The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts


teefay's picture




proth5's picture

Given the nature of this and your other blog posts, it may be folly for me to respond at all.

I am an experienced home baker who has (for various reasons) become fascinated with bread machines - so don't take this as an "I object to all things bread machine" response.

Some of the thing you say strike me, though, as quite odd. 

I can create bread dough without any tiring kneading - using only a bowl, a plastic scraper, and a scale (not even a measuring cup or two) - no flour on the counter - no hard work.   I haven't kneaded hand developed dough in years. While this machine that I have has many fascinating characteristics - not making a mess is not one of them. (And really, although it is possible to under develop dough when mixing by hand - overdeveloping it is almost impossible.  And what mistake with the yeast can you make when hand mixing that you cannot with a bread machine?  I wonder about that because scaling is scaling...)

A beginning baker reading your comments might conclude that bread making by hand is "too hard" (it isn't) and that is not really the intent of this site.

In fact, one of the reasons the bread machine fascinates me is that it is somewhat harder for me to make bread with it.  When I am working by hand I can adjust by instinct so that the bread is never shoe leather. That machine - it goes through a cycle and if my formula is not correctly designed for its cycle (as you have correctly expressed) I have trouble. 

I am shocked that you would advocate spraying the bread machine container with cooking spray.  Cooking sprays can degrade the non stick coating and actually make it tacky ruining the machine.  My machine (a Zojirushi) does not advocate them and I have had no problems with sticking.

I've found that shaping is quite substandard in a bread machine and there is always those little "rips" in the bottom from the blades.  Perhaps "beautiful" is truly in the eye of the beholder.

I would also question your advice on using "Bread Machine Yeast" only.  I find that the Zo formulas are written for Active Dry Yeast and if one substitutes one for one, one can have an epic fail.  I wonder why you advocate this.

As for homemade bread tasting best warm - well, that is a controversy for the ages.

I am currently working on adapting some of my formulas for machine use.  Since I tend to concentrate on getting flavors from the grain (rather than adding a lot of ingredients), this has been an educational experience for me.

I know you want to promote your site and your book.  That's fine - we all want to make a buck.  However, if you address yourself to experienced bakers (as you have done) we'll need a little backup for what you say.

yy's picture

Teefay, I appreciate that you enjoy using bread machines, but your history on this site seems to indicate that you're more interested in promoting your website than in bread baking. I second everything Proth5 said, and I especially want to echo her point that your post makes handmade bread seem like a laborious, messy endeavor. It certainly does not have to be, and the tone of your post is rather disempowering.

sue cardiff's picture
sue cardiff

I thought your post was informative and well done. I started with a bread machine in the early 90's and was able to make bread superior to anything I could buy in a grocery store (there were no bakeries in my small town.) It sparked in an interest in baking, and about 10 years ago I put it on the shelf and graduated to artisan baking at home, which I enjoy very much. I now have 2 mixers, about a dozen bannetons, 2 mills  and several other toys. I might never have arrived at the place I am now were it not for that first Panasonic machine. The very first loaf I ever baked with it was cooling on the kitchen counter while my wife and I were watching television when our Golden Retriever  entered the bedroom with the loaf lovingly clutched in his mouth and his tail wagging furiously.

There are many fine bakers on this site who look at these machines with disdain, as well as anything that is not organic, and a few other pet peeves that can discourage beginners.  Although the "experienced" bakers dominate the posts on this forum, there are thousands of others who are lurking, trying to learn, and making good bread. I think a bread machine is a good start for someone who doesn't want to take on baking bread as a passion or a consuming hobby. Bread machines can and do make good bread.


proth5's picture

Because the original poster just wants to do some self promotion, but I hope you didn't take from my post that I object to bread machines - as I obviously don't.

I just found some statements odd - or - in my experience actually wrong and looked for feedback on why the original poster would make them.

I do find that statements that making even one loaf by hand involves several bowls, "pots and pans" to be the kind of exaggeration that discourages beginners from trying bread baking.  I have taught beginners and they are usually surprised to find out how easily and cleanly they can turn out their first loaves.

That being said - many fine bakers started with bread machines and many fine bakers continue to use them for mixing (and other things).  And I do find mine challenging and fascinating as I am used to having control over the process rather than having a fixed cycle take over.  I'm having quite a good time adapting techniques I have learned over the years to the bread machine - although the shaping and those holes in the bottom are not a thing of beauty to me (yes, I have considered stoping the cycle, doing hand shaping and then baking in the machine after removing the paddles).

