The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

bread machine

proth5's picture

To quote my university hymn “Time like an ever rolling stream” (well, and it originally went on to say “bears all her sons away” which made the whole thing problematic once those of us with the double X were finally allowed to roam the Dear Old Place’s hallowed halls – but that is another story…) and it has been quite a while since I posted part one of this saga. (The rocks and bumps over which the stream has rolled is yet another story – suffice it to say, a long one.)

Whole wheat bread in a bread machine seems to be a popular topic and I have been working on a formula, so it seems like a good time do to a full write-up.

Consulting the leaflet that came with the bread machine, it seemed that every whole wheat variation came with the ingredient of “vital wheat gluten.” Of course, upon reading that I could hear The Voice in My Head scornfully saying, “Well, Pat, if you want to use vital wheat gluten…”

To which I could only hang my head and reply, “No, I don’t, Sensei. I’ll aspire to better.”

(Oh, no – now I’ve gone and done it.  I’ve said negative things about the ingredient vital wheat gluten. Well, let me assure my small reading public that “The Voice in My Head” comes from actual conversations with a very real, and, as I like to put it “well qualified” baker. I will not intone “You do what you want” as I have no power to compel or prevent anyone from doing anything.  But as for me, I will deal with qualities of the grain as I find it and use technique to overcome any hardships.)

Of course, the tools were at hand.  A good intensive mix would make a fluffy whole wheat loaf, but no setting on the machine would mix long enough to deliver this – and I have been coming to the point where I love the “set it and forget it” aspect of the bread machine (at least for the sandwich bread to feed “the house” – I’m still hand crafting a lot of other stuff to satisfy my public…)

The other obvious tool in my arsenal was – you guessed it – a pre ferment. But not just any pre ferment, a firm levain.

“Why?” you ask.  Well, a firm pre ferment will tend to add strength (due to the acids that develop in a pre ferment and the lesser amount of protease action because the pre ferment is relatively dry) and a sourdough based pre ferment will add more acids because of the nature of the leavening.

As we wind on in this saga of me inexplicably becoming intrigued with this appliance, I make an observation: discussions on these pages pushed me to try the same formula with a firm commercially yeasted pre ferment.  Although the bread was certainly edible, it did not have the same texture nor did it rise as high as the sourdough version. If I were baking by hand, I would have to wonder if I had unconsciously done something differently – but with the machine, the cycle marches on.  So even though I “kinda” knew that sourdough would result in a stronger dough, I’m a lot more convinced of it now.

Other than that, the only thing I needed to do was up the hydration a bit and jigger the sweeteners and butter.  No long, drawn out story.

I did, however, avail myself of the “Sourdough starter” cycle on my machine (a Zojirushi Virtuoso) to mix the pre ferment.  This could just as easily have been done by hand in a bowl, but for those who don’t want that inconvenience; it turns out to be a good option.  I didn’t want the fast rise that would be engendered by the “rise” cycle – nor did I want to stay up way past my bedtime to wait for the thing.  So, I cancelled the cycle after the mix and then (had it fit into my proofer – or if my night time kitchen temperatures were warm enough) I could just cover the pan and let it proof overnight.

So, without further ado, here we go with a formula and some pictures.

Since this is a bread machine post, I will present the formula two ways, in the Bread Baker’s Guild of America format and in “recipe list” format.  For those of you just beginning to practice your baker’s math this is a good opportunity to see how the “list” format easily translates into what can be a perplexing little grid.

Bread Machine 100% Whole wheat

Firm Levain Pre Ferment (40% of the total flour pre fermented)

Whole Wheat Flour                                         228 g

Water                                                                   173 g

Seed (taken from storage starter)             5g

Mix the above ingredient (by hand or using a bread machine mix only cycle). Cover and allow to rise overnight until mature (doubled) – 8-12 hours at 76F.

The next day (or when the Pre Ferment is mature) Load the pan of the bread machine in this order:

Water (40F)                                        277 g

Agave Nectar                                     40 g

Molasses                                             24 g

Firm Levain                                         all of it, broken up into roughly 2 T chunks distributed over the bottom of the pan

Dry Milk                                               9 g

Salt                                                         11 g

Butter (room temperature)        46 g

Whole Wheat flour                         342 g

Instant Yeast

 (in small well on top of flour)     3 g

Use “Whole Wheat” cycle on the bread machine and bake per instructions.

