Friday, December 23, 2011

Bread Machine - an investment that's worth the dough

When bread machines first came out, people thought that they were the best thing since sliced bread. But now, it's quite common to see at least one or two at the local thrift store for only 8 to 15 bucks, depending on which shop you frequent. If you get a new one, they're anywhere between $50 to over $200, depending on brand, whether it's stainless steel or plastic, size of loaf, etc. This is the kind of thing a frugal person would want to try out by getting a used one first and then deciding if it's really going to be used on a regular basis before spending big bucks on a new one.

In my latest youtube video, I showed the whole process of baking bread, using a bread machine to mix the dough and a toaster oven to bake it. I included a short section on what the bread should look like while it's mixing in the bread machine. If it's too moist, add a little flour at a time until it looks right. If it's too dry, add small amounts of water until it starts rotating properly. This video has been featured on
The machine itself is not a complicated contraption. There's a loaf pan with a paddle that is connected to a peg in the pan, which is placed in the machine. The motor in the machine moves the paddle, which agitates and mixes the dough for set times, depending on which mode you choose. When the dough is mixed, you can either take it out to rise and bake in a regular oven or keep it in the machine, which will bake the bread in the shape of your loaf pan. Personally, I like to use the dough function, take it out and bake it in either a toaster oven or regular oven because my machine's loaf pan creates a vertical loaf, which is just a little weird and awkward to cut. The paddle also makes a hole in the bottom of the baked loaf. Furthermore, the pan is very difficult to wash if you bake the bread in the machine. It's much easier to just wash the bits of raw dough.

The basic recipe is:
1 cup water
1 Tbsp oil
1 tsp salt
1-2 Tbsp sugar/honey
3 cups flour
1-2 tsp yeast

It's important to get flour that has a high gluten content because it will help your dough rise properly. When I started using my bread machine, I made quite a few dense bricks because I was using the regular all-purpose flour from the supermarket. Then, I tried the flour from BMS Paper company and I was finally able to make a nice fluffy loaf. The Pillsbury brand flour works well too. If you want to use whole wheat flour or any other type of flour, start experimenting by replacing only 1/4 cup of the white flour with the non-white flour. Eventually, you'll get a feel for how much of the white flour you can substitute before the bread starts coming out too dense or falling while it bakes. If you can find unbleached white flour, that seems to work better than most other flours.

The main advantage of letting the dough rise and then baking it in a regular loaf pan is that you can let it rise as much as you want. The bread machine's mixing and baking cycles are timed so that the dough only has a certain amount of time to rise before the machine automatically starts baking it. However, there is such a thing as letting it rise too much (see picture below). If this happens, just knead it by folding it a few times and then let it rise again. No big deal.
This is what happens when the dough is allowed to rise too long!
As a poor student, using the bread machine to mix saves time and allows you to do your homework while the machine does all the hard work. The only time you need to get your hands dirty is when you dump the dough into the regular loaf pan. Hopefully you have a toaster oven with a timer so that you can just set it and get back to your books. Baking your own bread also allows you to control what goes into your bread. If you read some ingredient labels, you'll notice that some companies still use high fructose corn syrup, which is just a tasteless sweetener. Why use that when you can use honey or molasses? It's also fun to try adding other flours like hemp flour, coconut flour, or whole wheat flour. When it's baking, it also makes your whole house smell good.


  1. Never thought to find a bread machine in the thrift store - but now that you mention it...... :)

    Thanks for your great tips!

  2. Thanks for your support, Chicana. I was at the Goodwill store today and there was a bread machine and 3 air poppers (a Popcorn pumper, a Poppery II, and a Salton) there! You might find some better stuff at thrift stores at the end of the year and just before tax time, when people want to get donation receipts for tax deductions.

  3. I got a used bread machine too! I love the machine baked bread with whole wheat, bran and rye flour. I haven't tried the dough function, but I may need to! By the way, have you seen a bread knife? Now I need a long knife to slide the bread :)

    1. That's great, Boram! The dough function should make the clean-up process (of the bread machine pan) a bit easier. :) For a bread knife, check TJ Maxx first and if they don't have anything good, wait for a sale at Macy's and get one from there. Knives are actually one of the things I don't mind paying a little more for because the cheap ones have light handles, which are actually harder to use. Good knives have reasonably heavy handles that last longer and they make the cutting process easier. Hope this helps!