The Fresh Loaf

A Community of 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.



Jane.Dough's picture

would you mind sharing one simple recipe from the book? I'd love to try it but not sure if I want to shell out the money without trying. Or perhaps someone out there in the blogging world has one on their site? 

mariana's picture


Open Library has this book available to borrow for free, either for an hour or for two weeks to read it online. Registration requires only your email and a simple password.

Possibly, your local public library has this e-book as well to borrow immediately and read it online as a web version, or downloaded, if you are in the US or Canada.

Open library is worldwide. No limits to access that book, its first edition. The latest 2015 edition of Rustic European Breads is not available there, though. 





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!

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!  


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.


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.

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.


ichadwick's picture

I have her recipe book (among my dozens of bread books), but as I recall she measures by cups, and not by weight. In my experience, that’s too inaccurate and imprecise for machines, although when baking by hand you can generally work the dough by feel and add whatever else might be necessary. Since a cup0 of flour can weigh 116-170g, depending on age, brand, type, milling, packing, sifting and storage, it is difficult to figure proper hydration levels using cups (Emily Buehler in her book Bread Science suggests 111g/cup!). Bread machines aren’t very tolerant of such wide ranges of hydration.

She has some interesting ideas for loaves, though, and I hope a revised edition using weights gets released.

ichadwick's picture

I realize this is long past the time when it was first posted, but I made a loaf in my Kitchenarm machine recently, using the tangzhou method: I heated 120g of water and 25g of flour in a saucepan until it was a pudding, then stirred it into the remaining liquid, and added the remaining flour and other ingredients. Crumb was excellent: firm yet soft and chewy (and great toasted!).

Another method I’ve used is to add 1-2T of potato starch to the recipe (I usually make 750g/1.5lb loaves using 400g total flour). I have ordered some diastatic malt, too, to experiment with. I’ve used it before with oven-baked bread, but not in the machine yet.