Is it a work of food art? Well, no.  But as I looked at it I thought “This is a nice, solid, bread.  Nothing wrong with it.” Not too shabby. No vital wheat gluten. Tastes good, too…

cranbo's picture

So in response to a recent post, I decided to try Beth Hensperger's Sennebec Hill bread for myself, to see if the original recipe was problematic as I initially suspected. This is an enriched multigrain bread with 3 different flours, as well as rolled oats and yellow cornmeal. 

Some adaptation was necessary, because as I have no bread machine. Fortunately guidance is easy to come by: in Hensperger's book, she notes that her recipe originates from Bernard Clayton, and his version can be found in New Complete Book of Breads, Soups & Stews. Clayton's version appears to use slightly more whole wheat flour and slightly less water than Hensperger's. He also uses very hot water (120-130F), which I suspects help rehydrate the ingredients more quickly, and promote some level of gelatinization. 

So in the bowl of my trusty KA mixer, I combined all the dry ingredients, including dry milk powder, salt and yeast. 

After whisking these together, I added the egg yolks, oil, molasses and water. In deference to the previous recipe, I only added 1 cup of water, and reserved the remaining 1/4c., as it was reported that the dough was very sticky and unmanageable. I mixed to combine on the KA's lowest speed for 1 minute with the dough hook. 

Here's the result after 1 minute of slow mix; still rough, all not quite incorporated. 

I don't know how long a bread kneading cycle typically is, I'm sure it varies from machine to machine, so I'm eyeballing this. Clayton specifies 8min of knead time by hand or mixer. 

So after this rough mix, I cranked up the mixer for 2 min at KA speed #4.

As you can see from the photo below, it was still very shaggy, loose and goopy after those 2 min of mixing, as you can see from the picture below. 

Seeing how shaggy it was, I let the barely-mixed dough rest for 5 minutes, to help the flour, oats, and cornmeal absorb some moisture. 

I then unleashed the KA again, for 5 more minutes at speed #4. About 1 minute before mix was completed, I scraped the bowl down again, as the mixer was starting to bog (!) from the horizontal structural "blanket" that had formed. Mixer wasn't even hot, but it's the first time I've heard the mixer bog mixing any dough, including some of the high % ryes that I do. 

Here's how it looked right after 7 min of mixing was completed:

Looks slightly sticky, but really it was just "post-it note tacky". Shaped easily into a smooth dough ball with no additional flour on the board. 

I let it rise for 1 hour in my microwave alongside 4c. of boiling water (which creates a nice humid fermentation, at temps between 80-85F). It had almost exactly doubled during that time. 


Again, a very soft and supple dough, not sticky at all, and very little elasticity. Notice the finger prints that remain.

Weighed this dough ball after rising, weight was 842g.

Flattened it into a rectangle, rolled it up, and into a bread pan dusted with a bit of flour to help release. 

Then I set the oven to preheat to 375F.

Back into the microwave with the hot water for final proof; here's what it looked like at 30 minutes elapsed:

Not quite 1" above top of pan, so I let it rise another 10 minutes, at which point it was fully risen (total rise time 40 min). Passed poke test, so it was ready to go. 

Gave it a light slash, sprayed the top down generously with water. I always tend to slash the tops of my loaves, in this case, perhaps I don't need to. 

Set it to bake on middle rack at 375F for 2 min, then turned it down to 350F for 18min; rotated in the oven after 20min elapsed, here's what it looked like as I rotated it:

Total bake time of 40min. When removed, internal temp of bread was 206F, and this is what it looked like:

Baked weight was 782g, which is closer to a 1.75lb loaf. 

And the crumb?

I found the crumb a bit too tight and dry for my tastes. It does have some shreddability, but not enough moistness. Could be because of slightly reduced hydration, or long bake, or both. 

