Making bread from scratch is a time-consuming process that requires expertise and experience to ensure success. If the process is not followed correctly, the loaf may not rise properly, may contain internal spaces, or be of an incorrect texture. Kneading dough for ten minutes can also be hard work. An electric breadmaker solves these problems by providing the ideal environment for a loaf during all stages of the preparation and cooking process. Breadmakers essentially allow cooks to approach bread making with a “set it and forget it” attitude; once ingredients have been placed in the bread pan and the machine activated, cooks typically need do nothing but wait for their hot, fresh, crusty loaf of bread to emerge in a finished condition.
The most obvious and outstanding benefit of a breadmaker is the way it makes freshly baked bread so much more accessible to home cooks. This is far from the only advantage offered by automated bread machines, however.
Many cooks find that a breadmaker actually allows them to save on their food bill as compared to buying loafs from the nearest bakery or grocery shop. A breadmaker may not save money if families are already accustomed to purchasing the cheapest possible bread, but those who prefer to buy artisan or quality loafs will be able to realise a considerable saving. Furthermore, the amount of money saved can be increased if cooks begin to buy ingredients in bulk, which is an appropriate choice if the breadmaker will be used on a frequent basis to make the family’s bread supply. In most cases, the single most expensive ingredient in a loaf of home-baked bread is the yeast. Instead of purchasing single packets or cubes of yeast, families should consider buying a kilo of yeast at a restaurant supply company or even on eBay; this can bring the price down to just a few pence per loaf. Once a packet of yeast is opened, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Yeast stored in this way will retain its potency for years.
Baking from scratch is a very time-consuming process that can require many steps including several rounds of hand kneading. It would not be unusual for a cook to devote several hours to the task each week, a time span which includes significant breaks while the dough rests or rises. Bread machines move through this process much more efficiently, producing a loaf in as little as two and a half hours. This alone makes home baking much more feasible for today’s busy households.
Control Over Ingredients
Many consumers today are keenly aware that manufactured foods can contain ingredients that are less then optimal for human health. Making bread at home allows cooks to control exactly what goes into a loaf. This has a number of positive implications. No longer will the family’s bread supply contain preservatives or other artificial ingredients. Those who are watching their salt intake can eliminate salt from the bread they eat. Children or adults with allergies to common ingredients can be assured of bread that will not trigger a reaction. Finally, consumers with an interest in fresh, organic ingredients can incorporate them into their bread making, producing high-quality loaves that are highly affordable compared to those available in speciality health-food stores.
Variations Among Breadmakers
When bread making machines first appeared on the domestic market, they were quite costly. Now, a range of options exists, bringing automated home bread baking within the range of even the most modest budget. Inexpensive machines will lack the advanced features available on fancy models, but they are just as good at making delicious loaves of bread. Consumers interested in buying a home breadmaker will need to make a number of decisions about their own preferences regarding the finished product. They will also need to decide which advanced features they want to have available.
The first major decision to be made concerns the overall shape of the loaves produced by a given bread machine. Early breadmakers always had a baking pan that was tall and narrow. This produced a loaf that differed markedly from the ones consumers were used to buying in supermarkets or that they made by hand. These “vertical” breadmakers are still available, but now shoppers can also opt for a machine that produces a loaf with a standard profile: three times as long as it is tall. Such machines are sometimes called “horizontal” breadmakers. Horizontal machines tend to be more expensive than vertical ones because they require two kneading blades, along with additional machinery to power them, in order to properly mix ingredients across the whole length of the loaf.
Some breadmakers are only capable of producing a one-pound loaf, while others have larger baking pans that can make a loaf as large as three pounds. Machines that produce only small loaves will often be less expensive than their larger counterparts, but they also require cooks to prepare bread more frequently. This is not necessarily a drawback, however. Because home-baked loaves are unlikely to contain preservatives, they cannot be stored for the long periods sometimes associated with shop-bought loaves. Many people find that the ideal way to use a home breadmaker is to prepare a fresh loaf from scratch every two or three days. Some machines have special settings that allow more than one size of loaf to be baked. This provides a home cook with the same kind of flexibility that is available when making bread in the traditional way.
Even the most inexpensive breadmaker will allow a home cook to program it to a certain extent. More expensive machines, however, offer a significantly greater range of options, allowing the machine to be used in more versatile ways.
Common baking features
Basic breadmakers will almost always provide a cook with several options that can influence the taste and appearance of a finished loaf. Users can select light or dark crust; the latter option will simply cause the machine to bake the loaf for a few additional minutes, sometimes at a higher temperature that finishes off the crust as desired. Basic machines will also provide a “dough only” setting which will mix and knead ingredients in addition to providing an ideal environment for proofing, which refers to allowing the dough to rise. Dough only settings allow home cooks to prepare a variety of goods that need to be shaped by hand; these include dinner rolls, pastries, pizza dough, and baps. A “quick bread” cycle is usually also available on simple machines; this is used to prepare breads that lack yeast and hence do not require kneading.
Advanced Baking Features
More elaborate bread machines provide cycles matched to different varieties of bread. For example, those who bake with whole grain flours will need a machine that can account for the fact that these flours take much longer to absorb water. Special cycles designed to make gluten-free loaves, sweet breads, and even French bread are also available on some machines. Technically, any of these loaves can be prepared in a simple bread machine as well, but the results will be less impressive than when the machine’s heating, resting, kneading, and baking processes have been fine tuned to match the sort of bread desired. Some breadmakers will emit a beeping sound when it is time to add certain ingredients. This can be useful when a recipe calls for ingredients such as nuts, dried fruits, or chocolate chips. Adding these at the start can cause them to be crushed during the initial mixing cycle. They can always be added later to any bread machine, but it can be helpful to have the machine itself issue an audible reminder. Some machines do have an internal container that will release nuts, etc., into the mixture at the appropriate stage in the cooking.
Basic bread machines begin work immediately when activated. Fancier models allow users to program a delay before baking will commence. Cooks can therefore load a machine with ingredients and control the timing so that they wake up to the smell of a fresh loaf ready to emerge from the breadmaker.
Some breadmakers offer a wide range of cycles for making food items other than bread. A breadmaker may be able to double as a rice cooker or a machine for making jams and marmalades. Others can produce dough suitable for making pasta. Some even offer a soup cycle.
Some very high-end breadmakers allow owners to enter programs for their own recipes. This is not a feature that most breadmaker users would need on a frequent basis, but a dedicated home cook with specialised recipes would find it a time-saver. The advantage is that saved programs can be re-activated when needed, thereby eliminating the need to manually enter each and every step involved.
Find Breadmakers on eBay
Breadmakers on eBay are listed in the Home & Garden section. To find their exact category, start at Home & Garden and choose Furniture & Living. After selecting Cookware, Dining, & Bar, choose Small Appliances. Several options will load in the left-hand pane; choose Breadmakers.
Choosing a breadmaker involves making a number of decisions regarding style, size, and features. Shoppers can find an extensive assortment of breadmakers on eBay, where machines for making fresh bread at home are available in both basic versions and fancy high-end machines with advanced features.