Automatic Bread Makers

Ever thought of buying an automatic bread maker? Not sure if bread makers are worth the effort? Here are my experiences with the world of automated bread making.

You know that you are getting older when you think that an approaching birthday is the perfect opportunity to obtain a kitchen gadget. This happened to me recently and the decision was taken throughout the household that an automatic bread maker would be the perfect way to mark the advancing years.

Now it has to be said that kitchen gadgets rarely prove to be more than occasional participants in the activities of the typical kitchen. Too many blenders and mixers although wonderful in principle, prove to be fragile and hard to clean in practice and rapidly find themselves a shady place at the back of the cupboard until they are handed out to departing children to take to college, or pensioned off in a garage sale.

So, I was mildly concerned that my birthday 'token' budget had been allocated to the purchase of a bread maker by the household authorities. The deciding factors for me were the high price of reasonable quality bread in all the local shops and the fact that a visit to my sister's home in a distant land had indicated that bread maker bread could, in fact, taste very good indeed.

The visit to my sister's home also provided important purchasing information. In particular, it yielded the brand and type number of a machine that had the capability of working for long periods of time and for producing good bread. Now I have not conducted a survey of all possible bread maker manufacturers, nor examined all consumer reports on the subject. However, I can relay first hand experience of Panasonic's Automatic Bread Makers. My sister's machine is a Panasonic SD255, and my birthday acquired machine is a Panasonic SD-YD250. The machines are somewhat different in design. The SD255 is designed for the European market, which among other characteristics may result in different electrical requirements for this machine. The SD-YD250 is a product sold in the USA.

The SD-YD250 arrived the day after my birthday and 4 hours or so later had produced its first loaf of bread. It has to be said that the first loaf was not a complete success. I began with a basic white loaf and although it tasted tolerable, the amount of rising that the loaf had found time to manage left room for improvement. In fact it resembled a bread cake in its consistency. Checking the instruction booklet indicated that more yeast would be required and, indeed, this was subsequently shown to be the origin of the problem as the next loaf had a considerably improved texture.

The amount of preparative effort required to use a break maker is very low. Simply measuring or weighing ingredients and placing them in the pan which the bread maker uses to conduct all the usual bread making steps is all that is required. The SD255 and SD-YD250 have an arrangement whereby a simple stirrer arm is positioned inside the mixing/baking pan. It is this stirrer which mixes the ingredients and carries out the kneading on which bread making depends.

The first few times the machine was used were interesting. The manual provided all the necessary information, and for the first time ever, the family had a complete understanding of all the ingredients in the bread which we had for breakfast. However, just when you might expect interest in the latest kitchen gadget to wane, the machine has continued to be used. The resulting bread is fresh and delicious and the amount of effort required preparing the bread maker and cleaning up after its use has turned out to be minimal.

The only problem is that you need to plan ahead. The bread making process takes several hours even if it does not require human intervention. Consequently a little forward thinking is required. Fortunately the bread maker is equipped with a timer, so if you are particularly forward thinking, you can plan to have fresh bread available for breakfast. Actually, for breakfast bread, you will need to arrange for the bread maker to finish its chores a little before breakfast time and then extract the bread from the machine so that it can cool before you eat it. This is because the bread maker is a miniature oven and the bread that it makes is extremely hot when the process finishes.

However, planning ahead seems not too high a price to pay for good simple bread which does not contain any calcium propionate or any other non-bread like ingredients. For the quality of bread that it produces, I suspect that it is cost effective too. And, of course, as I write this, the house contains the pleasant smell of another fresh loaf of bread which needs to be extracted from the machine. So, in answer to the original question, yes bread makers are worth the effort. You will have good quality bread, made from simple ingredients, the preparation is straightforward, and the clean-up trivial.

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