Flavor? Nothing specific jumps out. You get a little bit of crunch from the corn meal (either you like that or you don't, I'm impartial to it), and a faint muskiness from the combination of rye and molasses. A decent sandwich loaf with whole grains, not mind-blowing. Overall found it to be slightly dull & flat-tasting, compared to other breads I've baked; this may be a combination of short warm rise, high yeast, and intensive knead conspiring to reduce flavor. 

For next time?  I revise my initial assumption and say that it will probably work with the original amount of water (1.25c), but I suspect that it will be pretty sticky and shaggy, and require more careful handling, or similar knead and regular bowl scraping to get it to come together. Or perhaps a slightly shorter bake. Maybe a touch more salt, or some more sweetening (I think honey in lieu of molasses would be nice). Ars Pistorica's prior suggestion of an overnight rest in the fridge, maybe with a bit less yeast, would help boost the flavor. 

So here's my adaptation:

Cranbo's Hilly Sennebec Bread

(I'll come back and provide weight measurements later)

1 1/2 cups KA all purpose white flour
3/4 cup KA whole wheat flour
1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill dark rye flour
3 tablespoons rolled oats
3 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 1/2 tablespoons KA vital wheat gluten
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons molasses
2 large egg yolks
1 cup cool tap water + 1/4 cup cool tap water (reserved if necessary)


  1. In mixer bowl, whisk all dry ingredients together.
  2. In small bowl, whisk oil, molasses, egg yolks, and 1c. of water.
  3. Mix until all ingredients combined, rest 5 min (or up to 20min)
  4. Knead for 7 min at medium speed with dough hook (KA speed #4); scrape down bowl during this process as necessary (or every 2 minutes). 
  5. Shape into ball, place in oiled clear container, let rise in warm humid place until doubled, about 1hr.
  6. Now preheat oven to 375F
  7. Take risen dough, flatten into rectangle, roll like log.
  8. Place in 5x9 bread pan, let rise in warm humid place until about 1-1.5" above pan edge, about 40min.
  9. (Optional: slash and mist loaf with water)
  10. Place on middle rack in oven, reduce heat to 350F and bake for 30-40 min, until desired browning is achieved and internal temp is at least 190F. 
  11. Remove from oven. If desired, brush top crust with melted butter. 
  12. Let cool on rack for at least 30 min. 

proth5's picture

It’s just a piece of home kitchen equipment, but it has inspired opinions from “absolutely necessary” to “nearly utterly worthless.”

When one contemplates the seasonal nature of food production – or to be specific, the foods I have tasked myself with producing – one sees that summer and early autumn are not the seasons for bread baking. While the bread can be a stern task master, it is a jovial uncle compared to the tyranny of fresh produce and its preserved forms. The unbreached wheat berry we may lay aside for a month (or a decade), but the blushing peach will move from fullness to rot almost before our eyes.  While rises and folds have flexible “windows” where our efforts are rewarded, cooking sugars become substandard in the blink of an eye and the coordination of hot sterile jars, lids, finished jams, and boiling water baths is a taxing discipline, indeed.

As consumers we love our bread and jam, but as a producer of both, I find their production incompatible.  Or perhaps doing both is just incompatible with my “real life” – but that’s another story. I do, though, make a few products that are quite popular with friends and family and they would be sorely missed when the winter months are upon us again.

So the summer months always find me spending way too much time wilting over the jam pans and giving myself water bath canner facials. Baking and the heat that an oven would add to this potent mix must generally wait for a better time. However, since I was already curious about these controversial appliances, it seemed like a good time to try automating the bread making process.

I decided on a Zojirushi  BBPAC-20 (“Virtuoso”).  Not only do Zojirushi appliances remind me of my months spent in Okinawa (where the sole appliance that I had for producing meals was a Zojirushi hot pot), but this particular model promised cakes, jams, gluten free, sourdough, and custom programmable cycles – seemed like the way to go, for me. Frankly, I enjoy the contemplation of how thoughtful design and intelligent engineering can make what could be a mundane tool a joy to use and tend to “vote with my dollars” for companies that embody this ideal.

I set out with a couple of goals:

  1.        Make acceptable/good pain de mie style bread using the bread machine only – no mixing and then baking in the oven.
  2.        Use metric – which puts me very much in mind of negotiating the roads in Finland.  One knows that these things are letters and the letters seem familiar, but they are supposed to string together in a way so as to have meaning, yet they don’t.

