What to look for
Loaf size and shape Do you prefer a vertical or horizontal
loaf? Vertical loaves can be trickier to slice as the crust around the
sides is softer. The number of slices varies, but generally you can
expect eight slices from a 500g loaf, 12 from a 750g loaf and 16 from a
Loaf colour options / crust control This feature
allows you to select your desired crust colour; most breadmakers have a
choice of light, medium or dark. Some functions are pre-programmed with a
crust colour; “sweet”, for example, would be limited to a light-medium
setting as the increased sugar content can produce a dark crust.
Most breadmakers come with at least an eight-hour delay start feature.
This is great if you want your bread to be fi nished when you wake up or
get home from work, but is only suitable for basic breads that don’t
contain perishable ingredients such as eggs or cheese.
Automatic fruit and nut dispenser
This automatically adds ingredients such as fruit, nuts and herbs for
you at the right time. All models beep when it’s time to add them.
Progress indicator shows the stage of the bread-making process in the electronic display window.
enables you to see the bread as it bakes, reducing the temptation to
open the lid, which can cause heat loss and produce a poor loaf. The
window will fog up during some of the processes. All models on test
except the Panasonic have a viewing window.
Removable lid makes cleaning the machine easier.
Power failure protection
This is a memory device that saves your bread if the power is
interrupted, such as the plug accidentally being removed or a black-out.
All models except the Sunbeam Bakehouse Compact have this feature. Some
machines give you just a few minutes to restore power, while others
give up to one hour, after which the cycle continues where it left off.
If the power goes off during the baking cycle, it’s best to continue
baking in the oven.
User-programmable settings allow the user
to program their own personal recipe cycle times and baking
temperature. This feature is only available on the Breville ikon and the
Manual stop/pause function allows you to be more creative with bread-making.
The pause button
can be activated at any time for up to 10 minutes before the program
continues. Activating the pause at the second rise, for example, allows
you to remove the dough and form it into a braid, pull-apart or fi lled
bread, then place it back into the breadmaker. Only the Breville ikon
and the Sunbeam Quantum have this feature.
Basic White This is used to make traditional white bread. Most bread makers allow you to choose from three crust colours: light, medium or dark.
Rapid, Quick or Turbo This setting is ideal for when you need bread in a hurry. It reduces the cooking time by approximately one hour. Breads made using this setting may be slightly undersized and denser due to the reduced rising time.
Whole wheat, Wheat or Whole grain This setting provides a longer rising time, which is needed for a heavier bread as wheat or grain flours have a slower rising action. Therefore it is normal for whole wheat breads to be slightly smaller and denser than a white loaf. All models have this feature.
Wheat Rapid This setting reduces the cooking time, so it is ideal for when you want bread in a hurry. The rising times are shorter, therefore bread made from a combination of white and wheat flour rather than 100% wheat would produce a better result.
Sweet This setting is for breads that require additional ingredients such as dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate. So the ingredients are not chopped too fine, the timer beeps some time during the second kneading allowing you to add the ingredients manually.
French or Continental This setting reduces the amount of kneading time and increases the rising time. Results are a crispier crust, which is suitable for French and Italian breads, and recipes low in fat and sugar.
Cake or Batter breads Allows you to make cakes or packaged cake mixes, or any non-yeast breads such as banana bread.
Jam Allows you to use fresh fruit to make homemade jam.
Bake only This setting is used to complete the bread baking process, such as baking frozen dough. What this setting can do can be done in a conventional oven.
Gluten free This is suitable for making bread free from gluten, therefore substituting wheat flour with other types of flours such as rice flour, soy flour and chick pea flour.
Damper or Yeast free This is suitable for making a variety of muffin-style or damper breads. The recipes used for this setting rely on baking powder or bicarbonate of soda as the raising agent. This will result in a heavier texture and a loaf that’s not as highly risen as yeast breads.
Pasta This setting prepares the dough for pasta. The dough can then be used in a pasta machine, or rolled out and made by hand.
Dough The dough setting will perform the mixing/kneading/punch down and first rise automatically. Then you can use the dough to shape a variety of different breads such as assorted rolls, hand shaped bread and doughnuts, allow to rise then bake in a conventional oven. All models except the Sunbeam Compact have this setting.
Pizza dough Makes dough for pizza bases and focaccia bread; the dough is ready to roll out and no rising is required – just add the topping and bake in a conventional oven.
Tester’s baking tips
- Measure ingredients accurately by using metric weighing scales, or cups and spoons. Weighing is generally more accurate.
- Use bread flour (with a protein level above 11.5%) unless recipe states otherwise.
- Check use-by dates on all ingredients.
- Add ingredients to the bread pan in the order they are stated in the recipe.
- Use ingredients at room temperature – don’t use hot water or liquids.
- Don’t use compressed yeast.
- Never use self-raising flour to make yeast bread, unless stated.
- If you live in a high altitude (above 900m) you need to alter the recipe. The yeast may need to be reduced by ¼ teaspoon as the dough may rise too quickly.
- If the weather is too hot and/or humid, reduce the yeast by ¼ teaspoon to avoid over rising of the dough.
- Flour properties can alter on a seasonal basis, therefore it may be necessary to adjust the water and flour ratio. Check the dough consistency after 10 minutes of the kneading cycle. If the dough is too sticky add 1 tablespoon of flour at a time until the consistency is firm. If the dough is too dry add 1 teaspoon of water at a time until a softer, more pliable dough is formed.
- Water containing a high concentration of purification chemicals can kill the yeast. Try using purified or bottled water instead.
- Don’t use metal objects to remove the kneading blade from the pan or bread, as this may cause damage to the non-stick coating.
- Wipe away any spills over or around the element before baking.
- You can use a vacuum cleaner to remove crumbs from the baking chamber (make sure the unit is unplugged and cool).
- Never immerse the bread machine or bread pan in water.
- To help with the removal of the blade after baking, oil can be added before the blade is positioned so it does not stick.
- If the blade cannot be removed run hot water into the pan and let sit for 30 minutes. If it can’t be removed try lifting the blade off with a plastic spatula.