Freshly made bread has been an iconic symbol of home comfort throughout history. Cheap, tasty and relatively easy to make, it is a favourite in many households. However, the cost and availability of store bought loaves means less people make bread from scratch at home.
While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing in itself, it does mean that many families are missing out on the simple pleasure of home cooked bread with its pleasant aroma, texture and taste when freshly cooked.
Do I need a bread maker?
You can get away without owning a single bread maker in your whole life, either because you buy your bread from bakeries or the supermarket, or you make it from scratch and use the oven to bake your dough. However, a bread maker offers a number of benefits that are often overlooked.
Firstly, the quality of bread and consistency in taste is something that comes hand in hand with a bread maker. By being able to control the ingredients and cooking method yourself, you can make sure that you’re always eating bread that you and your family love.
The bread available from most supermarkets is cheap and often does the job, but when you need your bread to take a more important role in your meals, such as freshly made sandwiches or bruschetta meal starters, for example, it’s better to either make your own bread or buy something more expensive from a decent bakery.
What types of bread makers are there?
In essence, a bread maker is something that takes the hard work and hassle out of making bread. While some offer minimal functionality, other more fancier models allow you to explore dozens of baking options, letting you cook any type of bread you desire like sourdough, wholemeal, rye loaves, bread filled with nuts and fruit and even cakes in some cases.
Different kinds of bread makers come with different functions:
- Non-stick break trays
- Adjustable load sizes
- Delayed start options
- Yeast dispenser
- Automatic shut down
- LCD display
- Warming settings
- Rapid bake mode
- Dishwasher friendly parts
- Viewing window
- Gluten-free settings
How much does a bread maker cost?
You don’t need to fork out a great deal of money to buy a decent bread maker. There are a number of options on the market you can pick up for under $100. If you’re not fussed about the look of your device, you can find one even cheaper that will turn out perfectly good quality loaves time and again.
As a general rule, the more you pay the more programmes and functions your machine will come with, allowing you to modify your production process and create the exact kind of bread you want. Other more basic options may limit your options, but if you’re looking to simply bake your family’s standard loaf for breakfast and daily lunches, then this shouldn’t be a problem.
Whether the cost of a bread maker is worth it or not largely comes down to how often you use it. As the basic cost of bread from supermarkets is low, you will probably have to use your bread maker regularly for a whole year to make it worth the cost.
However, when it comes to great taste and satisfaction, this is less quantifiable, and making great quality bread even just once a year on special occasions could be worth the cost.
Bread maker features: important considerations
Bread makers comes with different types of kneading capabilities, but most machines will come with at least one paddle. Two paddles are said to produce better quality bread however, as it mimics the movement of kneading bread with two hands.
Some machines allow you to remove the paddles after the kneading stage, while others leave it in place while it bakes. There’s no real consequence to the bread quality with either option, but if the kneading paddle is left in the bread, it will create a whole at the bottom of your loaf once it has been made.
So that you can wake up to a fresh loaf, or welcome your guests with bread that is still warm during your important meals, a delayed timer is a great feature to have. Using this feature, you can set your machine to start baking at a specific time (such as 6 am in the morning), so this it is ready when you want to eat it.
If you’re cooking your bread at night, you’ll probably want a bread maker that is close to silent – especially if your bedrooms are near to the kitchen. Bread makers aren’t the loudest appliances you’ll own but if noise is an important consideration, look for models that are higher up the price range as they’re more likely to be sturdy and solid, meaning you won’t hear the kneading mechanism quite as much.
If you buy a cheaper more flimsy model, you may experience a great deal of noise and movement when your bread maker is in the kneading stage.
For certain bread types, you’ll need to add different ingredients at different times. In these situations, having an alarm on your machine comes in handy. For example, if you plan to bake fruit and nut bread, your bread maker alarm will tell you when it’s the right time to add these things so that they don’t get crushed by the mixing cycle.
If you want to make more than standard loaves, you can buy a bread maker that offers speciality features that allow you to make things like jam, noodles, cakes, sourdough or pizza dough.