So I skimmed the directions (how hard could this be – right?) and loaded the machine with the ingredients for a formula that I had successfully produced by conventional means many times.

Epic fail.

The bread was over risen prior to baking and collapsed.  It was inedible.

Having experience in the “if at first you don’t succeed…” department, I made a small tweak and tried again.

Not an epic fail, perhaps, but not yet anything I would describe as a success.

Humbled, I really read the directions, took time to understand the timings on the cycles, and determined that I should take one recipe from the owner’s manual and follow it exactly.

My machine cycles for “regular” are as follows:

Rest – 31-41 min

Knead – 22 min

Rise 1 – 27-37 min (91F)

“Punch down” and rise 2 – 20 min (91F)

“Punch down” and rise 3 – 20-30 min (95F)

Bake – 60-70 min (248 – 302F)


The rises are too hot and the bakes are too cool – but the formulas are written for this.  And well, yes, the thing did turn out as a respectable looking loaf.  But it tasted bland at best and staled faster than an intensive mix baguette. (No wonder there are advocates of “must be eaten right away – or warm.”)  Clearly I should be able to do better.

So I stopped to consider many things.

First, I considered what made the bread machine such a nice little toy.

I guess that I have to admit that I have certain disagreements with those who say that bread baking involves a lot of laborious kneading or that it makes a big mess. The advantages of some of the hand mixing methods like “stretch and fold” or “fold in the bowl” have been explored thoroughly on these pages.  As for baking making a mess, the “voice in my head” keeps repeating – “you must work clean” at various intervals and since I always obey the voice – I think I’ve gotten that skill covered.  After all, if I were in competition (which, I won’t be – because I am too old and I don’t bake well enough) – points would be deducted if I didn’t work clean.

What is great, though, is the fact that I plugged the thing in (and it magically knew the time!) and hit the cycle buttons, to be presented with the completion time.  Then I could just walk away.

Once again, many of us know that the actual work involved over the life of our developing loaf is minimal.  However, summer yard work chores at the crumbled abode often leave one in a state where one feels that a good scrub and a change of clothes are called for before food is handled. Performing such ablutions each time one must fold or shape or load does burden a busy baker. Or sometimes the errands simply must be run and sometimes they take longer than the time between folds. With the machine taking over these duties, the bread is made and the errands are accomplished.

And there is, of course for me, the preserving to be done. A great tide that blots out most other concerns, until it finally ends – in just a few weeks.

The advantage of automation, though, is also the downfall of the bread.  The cycle times are short enough that the subtle tastes of fermentation do not really occur. And for all the effort that I have put into learning to control fermentation so that I can bake to a schedule, I use my senses to make adjustments – a little longer here – a little more forcefulness there – to make the final product come out the way I want. Once set, that cycle marches on. The formula is everything.

It would be possible to add a lot of ingredients to the formula to up the taste factor, but that is not my métier. Of course, the one or two people who read my posts know the answer to bringing fermentation flavor and keeping quality to bread produced in a relatively short amount of time.  Yes. A pre ferment. Or maybe two.

My machine has a “sourdough” cycle, but as I studied the process that they advocated and the mix of ingredients that they called “sourdough” – I’ll have to admit that my brain blew a bearing. What I concluded was that my evening routine usually includes mixing up a pre ferment or two, so why not just mix as usual and let them ripen in covered containers to be put in the machine as part of the liquid ingredients? Yes, there are those two containers that will need to be cleaned (two containers – Oh! The humanity!) but this is a small price to pay for inner peace. For those of you who wonder about “all the hard work” involved in mixing the pre ferments, they are simply mixed – literally - by hand to the point where all the flour is wet and the mixture is slightly lumpy. Any remaining on the fingers is simply washed off.  If it takes me five minutes to mix up two of them – well, I’m dogging it.

Now, I am not normally the kind of person who takes pictures of the baking process, but while writing this I came to the realization that given that I was writing about bread machines, some reader may have wandered by who doesn’t routinely mix up a poolish or liquid levain. So, as final proof that I should not handle cameras, but in a sincere effort to help, I am including pictures of my poolish and liquid levain both right after mixing and when mature.

