The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Improving Bread Machine bread?

LLM777's picture

Improving Bread Machine bread?

Are there any techinques/tips to improve "bread machine bread" and make it more "hand-made"? For me, it's simply convienent and time saving to use the machine but I'm sure there are vast improvements that can be made. Could following a machine recipe and an overnight rise in the frig and then baking it next day be helpful? I have tried to put "bread by hand" recipes in the machine but they are always too soggy/sticky and don't mix well. I would appreciate any advice. Thank you.

sphealey's picture

In my experience you can make any bread machine recipe on the Dough setting, then take the dough out and do the 2nd rise, shaping, and proofing by hand and bake it in the oven (pan or stone as appropriate for the recipe). This is how I make my hamburger buns and I often do ryes this way when I have less time and don't want to deal with the stickiness.

As far as improving the quality when you bake it all the way through in the bread machine, I have tried mixing a poolish with the water and some of the flour and leaving it in the bucket overnight. When it mixes right then this works great; when it doesn't mix right you end up with the family holding a lump of cooked dough and glaring at you at 7 AM ;-( Other than that I have tried adding seeds (plus water) - that usually works; adding some whole grain flour (ususally works); various types of oils, etc.  Realistically though a bread machine bread will always be soft and moist - that is what the machine is designed to do.  My family likes that though so it works out for them, and I can then blast my artisan crusts until you need a chain saw to cut them.

Rustic European Breads from Your Bread Machine by Eckhardt and Butts (ISBN 0385477775) is out of print but available from the library or used. It has a lot of recipes for baking in the bread machine and/or shaping and baking in the oven.



joeblow's picture

If you already have a bread machine, then you must already be making bread. What’s wrong with doing a little bit of experimentation! Use the dough maker and add some of the things you like that the Bread machine book doesn't mention. I add 1/2 cup of linseed’s + 1/4 cup sunflower seeds +15ml of water extra + olive oil instead of using butter. As sphealey mentioned take the dough out and do the 2nd rise, shaping and proofing by hand then bake it in the oven (pan or stone as appropriate for the recipe). You will make a few mistakes, we all do but I've never made a loaf of bread yet, that wasn't edible. Grin! Who knows you may come up with the super loaf of all times.

Happy baking.   Joe.

LLM777's picture

Thank you for the comments and, yes, I have been baking bread for a few years using the bread machine. I even grind my own wheat now but I've experimented with the "hand made" bread and it seems it has a slightly different texture and taste than the machine gives. I am very new to the techniques of hand made bread and the few times I have tried it, it seems to take a lot more attention than just putting the ingredients in the machine. :) I also homeschool, which is time intensive, and I love cooking everything from scatch; I am just spoiled by the convienence of the bread machine. I was wondering if it is possible to get those big holes and refined taste that "hand made" seems to give. Thank you again for your comments.

noelvn's picture

In your first message you asked: "Could following a machine recipe and an overnight rise in the frig and then baking it next day be helpful?"and I wanted to answer that yes, doing that makes a big difference, giving the flavors of the dough time to mature. I mix all my bread in the bread machine, and almost always either use some sort of preferment (sponge/poolish/biga) or retard the dough in the fridge overnight -- sometimes both, depending on how I'm fitting the bread into my schedule.

Another reason for the difference in flavor between bread machine and hand-made bread is that bread machine recipes use way too much yeast, in order to make the bread rise on schedule for the machine. For the best flavor, you want to use as little yeast as you can get away with, and let the bread rise extra time to compensate. The longer rise gives time for the flour and yeast enzymes to make more flavors in the bread, and using less yeast gives you less of that over-yeasted bread machine flavor.

I put about 1/4 tsp of yeast in my pre-ferment, and then add another 1/2 tsp of yeast when I mix in the rest of the ingredients. I run the dough cycle, and then shape the loaf and let it rise until it's the right size to bake. One big advantage to the dough cycle is that you can let this last rise be as long as is needed to compensate for using less yeast -- though if you've done a preferment, it will usually rise quite nicely. I bake when poking the dough makes a dent that fills itself in about 2/3 of the way.

