Bread machines take all the hard work out of creating the perfectly fluffy and absolutely delicious load of homemade bread. In fact, many of them allow you to do so in as little as two hours, or to set them up to do all the work while you attend to your actual job. Purchasing a bread machine, though, isn’t always the easiest task.
As with any purchase anyone makes, purchasing a bread machine should be a rather well-though-out decision. It should consider your various needs and the needs of your family as well as things such as price and size. Let’s take a quick run through some of the most important things you should consider when making this important purchase.
Know The Different Size Options
It should go without saying that you should know which size you need before you even begin your selection process. However, I find that many people just jump right into searching around and making a selection without even considering this! Since the packaging and promotional materials for bread makers usually refer to their size or capacity in terms of pounds, it can be difficult for a lot of people to even really understand how to make this decision.
The easiest way to understand the different sizes of bread makers is to consider the following information. A bread oven capable of making a one pound loaf of bread will usually yield about 8 slices of bread. A 1.5 pound loaf is, therefore, about 12 slices. A 2 pound load will give you about 16 slices. A machine with a 2.5 pound loaf capacity will yield about 20 slices and one with a 3 pound capacity will give you about 24 slices. Since the typical range of available options only goes from 1 pound to 3 pounds, I will stop here and allow you to do the math yourself if you find something outside of this range.
Which Size Do You Need?
So, now that you understand the different size options, you have to ask yourself a few important questions. Firstly, how many people will you be feeding with a single loaf of bread? Secondly, do you plan (at least hope) to eat all of that bread while it is still fresh or do you plan to store some of it in the freezer, refrigerator or bread box?
Obviously, different capacities also mean different sizes of bread makers. Not only will you get a loaf of a different size, you will also have to accommodate a bread maker of a different size. This is where you need to consider your counter space and storage space. A lot of people forget about the fact that this new small appliance will need a home in their kitchen and end up purchasing something they have absolutely no room to store.
Which Dough Settings do You Need?
If you prefer only to eat (and therefore bake) one or two basic types of bread, it make serve you well to purchase a basic bread maker. The more options your bread maker has; the more money it is likely to cost. There really is no need to spend extra money on something you will not even use. Basic bread makers usually have the following three options: white bread, whole wheat bread, and multigrain.
People with more diverse palettes may want to branch out into bread makers with different settings. Special bread type settings you can get include: sour dough, gluten-free, and rye, among others. Again, remember that you will probably have to spend a little more money to get these settings. It is probably only wise to make this choice if you have the money to spare or you eat these specialty breads quite often.
Does Shape Matter?
Some people consider the shape of their bread loaves to be very important, while others really couldn’t care less. Bread makers often do no create typically-shaped bread loaves, because they often bake the bread vertically rather than horizontally. Some even create square loaves instead of rectangular loaves.
If the shape of your bread is important to you, you will want to take great caution in selecting your bread maker. Though some may look as though they would create the shape of bread you prefer, there is a good chance that it may not. You should also consider counter space in this decision. Though you may prefer one shape of loaf to another, your counter and cupboards may limit your options depending on how much free square footage you have on your counter and how much space lies between your counter and your upper cupboards.
What Other Options and Special Features Would You Like?
The list of other options and special features you can choose from is, actually, a rather lengthy one. To save time, I won’t go into great detail about each of those options here. Still, I want to say a few things about them to help you make your decision.
One important option featured on some special machines is the “add yeast” option. Most bread (with the exception of specialty breads such as sour dough) is made with yeast. Traditional making methods have you add yeast to the bread at a very particular part of the baking process to help you achieve the best results and the fluffiest dough. When using most bread makers, however, you have to add the yeast at the beginning of the process with all of the other ingredients. Special machines allow you to place the yeast in a special dispenser and set the dispenser to add the yeast at exactly the right time. Of course, this often comes with a price tag attached.
Other options you may want to consider include: self-mixing (almost always included, even on basic models); crust selection (choose among soft, medium and crisp crusts); quick bake; and set-and-forget timers.