While most bread machines offer the same basic functionality, there is a huge difference between brands and models when it comes to additional programmable options. This is also where the difference in price comes from. If you pay more for your bread maker, it is likely to come with a collection of additional features and options that make the process of breadmaking easier and more enjoyable.
These programmable options will give you more control over how you make your bread, allowing you to make different types of bread with ease. Again, if you’re just looking to make standard bread loaves for your family to save on supermarket costs, then you don’t need to splash out on a bread maker with a thousand programmable options.
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Our top picks for best bread makers
We understand that there are plenty of great bread makers out there and affordability changes depending on country and relevant deals that are offered by supermarkets or manufacturers. However, we’ve rounded up some top picks to give you an idea of some of the best bread makers on the market.
If you choose to invest in one of these models, or something with similar features at a decent price range, you’ll be able to improve your bread making abilities overnight. Literally.
1. Oster 2-Pound Expressbake Bread Machine
This machine is a great budget option that is also great for newcomers to the world of breadmaking. Simple functionality and programmable options make bread making easy and reliable. Baking up to 2-pounds, it comes with 12 different settings and three crust settings that allow you to make a variety of different bread types. And one of the best features of this model is it can produce a loaf in under an hour! Perfect for if you’ve just realised you’ve run out of bread and want to cook one first thing in the morning or before your guests arrive.
2. The Zojirushi Bakery Virtuoso Breadmaker
The Zojirushi Bakery Virtuoso is a well-known bread maker with decent functionality for multiple bread types. With a generous rectangle bread pan, two kneading paddles and a large window for watching your creations grow, it allows you to make gluten-free bread and other options with ease. It also lets you bake with organic ingredients and choose the way you want to cook your crust (light, medium or dark).
This option is great for bakers who want to have more control over their bread and are already used to the process of homemade breadmaking. The multiple programmable options and features make it great for experimenting with sourdough, wheat bread and cakes, but due to the higher price tag, it’s probably not the best option for novices or those on a tighter budget.
3. Hamilton Beach Programmable Bread Machine
This 2-pound bread machine comes with 12 settings for a variety different ingredients and recipes, such as French, gluten-free, quick bread, sweet, as well as basic 1.5-lb express and 2-lb express loaves – if you’re in a rush and need a quick loaf. It also includes a dishwasher friendly bread pan and 2 kneading paddles, making maintenance and cleaning as easy as the bread making process itself.
4. Breadman 2-Pound Professional Bread Maker
This bread maker is probably one of the best when it comes to multi-functionality and programmable options. With 14 baking functions, it is well suited to baking everything from white, whole wheat, French and sweet bread to low-carb, gluten-free and sour dough. The machine also has collapsible kneading paddles meaning won’t have big holes in the loaf at the end and also making it easier to remove the loaf from the pan.
5. T-Fal ActiBread Programmable Bread Machine
This is probably the best gluten free bread maker on this list, with a dedicated setting designed to offer three types of gluten free loaves: gluten-free salty, gluten-free sweet and gluten-free cake. It also has a decent a delayed start feature that lets you plan bakes from up to 15 hours before you plan to eat it, automatically keeping the bread warm for when you need it.
6. Zojirushi One-Pound Home Bakery Mini Bread Maker
The Zojirushi One-Pound Home Bakery Mini Bread Maker is great for small kitchen spaces or small families. You don’t always need a large 2-pound loaf that will go to waste after all. With this model, you can create great tasting loaves of up to 1-pound, with all the ease and functionality of larger models. Even better, this appliance will fit perfectly into your cupboard or drawers without you having to shuffle things about too much.
Finding the best home bread maker depends largely on your price and budget. If you only need to bake simple wheat loaves for your daily breakfast or lunch, you’ll be able to pick up a cheap and reliable model from almost anywhere. However, if you’re no newbie to the world of bread making and want more control over exactly how your loaves turn out – with intentions to make speciality loaves and bread containing various ingredients – then it’s advised to invest in a more expensive model with added functionality.