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Bread Makers

Saturday, 7 August 2010 | Tags: ,

Anyone who enjoys fresh bread, but not the effort needed to make it, will love a handy countertop bread maker. It still takes a few hours, but the machine does almost all the work, taking out the guesswork and giving you a slice of freedom to go with your fresh bread.

The Basics

  • There are as many brands, models, styles, colors and features of bread makers as there are types of bread you can make. Choose one based on your own preference and lifestyle.

  • If you’re short on storage or counter space, consider a compact model.

  • If you’ll use it a lot, consider matching it to your other appliances since it will be on your counter a lot.

  • The type of bread you want to make dictates the features of the machine you should buy. The more features, the higher the price tag, so only pay for what you’ll use.

  • The range of features found in many bread makers include:

    • Settings for bread type (white bread, wheat-free bread, French bread, or fruit and nut breads), crust colour (light, medium, dark), and texture (regular, firm soft).

    • “Dough Cycle” just mixes the dough but doesn’t bake it, which is good if you want to use the dough for other purposes (e.g. pizza, cinnamon rolls)

    • A “User Programmable” feature lets your program your own cycles.

    • The “Fast Bake” feature bakes the bread faster; in some models, under an hour.

    • A viewing window is helpful for checking progress.

    • A programmable timer is handy for fresh-baked bread while you’re otherwise occupied.

    • An ingredient timer signals when to add ingredients (like fruit and nuts) during the baking process

    • A “keep warm” function keeps bread warm if you’re not around when it’s done.

  • Most machines produce loaves somewhere in the range of 1 to 2.5 pounds.

  • The pans are most often aluminum with a nonstick coating. Some are dishwasher safe. Make sure you use wood or plastic utensils to avoid scratching the coating.

  • Dual kneading blades knead the dough more thoroughly, so that your finished loaf has a better crumb.

  • Look for a legible display with easy-to-understand settings.

  • For baking mainly whole-wheat or multi-grain loaves, look for a machine with higher than average horsepower, as this will help knead the heavier grains.

Other Considerations

  • Many grocery stores carry bread mixes made especially for bread makers.

Be Aware

  • Bread that sits in the bread maker for a considerable amount of time after it’s done gets soft or soggy. The “keep warm” feature shouldn’t be used for extended periods of time.

  • Machines that take longer than half an hour to preheat or longer than 3.5 hours to make a basic loaf may be more of a burden than convenience in the kitchen.

  • Make sure that the gears inside the machine never get wet.

TEST CRITERIA

We tested these machines at home over a few weeks, and also took them for a bake-off at a local bakery:

  • Sunbeam #5891: $59.99
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • Black & Decker #B2200: $69.99
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • Zojirushi 1lb: $229.99
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com

(Note: prices listed above are approximate and in Canadian dollars)

 

Usage Test

We found that all of the bread makers were relatively easy to use. Push the buttons and go.

Bake Test

  • The Sunbeam makes loaves big enough to feed a family and was a favourite in the home tests. In the bakery bake-off, the loaf collapsed considerably and our expert baker described the crust as “too porous” and “mealy.”

  • The Black & Decker machine has a “keep warm” feature and dishwasher safe pans. It produced a loaf with a thick crust, but failed to wow any of us.

  • The Zojirushi Mini is nicely compact, can make cake and jam, and gave us a loaf with a compact grain and a pleasantly thin crust. Its controls are also very user-friendly.

OUR TOP PICK

The most expensive product definitely performed the best in our tests. We recommend the Zojirushi Mini bread maker.

 

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