If you prefer fresh-baked bread over the store-bought variety, you might want to invest in a bread machine and make your own. In addition to producing loaves, some bread machines can make pizza, pasta and bagel dough -- as well as meatloaf, jam and even butter. There are many different kinds of bread machines on the market, and they're uniquely designed to suit individual needs. Here are some tips to help you decide on the bread machine that’s right for you.
Evaluate your counter space and pick the size that’s right for your kitchen. Also, consider the amount of people you want to serve. If you plan on serving big groups, a large machine can produce 2.5-lb. loaves and yield about 20 slices. A smaller machine will yield a 1-pound loaf, which is equivalent to about eight slices.
Determine how much time you’ll have to use the bread machine. The average baking time on larger machines is 3 1/2 hours, but a small machine can bake bread in an hour or less. Some larger machines are equipped with a quick-bake cycle, which can reduce baking time by an hour or more, but users say the bread tends to come out denser.
Decide which features you need. You can get a high-quality bread machine for less than $100, but you’ll have to sacrifice certain features. If you prefer a fully programmable machine (with customized settings rather than preprogrammed options), it can cost as much as $250.
Extra features that users find convenient include:
A delay timer allows you to come home or wake up to fresh bread. You can prepare the ingredients in advance, and bake at a later time. Many bread machines come with a 13-hour delay timer.
An alert that indicates when to add ingredients is helpful if you're baking with fruit and nuts.
A “keep warm” feature keeps the bread hot even after it’s done baking.
Power-failure protection will save your settings if power is lost, but on some models, the power button must be pressed to resume baking.
Most bread machines have different cycles for various kinds of dough. If you want to make something other than bread, some machines have settings for foods such as pizza dough, meatloaf, jam, etc.
A crust control function will allow you to select light, medium, or dark crust.
For more information and to see which machines get the best reviews, check out our recently updated report on bread makers.
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