Bread Maker Series: Using a bread machine isn’t cheating

One of MANY homemade pizzas made over the last few years – started with our bread machine.

I’ve been working on my breadmaking skills for the past few years and I’ve found working with yeast to be frustrating. That frustration led me to the path of using a bread machine, which is a far easier way to master the yeast process of bread making and can be an amazing shortcut to homemade bread in a matter of hours – rather than days.

I harbor no ill feelings toward those who want to master breadmaking with yeast in the traditional way, I personally have found that it tries my patience. Baking is truly chemistry and yeast baking is particular when it comes to temperature. At least when you’re cooking, if you are not precise with the ingredients, it usually still comes out tasting alright. Even cookies that are a bit botched still usually taste good. Bread that doesn’t come out right is usually inedible – dense, unrisen, possibly even doughy in the middle. I hate putting the time into baking bread only to have it result in something inedible. Enter… the bread machine!

My mom gifted me her bread machine, a 2lb Oster Express bread machine that looks like this – but since it’s honestly at least 15-20 years old, it’s not available any longer.

Pros of using a bread machine

  • It is an easy way to master the initial knead, rise, proof (or the yeast portion of breadmaking) that can be complex and vary widely depending on the temperature of your home.
  • It is versatile to make bread OR dough – so you can make a fully baked loaf of bread or prep dough and shape it into non-loaf types of bread like rolls, pizza, cinnamon rolls, baguettes, boules, etc.
  • It significantly reduces the time that goes into breadmaking – from up to potentially a multi-day affair to a matter of hours.
  • It is significantly less of a mess – you combine ingredients right in the bread machine and don’t have to knead or mix in a bowl or on your counter.
  • Newer machines have delayed start features so that you could prep your bread machine the night before and have your bread bake in the morning, for example.

Cons of using a bread machine

  • The machines themselves can be expensive, I got mine as a hand me down, but they range in price from $100+ to buy new. You can buy one used on Ebay if you are comfortable with that for less than $100.
  • I’ve found the texture of bread machine bread to be on the gummier side and the crust is quite hard/dense.
  • I don’t love the size and shape of bread machine loaves, which are super tall – almost double the height of a bakery loaf.
  • There will be a hole in the bottom of your bread machine bread from the paddle.
  • It is noisy! My bread machine (likely because it is older) creates such a racket in my kitchen when in use.

Two of my favorite ways to use my bread machine involve prepping the dough in the bread machine and then finishing in the oven. The rise stage of breadmaking is the area where I get tripped up, and the bread machine can help you craft perfectly risen and proofed dough in about 90 minutes (instead of taking up to 8 hours!).

Making Your Own Pizza Dough: We went through a phase when we were making homemade pizzas almost every weekend and we were loving the ease of making homemade dough. I like to make mine with a savory infused olive oil (like garlic or basil) and mix in dried herbs or parmesan cheese. This recipe is a simple one to follow. Note that when a bread machine recipe calls for yeast – you can use bread machine yeast – which comes in a jar in the flour aisle. I keep mine in the freezer, but let it warm up to room temperature before using.

Bread machine pizza dough topped with leftover veggies we had in the fridge – a great “clean out the fridge” recipe!

Shaping Dough into Non-Loaf Styles of Breads: If the giant machine loaf of bread isn’t your style, you can prep your dough in the bread machine and then shape it into your preferred style of bread. I’ve made rolls, baguettes and one time even cinnamon rolls. That didn’t go so well for me, but it was my own fault! The baguettes were one of my favorite things to make because they looked like they came from a bakery. Here are a few recipes that start in the bread machine and end being shaped by hand and baked in your oven:

Homemade baguettes – started in the bread machine and hand shaped and baked.

French Baguette recipe

Buttery Dinner Rolls recipe

Cinnamon Rolls recipe

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