For bigger holes, make sure the dough is moist (forms a somewhat sticky ball when the machine is kneading, but slumps down pretty flat when the kneading stops). When you remove the risen dough from the machine, do so gently so you don't completely deflate it -- ditto for when you shape it. You might also try removing it from the machine just after kneading, and letting it rise in a shallow greased bowl -- easier to get it out without deflating it completely.

I also second the recommendation for _Rustic European Breads from your Bread Machine_ by Eckhardt and Butts. Another good book that uses preferments and shaping outside the machine is one by Jennie Shapter called (same book, different editions) _Bread Machine: how to prepare and bake the perfect loaf_ or_The Ultimate Bread Machine Cookbook_ (don't confuse with the book by Tom Lacalamita by the same name). I enjoy the Shapter book because of the visuals: excellent pictures of the steps to take and lovely pics of the finished breads. These two are my "desert island" bread machine books...

LLM777's picture

I will definitely do this. Thank you for the information; it was most helpful.

bottleny's picture

Similarly to other suggestions, I imployed the biga (preferment) method in bread machine recipes.

Note: the total amount of yeast should be reduced from the regular recipe.

I made the big the night before, about 50% in hydration (flour about 200g) with 1/4 teaspoon of yeast or less. In a bowl just mixed them with a spoon or hand. Covered.

Next morning, I teared the biga (now slopy) into pieces and mixed with the reset ingredients, including another 140 g flour (yeast should be placed on top of flour, not touching any liquid, about 1/2 teaspoon). Set the timer such that it would be done when I got home around 7:30pm.

LLM777's picture

I have the rustic book on reserve at the library and hopefully it will help me with the preferments because I have no idea how to convert my current recipes to the biga method you are descibing. I am certainly looking forward to learning though.

Thank you.

sphealey's picture

I have made some tasty soft breads in the bread machine with preferments, bigas, and sourdough starters (in fact I have a picture of a semi-sourdough I made this weekend that I need to upload and post).

The problem for me comes with the overnight cycle. My family would prefer that the bread be fresh in the morning, and in terms of timing and quality that works well. But I can't get the preferments to work when I use the timer; they fail to mix well with the remaining dry ingredients when the cycle starts at 3 AM and the result is a mess of baked lumps. When I run the machne during the day I can poke the mix a bit with a spatula and remove the doughball for a few quick kneads if necessary - but I ain't gettin up at 3:15 AM to do that!

Has anyone had success using poolish in the overnight cycle of their machine? I have a Zorij 2-paddle type.



LLM777's picture

I recently received the Rustic European Breads cookbook that was recommended in this post and I just wanted to say it is exactly what I was looking for. I've already made bread and a few starters and poolish(s). I was not able to get the Shapter book from the library so I will have to order that along with my own copy of the Rustic book. I would definitely recommend it to get over the bread machine blahs. Thanks for the recommendations!

dollhead's picture

I have to 3rd that recommendation for the Rustic European Breads from your bread machine book by Eckhardt and Butts.  It's a book I recommend to my students in my ABM bread making classes.  Sorry to learn it's out of print as it's a great book and each recipe is better than the last, besides the fact that these ladies give some very good info on the entire breadmaking process/ingredients/technique, etc.  These ladies taught me a lot about bigas and preferments and starters.  I've never used the overnight cycle in my Zo, and by experience I learned that you must chunk up a preferment to get it to incorporate well into your final dough (add it in little pieces).  By the way, I never use instant/bread machine yeast either-I always use active dry and teach my students to do the same.

While I am hardly a master baker, I do make great bread and have often used my bread machine (ABM) as a helper when I am making a LOT of dough.  I have had total success using listed ingredients in any recipe-remembering to layer them in ABM (liquids 1st, then sugar/sweetener & fats, then flour and adding yeast LAST).  I never have a problem using DOUGH cycle, then oven baking as directed in recipe, and sometimes (such as for French bread) I will let dough rise a 3rd or 4th time in machine (just gently deflate it and let it rise again).  You could even just chill your ABM dough overnight in fridge to help enhance flavor (then let it come to room temp before shaping & baking).  Generally, this overnight chill will enhance any breads' flavor in my experience.  I just read recently that bread machines are making a semi-comeback-I always tell my students that it's a very useful tool-especially if you don't own a heavy duty stand mixer (I call my Zo a KitchenAid with heat). 

