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Ask Casey: Buying a Bread Machine

Ask Casey: Cooking and Kitchen Questions Answered

Do you ever recommend using one of those bread makers? And have you done any research on which one would be the best? I love making homemade bread, but with two small kids, I rarely have the time to do it. I’m thinking this might be a nice little Christmas present to myself.

Now that I’m working at home, I find it much easier to carve out time for breadmaking during the day. There are a number of recipes that come together very quickly with minimal to no kneading (see two at the end of the post), and I can set a timer for an hour or two and come down from the office to poke and proof the dough as needed. However, I don’t have two kids, and can see the appeal in consolidating your efforts with the help of a machine.

The biggest benefit to having a bread machine is that the kneading, rising, proofing, and baking will take place in one location. No extra bowls, no setting timers; you just put your ingredients in and push buttons. While a stand mixer, a countertop, and a baking sheet can accomplish a lot, there’s still some organization necessary.

Note that the mixing process in a bread machine requires the use of internal paddles, which leave small holes in one end of your loaf. If this is unacceptable in terms of your aesthetic vision for your bread, you can use the machine to prep the dough up to the baking point, then transfer the dough and bake in your oven in whatever shape you want (loaf, ciabatta, baguette).

today's homemade ciabatta with olive oil
today's homemade ciabatta with olive oil

But speaking of making the dough in the machine and removing to bake in your oven, it’s also good to know that since bread machines are in the business of mixing dough, you can yours to make pizza dough, cinnamon roll dough… I’ve even read that some people make their pasta dough this way. If you’ve been reading my posts with envy but don’t feel up to the challenge, this might be the solution for you.

If you do decide to take the plunge, I would suggest spending a bit of time on the Best Bread Machine site. Loaded with explanations and recommendations, these people are much more knowledgeable than I could ever claim to be on the subject. I will say, from my light reading, that the Zojirushi brand seems to be well-loved.

Recipes? Yes, I promised recipes. For the famous New York Times/Jim Lahey No-Knead Bread, go here for the recipe and here for the story behind it. If you haven’t yet heard of this way to make bread, suffice to say that it’s worth a shot: the ingredients, which mix together in five minutes, use a long rise and fermentation time in place of kneading.

This whole wheat bread, adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, is fast and requires no kneading at all—it’s easier than making chocolate chip cookies.
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Quick Whole Wheat Bread

adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything
Makes 1 loaf

  • 12 oz (about 2 1/2 cups) whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups buttermilk or plain yogurt (not Greek yogurt)
  • 1/3 cup water or maple syrup*

Preheat the oven to 325˚ and grease a standard-size loaf pan.

Mix together the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and check for consistency; as Mark says, “it’s pourable but not wet, like good (not too dry) oatmeal.”

Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, testing at 45 minutes with a toothpick or knife in the center to see if it comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes on a rack, then remove the loaf from the pan and allow to cool completely before cutting.

*Note that Mark’s original recipe calls for molasses instead of water or maple syrup. I found the bread very sweet, like Boston brown bread (ah, fond memories of meals at Eat n’ Park). If this is your bag, then by all means substitute—I simply prefer a more savory bread.
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Ask Casey any food-related queries (or hire me to cook at your next party!) at caseyATgoodfoodstoriesDOTcom.

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