Just after mixing:

Fully mature (the liquid levain is in the small bowl)

Of course, if you are mostly a bread machine baker and haven’t glazed over when confronted with the terms “pre ferment”, “poolish” and “liquid levain” – I say good for you. You can find definitions for these things on these pages in the “Handbook” tab. None of it is really difficult – it’s just that bakers use very specific terms for simple little mixtures.

But it gets bumpy from here, because now I’m going to head down the road paved with baker’s math.

What you will see is unusual, for me, is the high percentage of the flour that is pre fermented.  This was inspired by the owner’s manual, but makes a lot of sense to me, since this is the only flour that really receives proper fermentation.

I calculated the baker’s percentages from the manufacturer’s formulas and along with my own knowledge set the percentages myself. Again, for those of you who still do not use the BBGA standard – here’s the big payoff – it was simplicity itself to convert to a pre ferment based formula from a straight dough. I used some of the lessons learned from my exploration of sandwich bread a while back – although I had issues doing an exact duplicate.

What I did find, however was that the addition of good, ripe pre ferments, the yeast percentage had to be reduced drastically. The small amounts caused me to recall “my teacher’s” remark about needing to weigh in fractions of grams and its relationship to drug dealing – but working with these very small amounts (remember – one loaf at a time!) did put me in the mind of a scale that measured fractions of grams.

Metric continues to not be my favorite thing. “My teacher” and I agree on that.  It is difficult to transition the heuristics of a half a century. But I have been sticking with it.

In true Blaisian fashion, I’m never actually happy with the thing I just made.  So I’ll say it’s an OK bread.  The crust is a bit thick and lacking in refinement and that will never change – it is being baked in an un preheated oven at low temperatures. A day in a plastic bag softens the crust without degrading the bread – and of course crusts can always be cut off and used for crumbs.  And there are holes in the bottom –which bug me (I have since seen a Breville bread maker that makes claims to the paddles folding out of the way so there are no holes – which is tempting, but even I have my limits) – but for some slices and a sandwich – or toast - or eggs in a frame – it is tasty and sturdy. It is miles ahead of any of the manufacturer’s recipes. It lasts a couple/three days before staling. (Of store bought bread, I know so little, but I think this must be better.)

When I look at the loaf I see major shaping flaws.  But the cosmos reminds me that the machine did the shaping – it’s not my fault – just let it go…

The loaf.

The crumb.

The formula and method.

Once again my mind wanders and I think about Julia Child – wrestling various “recipes” into a book that most folks could actually use.  I use the Bread Baker’s Guild of America’s standards to present formulas – and this is very clear to me. But as I look at it with the eyes of a typical beginning (or even intermediate) home baker, I think, “Well that’s not just a recipe – it’s a recipe for disaster.”  So for those who have the standard down – I present it below.  I will also add a list of ingredients in more traditional format.


(Oh – and I do mean to specify the water temperature in the Final Dough ingredients.  Because my machine has a “wait and heat” cycle – that water needs to be cold. Call the Format Police – but The Guild doesn’t publish too many bread machine formulas…)



White flour                                         47gms

Water                                                   47 gms

Seed (sourdough starter)             5 gms

(mix this by hand in a small bowl – allow to ripen overnight: 8-14 hours)


White flour                                         141 gms

Water                                                   141 gms

Instant Yeast                                      Large Pinch

(mix this by hand in a medium bowl – allow to ripen overnight: 8-14 hours)


The next morning you will mix the final dough – the ingredients are:

Levain                                   All that you mixed the night before

Poolish                                 All that you mixed the night before

Cold Water                         150 gms

Triticale Flakes                   56 gms

Molasses                             20 gms

Agave Nectar                     20 gms

Dry Milk                               7 gms

Salt                                         9 gms

Butter                                   30 gms

White flour                         118 gms

Whole Wheat Flour         118 gms

Triticale Flour                     47 gms


Instant Yeast                      2 gms (that’s about a half a teaspoon)

Put (Final Dough)ingredients in the pan of the bread machine (don’t forget the paddles!) in this order:

The water and the pre ferments,

The triticale flakes,


The butter, salt, milk powder, molasses, and the agave nectar

The flours

Make a well in the center of the flour and put the yeast in it.