Good luck with your breadmaking!

tabasco's picture

Little by little I have been trying different approaches to using my Zoj bread machine, too.  So thank you for all the tips and ideas.  Hensberger's bread machine book (which I like) outlines some different ways to use biga, poolishes, and starters (fresh mixed and aged overnight) that have worked for us, although I haven't tried to use them in the overnight cycle.

I have found the 'homemade' cycle on our Zoj very useful.  It allows one to adjust the times for the kneading, resting, etc. for a more custom setting.  And the default 'homemade' setting is designed for making 'french bread' they say.  This is an easy way to get a little more artisanal loaf of bread from the machine I think. But I've never gotten the big chewy holes in our bread.

I admit since I bought our new Kitchen Aid convection double ovens with a "Bread Proofing" setting I have been taking the dough out of the BM after mixing to let rise in my (proofing) oven, once or twice, or even a third rising, and then baking it off on a stone or in specialty pans in a very hot oven. 

(The KA oven says the proofing temp is 100 degrees, so if I want a slower cooler rise (for more flavor) , I start it off at 1oo for a few minutes and then shut if off.  We have had some very nice loaves of bread using the BM along with the KA ovens.)

I have been reading the various TFL blogs and FAQs on this site, and especially looking at some of the videos and I am interested to try the 'folding' approach soon (not using the BM).  They say its easy and I like that idea!  


bjwilson's picture

I've pulled out the ole bread machine again, and been doing some experimenting with it.  Maybe it's the humidity in our area lately (lots of rain here in north central Texas), but I have found that by reducing the amount of liquid in the recipe (ie. instead of 1 1/2 cups, I use 1 1/3 cups), and increasing the flour from 3 1/2 cups to 4 cups has improved the consisitancy.  I also set the machine for dough cycle, and set a timer for 40 minutes.  Then, I reset the machine for dough cycle again, and let it go through the full kneading cycle ( I timed mine at 50 minutes). I've found that the machine just doesn't knead it enough on just the time allotted.

I don't let it rise in the machine... there just isn't enough room in there for it to fully rise.  It usually falls when it reaches the lid, and the lid pops open.  I rise my dough in a oiled bowl in the oven with the light on. 

Since I've found this combination, my bread has come out closer to what I expect as a great loaf of bread.

I've asked Santa for a Kitchen Aid stand mixer with all the frills.  Hopefully, that will make life easier for me.

melbournebread's picture

This thread is old but I found it with a search and after reading it decided to try the preferment.  I've only had my machine for a few months and a preferment seemed easy enough.  I was making a small loaf of three seed bread, this is the recipe:

Three Seed Loaf

3/4c water

1T honey

1T oil

1/2t salt

185g bread flour

35g what flour

1 1/4t yeast

3T flax seed

1T each sesame and poppy seed


Just a small loaf so for the preferment I tried 1/8t yeast, 50g flour and 1/2c water.  It was really soupy but leaving it on the bench overnight it formed a lovely thick forth.  Taking advice from this thread I only added an additional 1/2t yeast, all the rest I added as per the recipe (less the water and flour in the preferment). 

It went in the bread machine and the mix looked a little wet but I had to leave the house so I don't know what the final texture looked like.  However when I came home the loaf was a bit funny shaped, one half was plump as normal but the other half clearly showed a seam where the paddle moved the dough plus it actually had a "cowlick" sticking out of that end!

The biggest difference, though, was instead of having very even, tiny air bubbles, it had a much more interesting set of big and small bubbles.  Very interesting indeed!  I don't know if the flavour was different because I ate it with jam. ;)

Any ideas why the loaf would be uneven shaped?  Do you think the moisture was off, or should I have added more yeast?

melbournebread's picture

I tried a second loaf in the bread machine and again I'm very happy with the results.  The air bubbles are much more like a "real" loaf of sandwich bread - uneven with relatively large air bubbles.  The flavour and texture are better and I do reckon it lasts longer.  Here's a photo of a loaf of "sandwich bread" (combination of white, wheat and some rye flour) using a preferment of 100g flour, 1/2c water and 1/4t yeast.


