed correctly or worse, the machine will stop working entirely.
As mentioned previously, bread pans are one of your buying factors. Decide what type of bread you want (or if you can live with the shape your favorite machine produces) and the thickness of the pan. The type of aluminum that the bread pan is might also be a factor. Some aluminum is thick-cast which makes darker crusts and some are thin.
The penultimate factor that you’ll want to consider is what cycles the machines has. Some of the common cycles include Basic (White), Quick Bake, Whole Wheat or Gain, French Bread and Dough (like if you wanted to make pizza. Those are the basic cycles, but some machines have added cycles for bread that requires a little more customization. For example, there might be a cycle for adding raisins or nuts to bread, to add sugar to create sweet bread or to create sourdough, which very few models do.