Bake on “regular” cycle of your bread machine (they vary, but they all have some kind of “regular” cycle).  Mine has “crust control” – I like to set it for “dark”.

Take it from the pan to cool…

Some ingredient notes: I have been on a quest to bake good breads with 100% triticale flour.  This is a maddening type of quest, but it is my quest and I’m sticking with it. What I have found, though, is that small amounts of triticale can be incorporated in wheat breads and greatly improve the taste. For people who are not losing their grip on reality, whole wheat flour can be substituted for triticale flour (although you can buy it from Bob's Red Mill) and rolled oats for triticale flakes. It won’t be exactly the same, but will still be nice bread.  Also, my “all purpose flour” is about – 11.5% protein - folks using lower protein flours might want to switch to “Better for Bread” flours.

Of course if I only baked one type of loaf in the thing all those other cycles would be a waste. Jam has been made and pronounced tasty; although it is not of the quality that I put up (I’m going to hope not because if so, I’m doing a lot of work for nothing.)  I’ve also done some lovely cakes (altitude adjusted, of course – and of the “pound cake” variety) a type of cinnamon roll, and a couple other breads. (I’ve also baked stuffing in it – which I think is pretty neat – no need for a “stove top” – or an oven – yea!) (Oh, and while I was writing this I baked some eggplant parmesan…)

But this length of a blog with almost no pictures is enough. I’ll leave those for future installments.

Biffbread's picture

Is a good banneton really necessary?

July 29, 2012 - 10:48am -- Biffbread

I am about to switch from baking in my Zojirushi bread maker to just using it to knead and proof the bread, then baking it in the oven. Should I even proof it in the ZO machine or just do it outside? Is a good banneton really necessary? Any advice to help me make the transition from ZO dependency would be greatly appricated! :)

Diane's picture

Perfect Bread Machine Wishlist

January 30, 2012 - 2:47pm -- Diane

My oldest daughter, the non-baker, has decided that she wants to bake bread in a bread machine for her family.  Forget the fact that she lives around the corner from us and I could teach her how to bake bread from scratch, forget that I have a 5 year old sourdough starter to share, forget that I could show her how to make designs with a sharp razor, etc. etc.  I am just happy she shows an interest.

aturco's picture

Bread Machine Risotto?

November 4, 2011 - 8:43am -- aturco


I got an email from KAF today talking about the Z bread machine and how you can make risotto in the bread machine. I have a bread machine, its not Z, its either a kitchen aid or a cuisinart and only has one paddle. My questions are:

1) has anyone ever used their bread machine to make risotto and how did it come out. Is it worth it.

2) the recipe on KAF looks pretty good, do you have any recipes that you know are proven and would you be willing to share?




Breaddie's picture

100% whole wheat low sodium bread machine recipe

April 12, 2011 - 11:24am -- Breaddie


My question crosses topics, and I did search the forum best I could.  I want a 100% whole wheat bread machine recipe that is low sodium.  I was just given a bread machine(used), so I've never made bread in it.  I have baked bread once or twice manually in my life so have little experience.  These are my questions

Salt/Sodium -

RobynNZ's picture

Bread machines- France:instant! Japan:Rice

February 20, 2011 - 5:59pm -- RobynNZ

Couldn't resist sharing a link to David Lebovitz's post:


and how about Sanyo's GoPan!  This rice bread machine was released in November and has been a hit in Japan with sales beyond their projections. In Japanese cooked rice is called 'gohan' and bread is called 'pan' so they've come up with a cute name for the machine  combining the kanji for rice and kana for bread  and assigning the pronunciation GoPan (米ぱん)

Kitchen Barbarian's picture

Bagels in my Zojirushi

November 12, 2010 - 4:32am -- Kitchen Barbarian

I have the Zojirushi BBCC x20

I would like to make bagel dough in it, but I'm worried that with such a stiff dough I might damage my machine.

I've seen several postings where people talk about making bagel dough in their machines but sadly no actual recipes or bagel-specific info.

Would anyone be willing to share their experiences with making bagels in their bread machines?

I have these recipe links that have bread machine instructions:


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