The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Starter Bread Machine

BakeonlytheBest's picture

Starter Bread Machine

Hey everyone, as I mentioned in my introduction I am very new to the world of bread making (on my own). It is something that I was sparsely taught by my grandmother but since she has passed I now have all of her recipes but none of the knowledge. I am trying to get there, and my first step is to make some bread with a bread machine so I can learn a bit more about how the ingredients react to each other while having some-sort of a helping hand. 

What should a beginner baker be looking at for a bread machine? I am guessing that the more expensive the machine the better it will perform/more user friendly it will be but I don't want to be spending too much right now. Ideally I would like to spend about $100-$200, a bit more for a brand new machine. I was looking at Kenwood, specifically the Kenwood Bm540 as I have seen some decent priced used ones for sale around me. Should I be looking at something a little less extensive, or maybe something that would require me to do more? Thanks for all of the advice in advance everyone. 

HansB's picture

Do you think you could first try to bake a couple of loaves on your own? I think you'll be surprised to find that you can be successful mixing by hand and you will learn more too. If you do get a machine looking at a used one would probably be best as you probably won't use it for long as you learn more.

Elsasquerino's picture

In the UK where I live Panasonic have by far the best reputation for their bread makers. I used a Panasonic machine for a long time while my boys were babies and I had far less time to spend baking, although not great for all breads it made very tasty basic loaves and kept me away from all the unknowns of shop bought bread. I will say spend as much as you can or you will end up frustrated.  A good second hand is far better than a cheap new machine and you can probably sell it on for what you paid, if and when you move on to doing more by hand.

BakeonlytheBest's picture

Thanks, that is some good information. I was looking at second hand ones around me as I have no family in the area to ask and I was wanting to start this adventure with some basic recipes that I don't need to spend too much time on until I can actually set aside some time to stay in the kitchen. 

Arjon's picture

Before spending a meaningful amount of money, you might want to find out if using a bread machine is actually for you. Personally, I know several people who own one that they literally never use, either because they found out they don't want to bake bread after all or because they discovered they'd rather bake it without using their machines.

So, if you ask friends and family to find out about getting a loaner, you might be able to learn what you want to do without spending anything on a machine that you too might end up putting into permanent storage. Otoh, if you find that you like using a machine, you'll also have some experience that might help guide you in terms of the kinds of features you want. 

Lazy Loafer's picture
Lazy Loafer

I think the best education into bread making is by making bread by hand. That way, you not only learn how the ingredients react with one another, but you have your eyes, hands and nose involved at every step. You learn how dough feels when the gluten is developed, and when it is 'ripe', and when it has proofed enough to bake, and when it is done. A bread machine does all that automatically without you every being involved and you actually learn very little. The other thing is, most bread machines have pre-programmed cycles that make it difficult to vary ingredients (e.g. reduce the yeast or sweetener, or try a different flour), so they don't actually make the best bread. It ends up more like supermarket bread, made with lots of yeast and very little time to develop the dough. It's less digestible and flavourful that way.

I recommend you download the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, and follow the instructions in the first part called "A Loaf for Learning". Making bread by hand is actually quite easy, and you save the cost of the bread machine (and the counter / cupboard space!).

IceDemeter's picture

are looking at!  So - I'm guessing that you aren't sure if the machine that your Grandmother left you is even working still, or are you concerned that it won't be up to doing what you want?

Seriously, before you spend a penny on anything, I really recommend that you spend a few minutes figuring out a few critical items that will help you make the right decision. 

The first thing that you should think about is what kinds of bread do you really like and want to make regularly?  If you absolutely love artisan style lean sourdough breads baked dark and with an open and airy crumb --- then a machine is of no use to you.  If you like more "sandwich" style lean or enriched breads (with some fat and sweetener and baked in a tin), then a machine could be of use.

Another thing to consider is how many loaves you want to bake each week.  If you only will be making one loaf every couple of weeks, but want to do an occasional big batch of different breads --- well, a machine might not be cost effective (especially since it can only do one loaf at a time --- and breads can stale quite quickly).  If you're going to be doing a few loaves each week, and want a timer so that they can be fresh and hot every second day for dinner - well, that could absolutely make a machine worth your money.

With that in mind - you might find this page useful:

Also - the suggestion to ask around to family and friends to see if someone has one kicking around that you could borrow is a great one.  I know that there are at least a half dozen in my circle that bought one, used it very occasionally for a few months, and then had it gradually disappear in to the back of a cabinet...  A number of those are still regularly baking bread, mind you - just found that it was easier without the machine, and that they preferred sourdough lean breads.  Their strong recommendation to me when I started wanting to make bread was to wait until I had enough experience to know where an investment in equipment would be most worthwhile (grain mill, stand mixer, dutch oven, baking stones, better scale, specialty tins, etc.).

I hope that you get the chance to read a bit in Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, too, and jump right in with the learning loaf.  There really is nothing like getting your hands on the dough to really start to understand how this whole process works.  There is also the "Handbook" here on the site, and there are great recipes right on the Home page (check "Favorite Recipes") that you could start with. 

Good luck, and have fun!  The memories of baking with your Grandmother are sure to bring a smile to your face every time you smell that bread baking...

BakeonlytheBest's picture

Thank you so much everyone for your amazing responses. I now have so much to think about, and will be contacting relatives to see if there is anyone I can grab a machine from. Wish me luck!

BakeonlytheBest's picture

I asked around with some family and friends about anyone having a machine I could buy from them, and a good friend pointed me to some bread machines on which is where his grandfather sold his bread machine. I found some lovely older machines on there that I think will be great to tinker around with, although like everyone has said I need to get my hands on some dough and see what happens :) Thanks for all the support and suggestions.