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Bread machine very inconsistant

slowandsteady's picture
slowandsteady

Bread machine very inconsistant

I have a Cuisinart machine and the breads fail unless I use only all purpose flour and only make 1.5 lb loaves. Bread flour doesn't work and rye and whole wheat flours, even mixed with all purpose flour (and following the recipies that came with the machine) tend to be very dense on the bottom. Some combos lead to dense on the bottom and risen and collapsed on the top. Freshly bought yeast didn't change anything. I bought some vital wheat gluten but don't have a clue how much to add.

Things I'd like to be able to do.

1) 2-lb. loaves

2) 100% whole wheat and 50% whole wheat bread

3) 100% bread flour breads

4) NY deli type rye bread

5) Pumpernickel

The flour I use is local (Oregon). The whole wheat and rye flours come from Bob's Red Mill. The all purpose and "bread" flour are whatever local brand is cheapest at the time I need another bag. White flour is stored on the shelf; the others are kept in the freezer and weighed out several hours before I want to bake. The only reason I use a bread machine is that I have arthritis in both thumbs and it's too painful to knead..

Suggestions gratefully accepted!

phaz's picture
phaz

Can't give advice on the bread machine, except to not use it. Kneading I can help with. You don't need to manipulate (knead) a dough, time and rising will do the same thing, with no effort at all. 8 or so hrs, or 4 with 2 good rises is enough to get enough gluten to make bread. Google "no knead bread" - the only real handling of the dough is mixing it at the start, and shaping it later. Enjoy! 

Beth's picture
Beth

That is an unfortunate and all-too-common issue with bread machines. A lot of it has to do with using a timer and no other cues for when it is ready to move to the next step.

Two options for you:
1) Explore no-knead breads, as already suggested, assuming your arthritis will let you stir a soft dough with a spoon or spatula. For 100% whole wheat or 15% dark rye/85% whole wheat (which can be a start to pumpernickel), I use 500 grams cool water, 600 g flour, 1/4-1/2 tsp yeast (depending on how warm the kitchen is), and 1 tsp salt. Stir together with a spoon to combine just before going to bed, cover, and leave on the counter until morning. Then park it in the refrigerator until afternoon or as long as 2 days later. Use wet hands to fold it on itself a few times and shape it into a round or log, put it in a pan (I use a small oval dutch oven - just large enough for a 4 lb chicken), slash the top with the sharpest knife on the rack, and bake covered at 450 for 1/2 hour and then uncovered at 350 for 40 minutes. I often line the dish with a piece of parchment so I can remove the hot bread to cool on a cutting board without burning my fingers and immediately put a chicken in the same pot to roast, saving the effort of washing it in between. [This formula would be too much water for a white flour or half white flour loaf.]

2) Use your bread machine to do the mixing and kneading for you with a conventional (i.e., lower hydration) recipe, then turn the machine off and proof, shape, rise, and bake yourself, using all of the visual cues to help you gauge the timing.

Sabina's picture
Sabina

I also can't help, but I had the same problem with my first bread maker. It didn't help that I'd never made bread by hand before so I didn't know what to look for. About every 2nd or third loaf did not turn out right. And that was with the same ingredients painstakingly measured each time, for the same recipe that came with the machine. I got so fed up with it I finally gave the bread machine away. Incidentally, the person I gave it to didn't have any problems with it, but they gifted me their older, less complicated bread machine (mine had a special gluten-free setting which is what they wanted). I almost never had problems with their bread machine. I'm still annoyed that I don't know what the problem was with my machine. There are two things that I can think of, though, looking back, now that I make bread by hand. The first is that I should have been monitoring the dough wetness during the machine's kneading, and adding small amounts of flour or water depending on how wet or dry the dough looked. However, since I didn't need to do that with the machine which was later gifted to me, I'm not convinced that was the real problem. The second is that my first machine's recipes called for the liquid ingredients to be at a specific temperature, and, since I didn't have any way to measure that, I probably didn't get it accurate. That machine started kneading everything right away. My second machine, in contrast, just let everything sit for quite a while before it started kneading, and I suspect it was warming everything up to a good proofing temperature (I didn't have any documentation so I can't be sure). I actually suspect that that was the real difference between the two machines.

If the only reason you're using a machine instead of making bread by hand is that you don't want to/can't knead, you can still use your machine for the kneading and do everything else without it. Honestly, from my experience, the shape that the bread machine bakes the bread into is really awkward and awful anyway. Most bread machines have a dough or pasta setting which you can use just for kneading or to also do the first rise. Then you can take the dough out and shape and rise then bake in your oven. Even if your machine doesn't have such a setting, you can just unplug it once you can hear and see that the kneading is done.

I have to say I much prefer making bread not in the machine. My machine's broken now, and I really do miss being able to knead using it, but using the machine for the entire bread-making process was just too finicky. You have much more flexibility without it. If you need to let your dough rise longer, or take the bread out of the oven sooner, or bake your bread in a non-bread-machine shape, it's not a problem if you're not using the machine.

mariana's picture
mariana

Hi, 

I don't have Cuisinart, but I agree with the other commenters - each bread machine is unique and sometimes one works for you and other won't. It's a mystery. I have two bread machines and I love both of them, but one bakes bread, any bread, just like that, easy-peasy, set it and forget it, and another one - I struggle with each recipe, until it bakes properly and the bread is off the charts good, heavenly, beautiful, you will never make something like that by hand or in the regular oven. 

So, in your case, if you wish to keep this particular brand and model of bread maker, then simply work on one bread, one recipe at a time, to figure out what works, to successfully make bread in that particular machine. You can post your results with each specific recipe here and we will discuss what to do to make it better. 

I could tell you that sifting flour works, even though it is never mentioned, but many students of mine started sifting flour for bread before adding it into the bread machine pan and the difference is remarkable. Sifting flour makes better bread, indeed. 

Another point, Cuisinart asks for all ingredients, including water, egg, butter, flour, etc. to be quite warm, 24-32C (75-90F), which is very unusual. My bread machines work best with ice cold water, ice cold butter, refrigerated eggs, yeast straight from the fridge, etc. 

Dense in the bottom and fluffy or even sunken on top seems to be typical for breads made in vertical Cuisinart compact model. I judge by the photos of breads from Amazon clients, who bake in Cuisinart Compact bread machine. The solution is to shape loaf by hand, once the dough is ready and the machine begins to shape it by rotating the blade a few times. Take the dough out, shape your loaf by hand and place it back into the pan and let the machine continue with proofing and baking cycles.  

How to shape it, is shown here: do it like that for breads with or without fillings, roll the dough out, roll it up, fold it, place it in your bread machine pan. 

Finally, about gluten flour. I tried adding it into my flour, but it was not necessary, because all flours that I buy here in Canada, whether Canadian or from the US or Europe are all good for breads in bread machine. Since you already bought your gluten flour, experiment with it. Maybe it will help. The proportions recommended by Betty Hensperger are to add 1-2 tsp of gluten per cup of white flour and 1/2-1 Tbsp of gluten per cup of whole grain flour. Along with that add 1-2 Tbsp more water to your bread machine pan. 

best wishes, 

mariana

 

Sabina's picture
Sabina

I think the machine that didn't work for me was a Cuisinart too.