It's just a bit saggy at the sides, I think it needs a touch more yeast.  The original recipe called for 2t but with the 1/4t prefermenting I only added another 1t after that.

LLM777's picture

Looks awesome! I like the combination of flours.


roxbakes's picture

Hello there, that bread looks very good to me and I would love for you to share the recipe if possible, and the settings that you use for your machine.

I've been really frustrated lately with my BM experience. After a year of waiting, I finnally received the latest model of Zojirushi BB-CEC20 as Mother's Day gift. Wonderful, looks very sturdy and sleek, in black. I was super excited, couldn't wait to try my multigrain recipe. Before this BM, I got to experiment with my friend's Panasonic YD-250 that produced beautiful loaves, one after another. I just couldn't wait for the Zo, I thought it's going to be even better. Well, I have still yet to discover the proper recipe for my multigrain bread. I was using a combination of unbleached white bread flour (50% of the flour), whole wheat (30% of the flour), rye, flax meal, buckwheat, spelt, bran, wheat germ and the 9 grain mix. No dough enhancer, no extra gluten, just water, flour, yeast, molasses, salt and butter and the bread was very good ALL the time.

Interesting enough, all white loaves are coming beautiful in the Zo! Otherwise, I would have thought that this machine is faulty and send it back. See below a white with seeds and one apple raisin recipe.

And here is the multigrain disaster: uncooked, very dense, even wet on top! I tried like 5-6 times so far with different recipes and still does not come out good.

Help, PLEASE! :) Thanks for any feedback! Roxana

melbournebread's picture

Happy to share the recipe but it sounds like it's not the recipe that's the problem.

The 'ultimate' sandwich bread

1 1/4 C water*

2T oil

1 3/4C bread flour (220g)

1C whole wheat flour (125g)

1/3C rye flour (45g)

3T vital wheat gluten

2T sugar

1t salt

2t yeast

*the original recipe called for only 1C but I find myself having to use more like 1 1/4

Short version: add ingredients in order recommended by your bread machine and run it on the basic or white cycle.  Longer version: mix the flours together and run the dough cycle with half the flour mix, half the water and all the yeast.  Unplug at the end of the dough cycle and leave in the bread machine for a few hours or overnight.  The next day, take out the sponge and break it into four pieces.  Add the rest of the ingredients and start the basic cycle, adding back in the sponge as it starts to mix.


With your problem though, first thing to ask is, when you start the cycle do you check on the dough to make sure it's the right texture?  Wheat flours absorb more water than white so you may find you need to add a few T more of water to bring it together to a nice springy consistency.  If it looks lumpy and flaky after 5 or 10 minutes kneading it's too dry.  Also personally I'd use wheat gluten if you're using less than 50% bread flour but that won't cause your main problem, that just changes the consistency.

Or I wonder it it's the Zoj?  They don't make them here in Aus but I hear they're a bit different to other bread machines - I think they warm the ingredients before starting?  Perhaps someone here with a Zoj can help?

Finally, I find this site is pretty handy with some troubleshooting:

johnsankey's picture

Try these recipes:

Moisture is more critical with most non-wheat grains than with wheats in my experience - I usually keep moisture a bit on the low side, then check half way through kneading to see if a Tbsp extra warm water is needed. I find the CEC20 bakes the top much less than the bottom and sides by comparison with the Black&Decker unit I had before (it failed after circa 2000 loaves of bread - no complaints!) so the top quarter comes out wetter than the body.

Keep at it - nothing beats the taste of non-wheat flours in bread as far as I'm concerned.



roxbakes's picture

Thank you so much for the feedback. I can't wait to try your recipe. I like the long version. The recipes recommended by the machine seamed too stiff to me. I like the whole grain breads to have higher hydration. I used to make by hand and had success with other breads, however with four little ones under six and homeschooling, convenience is preferred at this time of my life.

