I love bread.  I love getting my hands in the dough.  I love experimenting.  I love eating good bread.  So it’s not surprising that we have over 100 bread mixes . . . plus Bread Helpers.

Nearly all of our bread mixes are designed so you can use them in a bread machine—which means that they are sized for a single loaf and calibrated to rise and peak just before the bread starts to bake in the machine.  But anything you make in a bread machine can be done in the oven.  (I tell people that a bread machine in a little oven on timer.  But it kneads the dough also.)

Bread machines are wonderful inventions but they can be a little tricky.  The margin for error is very narrow–even for those recipes supplied by the machine manufacturer—much narrower than breads made in your stand-type mixer or by hand.   And bread mixes, to be reliable, must be superbly accurate.

Here are some hints that will move the odds more to your favor:

  • Always measure the ingredients accurately.  Measure liquids in a clear measuring cup at eye level.  Better yet, weigh the water.
  • If the water temperature is specified, use an insta-read thermometer to measure the temperature.  Be accurate within one degree.
  • Follow the directions for the machine you are using and those supplied by the mix manufacturer.  If you are using our mixes, they are not intended for “express” cycles, those cycles less than three hours.
  • Always start with both the machine and the mix at room temperature.

You can make great bread with your machine.  If you have a problem it’s always the water—either the wrong amount or the wrong temperature.  It’s never the yeast.  Yeast is good for a very long time, longer than the three years specified by the producer.

What if you want to make your bread in the oven?  That’s simple.  Most machines have a “dough/manual” setting.  Use it and then form the loaf and transfer it to a baking pan or sheet to bake in the oven.

To use your bread machine in this way, begin the mix as instructed.  Check on the dough as the machine mixes and kneads.  If there are bits of dough clinging to the side instead of being mixed with the paddle, knock those down with a soft-sided spatula.

When the machine beeps to signal that baking is to begin, remove the dough by inverting the pan over the counter.  Gently knead the dough to release the trapped gas and then form the loaf. Bake, after rising, as a conventional loaf, usually at 350 degrees.  (For more detailed instructions, see “How to Bake Bread in Your Oven.)

What’s a “Bread Helper©?”   With a Hamburger Helper©, you add your own burger.  With a Bread Helper, you add your own flour.  Everything else is included.  When I want to make bread by hand, I often reach for a Bread Helper.  Our Bread Helpers make two large loaves and I can have them kneaded and rising in less than ten minutes.  To knead the bread, I use the dough hook, set the mixer to medium speed, and set the timer for four minutes.  If the dough is properly hydrated, that’s long enough to develop the gluten.  Just follow the instructions.

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