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The Enduring Promise of Bread-Making Machines

Imagine the promise of having a constant supply of homemade bread practically without lifting a finger! In the late 1990s, mixing and kneading bread dough seemed onerous to the 40-year-old me. Easy-to-make, inexpensive bread was too much to resist! So I bought a bread-making machine.

What could go wrong? Dump a few ingredients into the tub, shut the lid, press a button, and get on with your day. Return to it a few hours later, and the house smells like heaven, and the bread is ready: warm, soft, delicious! You’d tuck into that loaf, and half an hour later, it was almost gone, along with nearly empty jars of peanut butter, jam, marmalade and Nutella.

Bread at a fraction of the cost

That bread cost a fraction of the “plastic” stuff you got from the grocery store and tasted way better. It was the greatest thing since sliced …! Why wasn’t everyone using one of these things?

I lost track of that old Sunbeam Deluxe Bread Maker, though. I must have given it to someone after a long period of disuse. I’m sure it didn’t last more than a year, and I went back to buying loaves at the grocery store.

Dough kneading paddles in a machine loaf
Dough-kneading paddles in the base of the dough tub have to be pulled out of the loaf of bread-machine bread after it’s baked.

The machine became hard to clean, the non-stick pan wore out, and the bread it made was always misshapen. You had to dig out the kneading paddle from the bottom of the loaf. It took up a tremendous amount of counter space in my tiny kitchen.

I was happy to give the bread machine a starring role on the counter for a time, but in the end, it wasn’t for me. It languished in a box in the garage for years, then it just disappeared! Does anyone know where it is?

I used to be dazzled by the latest appliances, but I learned they rarely pan out (pardon the pun).

The bread machine COME-BACK!

Ironically, I now think nothing of taking 12 to 16 hours to make a couple of loaves of bread for Jennifer and me. The mixing by hand, the stretching, folding, shaping, proofing and baking — not to mention all the clean-up— is much more engaging. I find watching the dough transforming under my hands from a limp mass into a fleshy pillow of airy delight miraculous. To see it emerge from the oven as a golden-crusted creamy-textured loaf … now there’s a proper reward!

But it turns out that the early promise I saw in the bread machine hasn’t been snuffed out completely. A recent article in the New York Times, 1 suggests that bread machines are making a comeback thanks to a new generation of younger home bakers.

The article begins with a stay-at-home mother in San Angelo, Texas, who bought a 1999 model of a bread-baking machine at a Goodwill store. She paid $7, “nearly the same price she pays for her weekly loaf of organic bread.” She cleaned the machine, searched for the recipe guide online and made white bread that night!

It’s hard to beat that kind of economy!

Home bread-making became a sign of the times. The machines became popular along with the “sourdough bread craze.” Sales of bread-making devices began to pick up in the early days of the pandemic as workers and families worried about food shortages. The latest concern for consumers has been inflation, and bread machines still offer an excellent solution for trimming costs.

Since 2020, the article states, dollar sales for bread machines have increased by 131 percent. Hamilton Beach sold out of its bread makers in 2020 and 2021. Another manufacturer has seen a further uptick in the last six months as food prices have risen.

And the bread machines have improved: more beeps and whistles, better baking efficiency and better recipes for these appliances. There are now settings for artisan breads and gluten-free loaves, and many machines can also handle cakes, jams and yoghurt.

More beeps and whistles

Is it clever marketing or more sophisticated consumer bread tastes that have given bread machine sales new life?

Bread-making websites like Breadtopia and the King Arthur Baking Company are loaded with bread machine recipes. And not just all-purpose flour and yeast breads, as you might think.

Would you turn down a Country Boule or a Sweet Potato Sandwich Bread if they came from a bread-making machine? How about an Italian Hearth Bread or a full-on Sourdough Loaf? It’s all possible in this bright new age of bread machines!

Here’s the caveat: If you produce one of these nicely shaped loaves, you’ll have to touch the dough, unlike the bread I made in that Sunbeam Deluxe in the mid-90s.

You have to touch the dough

If you want to elevate your bread-machine bread, remove the mixed, kneaded and proofed dough from the tub. You will shape the loaf on a floured surface for a bread tin or a banneton. 2

Shaping the dough and baking it in the oven will produce a more polished-looking loaf with more attractive colour and better texture. It ensures a better oven spring and provides a more even shape as it bakes. Gentle shaping only requires a few folds and pinches to get the dough oven-ready.

If you ask me, shaping dough is one of the more pleasurable tasks of bread-making. Handing the mixing and kneading to a machine is an excellent trade-off and is half the battle of making a delicious loaf! It’s lovely working the dough with your hands, it’s quiet, and it’s artful.

I’m pleased people are turning to bread machines again. As I’m fond of saying, “The best bread you can eat is most often the loaf you’ve made yourself.”

You’ve earned the right to say, “I made this loaf!”

You don’t need a bread-making machine to make great bread with little effort. I’m a big proponent of the Jim Lahey No-Knead Bread Method, which involves 15 minutes of hands-on measuring and mixing time followed by 18 to 20 hours of waiting as the bread proofs and ferments in a warm place. The bread gets made with almost no effort, tastes excellent and is fail-proof! (For the recipe and method for this bread, see my earlier post, Making Bread).

A bread-making machine can still be a time and money-saver for those inclined, and the rewards are enormous. Shaping a loaf by yourself from dough mixed with the device is fun and satisfying. The bread tastes way better than a store-bought loaf.

And you can pat yourself on the back and say, “I made this loaf!”