Frankly the disdain that some bakers seem to have for these appliances is one of the things that got me interested in them. But I do feel someone who promotes doing a thing (using a bread machine) and gives advice as a tutorial should be able to explain advice given. For example, the spraying of the mixing vessel with cooking spray.  I ruined a few non-stick pans before learning that cooking sprays degrade non-stick surfaces.  I'd rather come off as a "meanie" and ask the original poster to explain this than allow the statement to go unchallenged.  The original poster should have the knowledge and experience (and interest) to respond. If not, the statements really are simply advertising and I don't think that's why we are here.


hornedfox's picture

For me bread machines were a step to artisan bread making which I am enjoying very much. With help from the people I have met here I hope to get better at it. My wife can't understand why I take two days to produce the loaves I do but she is glad I do. Going back to bread machines would be the step before buying commercial bread which I wont do now



yy's picture

I remember the first bread machine my mother bought when I was 12 years old. It was a huge, imposing piece of white plastic, but I found it terribly exciting that I could add water, butter, and a packet of ingredients and end up with an adorable squat little loaf of bread with just a press of a button. I am not against bread machines, either, but I'm not so enthusiastic about people promoting them on the basis that handmade bread is too much of a hassle or unattainable. I see that the original poster has deleted his/her blog post.


proth5's picture

the experience has been the opposite.  I'm a long time poster to these pages (and a home baker for many years) and I started bread baking with hand mix - all the way.  I even use a hand powered mill. Trust me when I say I am thoroughly trained in "traditional" bread making techniques.  But using the machine has been kind of fun (and doesn't heat my house up in the summer) and I'm getting on a path to making some interesting breads in it.  I take flour that I have milled by hand and then put it in a bread machine - I get a kick out of that.

I wouldn't use one exclusively, but it continues to be an interesting experience matching wits with the thing. And to my mind it is always good to expand skills and learn to use new tools.

I think it is too bad that the original poster deleted the post rather than engage in a rational discussion.  Posters who start with "advertisements", but then actually engage can sometimes build their credibility. 

BurntMyFingers's picture

Your "benefits" take away some of the things I like most about making bread from scratch... getting my hands in the dough, returning from time to time to check the bread's progress (I never think of it as time consuming because I'm doing something else productive in the meantime, not just staring at the clock)... and yes, making and recovering from mistakes. That said, I'm another who is fascinated by these devices and want to make them work.

I have a medium-priced BM from Amazon and a copy of "Rustic European Breads from Your Bread Machine" and have had mixed results. Brioche was great, I recall. But a couple of other loaves fell before the baking completed or just after. Too much yeast? Not enough? I followed the recipe pretty carefully.

proth5's picture

My first loaf (from a formula that I had baked conventionally several times) and a couple of loaves after had that problem.  They rose too much and then fell. 

My machine has a "wait" step before mixing which heats the machine and brings the ingredients to temperature.  This is not as sensitive as I would like - it's just the application of heat over a certain time.

So, one of my problems was that I was using water that was too warm.  Cold water went a long way to helping.

But your machine may be different.

Another problem I had was that I used "bread machine" (or instant) yeast rather than the active dry yeast called for in the formula.  What I found was that if I used 2/3 the amount of instant as for active dry, I got a better loaf.

Last was  the definition of "bread flour."  Since I use an all purpose flour with a protien content of 11.5% - this worked better as "bread flour" than what I use as bread flour.

But - and I don't know what documentation came with your machine - what I also did was study the cycles on my machine and understand how long it spent doing what.  That has helped my comprehension.  The formula must fit the machine, though.  If I've learned noting else, I've learned that...

Not a definitive answer, but some observations from what I have learned so far...

BurntMyFingers's picture

I'm a big fan of your bearguettes BTW (though they've mutated in my kitchen into something you wouldn't recognize). 

My BM is a 2-lb capacity "Breadman" that I bought on closeout at Amazon. I've never made any of the recipes that came with it though its documentation describes the length of the cycles on each setting which is very helpful. I've only used the Rustic Breads cookbook which I mentioned... it's out of print but easy to find online. All your tips are new to me and things I will try... thanks.

proth5's picture

at my house is closed for the summer, so all my "customers" are complaining bitterly about the lack of bearguettes and their variants.  We must make do with the bread machine bread - which is ever improving.

I was much humbled by my first few loaves from the machine, but the process is the same as with conventional baking.  Bake - evaluate - think - change - bake.

Good luck!

malu's picture

I am by far not an expert on BM or Bread baking period but I could not help myself and not write. I was deployed over seas and returened to Europe where I am now. I had an opportunity to travel to small villages in various countries and took advantage of it. One great day while walking down a small stone street my wife and I heard then saw an elderly couple in the celler, and through the small opened window I watched as they tossed and cut rounds of dough. My wife and I were invited down to watch and enjoy some tea. I am sure they thought we were abit strange to find there work facinating. Needless to say we had a lot of fun and learned a few tricks. I could not imagine a bread machine ever giving that much enjoyment. I am sure the product that comes from "it" is good, but thats the issue with me, is that is more of a product than anything else. No we do not bake bread for a living and do not produce in bulk, but we do make a bit that is shared with friends and we seem to get request once in a while. The process of getting the kitchen and yourself a bit dirty with sticky dough and flower, and occationally tossing dough at one another has been wonderful for us. Its time spent being with one another and creating something to share.  Technology has done wonders for our lives, but somethings to me have a value that can not be relplaced. So I love to here and see people use there hands and learn patients and enjoy thier family and friends while creating and communicating in the home.  I am sure there is a place for Bread Machines and X Boxes , and I am sure someone will know where to put them. In the mean time we will continue to try new ideas with our bread and make lots of mistakes, but we will have lots to talk about when the power goes out.....