Also, I did check the dough all the time, and it looked very good, ellastic, well developed. They rised ok, but, when it was baking time, they collapsed. I used molasses in all the recipes, that's what I used to do before(1tbsp). However, last time, when I tried again, I used sugar with better results. We come from Europe and we don't really like sweet bread, unless it's a breakfast bread. Also, I would prefer not to use any added gluten, because that's why I'm trying whole grain, so it has lower gluten content. Maybe I just want too much from the machine. Zojirushi calls for added gluten; if that's the only way to achieve good bread in their machine, I am not happy about it.

I made some adjustements last time, increasing the procentage in white flour (60% instead of 50%) and used sugar instead of molasses.

Here's how the dough looked like during the process:

1st rise

Dough on second knead


Dough on third rise

It really looked good!!! I was super excited, couldn't wait to bake! I covered the window with foil because Zojirushi does not bake well on top unless you cover the window with foil. The window is large and escapes heat and the machine does not brown the top almost at all without foil. Poor design, if you consider that it's the top expensive machine on our market.

Oh, well, and here's my surprise, when I opened the lid: Thaa Dhaa... TORNADO BREAD! That's what my kids called it; they were super excited, because we just studied tornadoes and even saw a movie with them. They thought I baked it in purpose like that. And there goes my excitement, straight in that hole! LOL :)

You cannot really see but the hole was like half way! And the margins stuck to the lid; when I opened the lid, the bread came out of the pan along with the lid. At least we had fun! :)

However interesting enough the texture was great, not the yeasty taste that I got before, and it was not dense at all. I need to try again, and adjust the quantities to make a smaller loaf, because it rose very nicely. I think if I would have taken the dough out and bake it in the oven, it would have been a success. But that defeats the purpose of a bread machine.

Oh, well, here's my adventure with Zojirushi! Thank you so much for sharing your recipe! I'll try it and keep you posted! Have a gread day!

melbournebread's picture

Those are some great pictures!

I just found this thread where someone else seems to have had the exact same problem with their Zo:

I thought I had remembered someone saying the Zo "preheats" the ingredients.  It doesn't look like they reported back on what worked, unfortunately.  Maybe try turning off the preheat feature and/or trying it on the white cycle if you haven't already.  If it's too warm or the rises are too long you'll get a mushroom top.

It also seems like the loaf is too large for the machine but if the root of the problem is over-rising, than solving that might solve the size problem too.

roxbakes's picture

I forgot to mention, that with the Tornado Bread, I figure out to put cold water, after others suggested that, just like in the mentioned thread. I read as much as I can and The Fresh Loaf is the greatest resource on the web, I've been inspired by so many pros out here, I am documenting with pics and notes of what I am doing so I am not giving up, yet. I'll make this thing work! :) I am reading right now Peter Reinhart's book "The Whole Grain Bread" and will try next the soaker and the biga and see how that would work. Happy Baking, Melbourne Bread!

tabasco's picture

I just wanted to link the Zojirushi site's FAQ page which can be worth a look: 

Zojirushi mentions that if you use home ground or custom milled flours or if your breads are turning out heavy or lumpy, you may want to measure by weight rather than using measuring cups for the flour.    Personally I have found that using weight measures results in a more consistent product.

Zojirushi also mentions in the FAQ that they offer a few recipes for Gluten Free Bread in their Instruction booklets. Those recipes might give you a basis for designing your own loaves.

And one last thing, I notice that the website lists online versions of the booklets for easy reference.

And thanks everyone for all the tips.  We do pretty well with our Zojirushi, but I'm always looking for new ideas!


wmtimm627's picture

by Beth Hensperger (which shows up regularly top left on TFL) has some wonderful bread machine recipes in the back of the book. My favorite is the Honey Whole Wheat, but since I tried it the first time, I always use the seeds option. It has never let me down once.

One of the options I like about my Cuisinart machine is the alert to remove the paddle from the machine. Not only does this make for a much easier removal from the pan, but gives me the opportunity to shape the loaf a little nicer. I don't know what other machines like the Zo do, but it's a nice feature. If your machine doesn't have it, you just need to remove the paddle(s) after the final knead.