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A hefty Country Miche, formula from Breadlines published by Bread Bakers Guild of America. Hefty in size, hefty in flavour. Four flours (Sifted Metchosin Wheat, Rye, Buckwheat, Spelt), a super-active levain and an intense crust colour. I think I’m addicted! It’s kind of finicky, though, and trying to work out a reasonable schedule to produce 40 loaves for Happy Monk customers.
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. #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderislands #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakingcompany #wholegrainbread #breadhead #michebread #realbread #rusticbread #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries

A hefty Country Miche, formula from Breadlines published by Bread Bakers Guild of America. Hefty in size, hefty in flavour. Four flours (Sifted Metchosin Wheat, Rye, Buckwheat, Spelt), a super-active levain and an intense crust colour. I think I’m addicted! It’s kind of finicky, though, and trying to work out a reasonable schedule to produce 40 loaves for Happy Monk customers.

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. #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderislands #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakingcompany #wholegrainbread #breadhead #michebread #realbread #rusticbread #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries
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REMINDER: Happy Monk is on Summer Break! We're off on our annual late summer respite. Next bread day is Sept. 22. See you then! (photo by Davy Joel Rippner)

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Happy Monk Tidings - August 30, 2023 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE:  Mountain Rye Bread; BLOG: Making Bread and Art With A Message; NOTE: Happy Monk is on Holiday for the Next Two Weeks - https://mailchi.mp/ae234548bd1a/happy_monk_tidings_aug30

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Happy Monk Tidings - August 23, 2023 🍞 - BAKER`S CHOICE: Bold Beer Bread; BLOG: Cheese Karma; More Happy Monk holidays coming soon! https://mailchi.mp/783a72739071/happy_monk_tidings_aug23 ...

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Happy Monk Tidings - August 9, 2023 🍞 - BAKER`S CHOICE: Sesame Sourdough; BLOG: Say A Prayer For The Perfect Loaf; ANNOUNCEMENT: Happy Monk Summer Holiday Schedule https://mailchi.mp/99197a16b166/happy_monk_tidings_aug9 ...

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Baker's Choice: Cinnamon-Raisin Bread; BLOG: Coffee, Tea and Hot Chocolate [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

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Baker`s Choice: Cinnamon-Raisin Bread; BLOG: Coffee, Tea and Hot Chocolate [ See LinkTree in Profile ]
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Happy Monk Tidings - June 28, 2023 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Spelt and Honey Sourdough; BLOG: Black Robe and Rise of the Machine [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

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Stately, plump German Rye loaves that even Buck Mulligan would love. This day June 16, Happy Bloomsday all!

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Happy Monk Tidings - May 31, 2023 🍞 - BAKER'S CHOICE: Fig and Fennel Sourdough; BLOG: The Saving Grace of Siegel's Bagels [ See LinkTree in Profile ]

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HAPPY MONK BLOG: An Approachable Manifesto: A loaf designed for the grocery shelf, but with honest-to-goodness artisan credentials. (May 24, 2023) [ See LinkTree in Proifile ]

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Morning coffee ritual, Saturday morning. Drinking Moving Coffee, eating Happy Monk Sprouted Einkorn Sourdough bread, and spending a lot of time setting up this photo. Thanks for the coffee tip, @jomosenpai, it’s really good!
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#coffeelover #coffee #pourovercoffee #pourover #coffeetime #coffeelover  #coffeecoffeecoffee #ceramiccoffeecup #ceramiccoffeemug #coffeeaddict #einkornsourdough #einkornbread #einkornsourdoughbread #einkornbaking

Morning coffee ritual, Saturday morning. Drinking Moving Coffee, eating Happy Monk Sprouted Einkorn Sourdough bread, and spending a lot of time setting up this photo. Thanks for the coffee tip, @jomosenpai, it’s really good!
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#coffeelover #coffee #pourovercoffee #pourover #coffeetime #coffeelover #coffeecoffeecoffee #ceramiccoffeecup #ceramiccoffeemug #coffeeaddict #einkornsourdough #einkornbread #einkornsourdoughbread #einkornbaking
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It’s been a long time since I baked with Einkorn flour, the most ancient of the ancient grains. It’s called “Farro Piccolo” in Italian, or ‘little farro’. A later variety of Einkorn is called “Farro Grande” (large farro)… otherwise known as Spelt. (Einkorn left, Spelt right) Here endeth the lesson. 
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#einkorn #einkorngrain #einkornbread #einkornbaking #tasteofeinkorn #spelt #speltgrain #speltflour #ancientgrain #ancientgrains #ancientgrainbaking #ancientgrainflours

It’s been a long time since I baked with Einkorn flour, the most ancient of the ancient grains. It’s called “Farro Piccolo” in Italian, or ‘little farro’. A later variety of Einkorn is called “Farro Grande” (large farro)… otherwise known as Spelt. (Einkorn left, Spelt right) Here endeth the lesson.

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#einkorn #einkorngrain #einkornbread #einkornbaking #tasteofeinkorn #spelt #speltgrain #speltflour #ancientgrain #ancientgrains #ancientgrainbaking #ancientgrainflours
...

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Happy Monk Tidings - April 26, 2023 🍞: Baker's Choice: Polenta-Rosemary Sourdough; Blog: A Baker's Summit in the Loire Valley - [See LinkTree in Bio ]

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  1. See NY Times Inflation Leads a New Generation to the Bread-Making Machine by Christina Morales, Jan. 30, 2023

  2. A banneton is a circular or oval basket lined, in most cases, with baker’s linen or a clean towel.

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