Bread Machine Hacks

Bread machines can do amazing things, but some recipes like sourdough and gluten-free need some adjustments.

Many bread machine owners are consistently surprised by the range and types of breads they can bake in their bread machine.  However, there are times when even the best of us fail with recipes ranging from the simple to the complex.  Here are some tips or “bread machine hacks” that can improve your chances for success from the basics to the advanced:

1. Use “Bread Machine Yeast.” It comes in a jar and you refrigerate it after opening. If you’ve never used it before you’ll be thrilled with the results.

2. Use Bread Flour. It has the most gluten of any flour and always gives you a good rise.

3. Follow the recipe and measure precisely. Baking is a very unforgiving process.

4. Understand the custom cycles on your bread machine. Some recipes like sourdough require extensively long rising cycles and they can vary from batch to batch.  Your ability to adjust and customize settings will allow you to determine the optimum time for sourdough and wheat bread recipes.

5. Don’t be afraid to reboot. If you have a recipe that has not risen properly or you see some other issue before the baking cycle, reboot. Unplug the machine and reset for the same or a different cycle.

6. Try a blend of gluten free flours when making gluten free bread. Often, gluten free recipes will call for a flour like rice flour or flax seed flour. They can work, but a blend of 2 or more gluten free flours will often give you a better rise, texture and flavor.  Also, think about adding a bit more yeast and running an extra rise cycle.  A good rise is the biggest challenge with gluten free breads so give it every advantage you can.

7. Omit the salt. Most every bread machine recipe calls for salt.  It’s unnecessary and actually inhibits yeast growth.  It does not affect flavor and is simply not critical to success.

8. Be patient with sourdough. Every sourdough starter is unique and evolves over time.  The strength and activity of the yeast varies and will affect rising times from loaf to loaf.  You might want to use your bread machine for the dough cycle and do your proofing or rising in a bread pan that you will finish in the oven.  Some sourdough loaves take up to 12 hours to rise.  Few if any bread machines have cycles of this duration.

9. Don’t always trust the automatic hoppers. Many bread machines feature an automatic hopper to distribute fruits, nuts or yeast to a recipe at a given time.  A common lament from some bread machine owners is that the fruit sticks in the hopper or that all of the yeast is not distributed.  We’d all like to trust that these automatic features work, but you should check from time to time to make sure nothing is stuck in the hopper before the kneading cycle is complete.

10. Always monitor the integrity of the dough. Regardless of the recipe, your dough will sometimes not assume the shape of an elastic dough ball which is the desired shape and consistency.  Sometimes it will resemble more of a batter, or a dry collection of flour and crumbly dough.  If you see a batter like consistency, add a tablespoon of flour at a time to achieve the proper consistency.  If the dough appears to dry and flour is not incorporated into the dough ball, add a tablespoon of water at a time and scrape the sides of the bread pan to incorporate the flour.  Keep adding water or flour to achieve the elastic dough ball shape you want.

11. Correct for uneven loaves after kneading. If you are getting uneven or lopsided loaves, lift the dough ball after kneading and center it in the bread pan before rising.

12. Diminish the kneading paddle hole in a baked loaf. Remove the dough ball after kneading and pull the kneading paddle off of the spindle.  Return the dough ball to the center of the pan and continue through the baking process.