Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Basics Of Choosing A Bread Machine

By John McKain

If one of your major temptations is fresh bread, then you need a bread machine to indulge your cravings. Regardless of personal preferences or even budgetary constraints, you are guaranteed to find the perfect one for you.

When bread machines first came on the market in the 1980s, they became an immediate hit. Even with their $300+ price tags, people scooped them up off store shelves and headed home to bake up a storm. In the beginning, the mainstream houseware retailers hadn't caught on to the craze; bread machines were made by companies who produced that one particular product only.

Finally in the 90s the big houseware lines jumped in and produced a better product for less money, usually in the $75 to $100 range. In stark contrast to the earlier versions, these were less noisy and much less bulky. Many had far more options than the older ones as well.

Since any baker will tell you, you need a round pan to mix ingredients, so the first bread machines all produced round loaves of bread. The loaves may have looked strange, but they still tasted like regular homemade bread - fabulous. So who could complain? It would be another few years before manufacturers figured out how to make a bread machine with a square baking tin that could also produce some reliable bread.

Nowadays it's easy to find round and square models. (The actual machines are all square or rectangular; it's only the inside baking pan whose shape will change.) Some bread baking aficionados will swear by the round tin because the bread is easier to bake and the quality is more dependable. However, even though many now prefer the square tins, the uses do admit that the loaves do end up with some burned edges or unmixed flour near the corners.

Bored with making just bread all the time? Newer models have custom settings for Danish, pizza dough, specialty doughs like Italian bread, and a whole range of other tasty options. The machine will still mix the dough, let is rise, and then let you know when it's ready for your next steps.

If you have ever tried to make your own home made bread, you'll see right away how much time and effort these machines save while still producing equal or better bread. They are set up to standardize mixing times, raising times, and kneading times. If you have ten minutes to add the ingredients, and if you know how to push a button, you already know how to use a bread machine.

One of the key factors in deciding which one to buy is to see how easy it is to clean. The easier it is to clean, the more expensive it will be, but still very reasonably priced in contract to 25 years ago. Most machines only allow you to remove the baking pan or pail in which your bread bakes. These are usually dishwasher safe. However, as the pan turns and jostles about inside, flour will fly and milk will splash. Cleaning up these spills can be almost impossible. Chances are that the spills will fall all the way down to the heating coil, and these are very difficult to clean because they are pretty fragile.

One very important part that you need to remove completely is the top. Bread can sometimes rise too high and stick to it. Cleaning can be difficult if you can't take it off. Also look for internal splash guards that you can remove to wash.

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