Apr
23
2009

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a home breadmaking machine?

Fresh home-baked bread (photo by satanoid - CC-BY)

Fresh home-baked bread (photo by satanoid - CC-BY)

A home bread making machine sounds like a great idea—or will it turn into a “two week wonder”? A breadmaker gives you a way to have a freshly-baked loaf of bread ready at any time of your choosing, and fills the kitchen with an appetising “fresh-baked bread” smell.

You control the ingredients, so you can avoid additives. You’ll be eating the bread fresh, so you won’t need to add preservatives. And, according to the product blurb, you can also use the machine to prepare pasta dough, or to make marmalade and jam.

So what are the downsides?

You need to program the machine. If you select the wrong cycle for the ingredients you’ve put in, the bread will turn out either damp and gunky, or rock solid. You need to get the timing and setup right: if you mistake “AM” for “PM”, or don’t “click” the loaf tin into place just right, you’ll find a gooey mass when you go to collect your loaf.

You need to adjust the timing according to the season, because the process is temperature-sensitive. Otherwise you’ll end up with a loaf that’s too crumbly or too dense.

The machines can be fiddly to keep clean, especially if you try the “optional extra” features such as jam making—and in any case the machine only helps with part of the job.

The loaf tin is teflon-coated and needs to be treated very carefully. If you’re lucky, you’ll get 500 loaves out of it. As soon as the first piece of non-stick coating is damaged, you’ll find yourself tempted to bang the loaf tin to get the bread out, and it goes downhill from there. Don’t be tempted to use a knife or spatula to help the loaf out, of your loaf tin’s days will be numbered.

Replacement loaf tins can be bought, but they may not be much cheaper than buying a new bread machine. Oh, and don’t be tempted by promises that you can make special loaves such as sunflower-seed loaves. The seeds will cause scratching under the stirring paddle, and reduce the life of the loaf pan.

The paddle that mixes the dough leaves a hole in the bread which will make slicing the bread awkward, and sometimes you get an indentation in the other end too if the cooking isn’t just right.

Home breadmaking can result in a more nutritious loaf, but it’s unlikely to save you money. The high-protein “strong flour” is more expensive than cake-making flour, and you also need to account for the electricity costs, plus the price of the machine spread out over the number of loaves that it will bake.

We stuck with a breadmaker for about 1200 loaves. The first loaf tin lasted 500 loaves, as did the replacement loaf tin. The machine broke irrepairably at that point, and the replacement machine only lasted 200 loaves before it failed, by which time the manufacturer had gone out of business.

Giving up on home breadmaking was a great step forward. As a result, we discovered that our supermarket’s in-store bakery also made specialty loaves which are tastier, cheaper, and more reliable than any loaf we ever got from our breadmaker.

But your mileage may vary, and most people who post on the net seem to love their breadmakers.

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1 Comment »

  • mvguy says:

    In my home, we usually just buy premade bread mix that’s designed specifically for bread machines. Add one cup of water, set the timer for three hours, and it turns out perfect every time. My favorite type is cinnamon raisin bread, but all of them are yummy.

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