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Bread Machine Tips

Helpful tips, how-to's and useful information about bread machines.

Known as the "Bread Machine Maven", cookbook author Lora Brody has written a number of books on the subject including, Plugged In, The Definitive Guide to the 20 Best Kitchen Appliances (William Morrow, 1998). Here are some of Lora's most helpful tips when using a bread machine.

Use top, fresh quality ingredients such as unbleached, non-chemically treated flour made from hard wheat that contains at least 12 grams of protein per cup. Check the nutritional panel on the bag. (Remember this is given in 1/4 cups, so multiply by 4.)

Use instant active dry yeast, the rapid rising variety is not recommended.

If you're using a delayed cycle, don't use fresh eggs or any other perishable ingredient that will sit for hours in the bread machine. Instead use powdered eggs and milk or save those recipes for when you don't have to use the delayed cycle.

For the very best results open the machine and check the dough during the first 5 to 10 minutes of the first kneading cycle. Flour acts like a sponge and will absorb moisture to varying degrees, depending on the humidity and barometric pressure, so you may need to add more flour to liquid to achieve a smooth, supple, soft ball of dough. If the dough in the machine is either a wet, messy glob or a dry desert and it hasn't yet begun the bake cycle, press Stop and add a small amount of liquid or flour and press Start. Or cancel the cycle and restart from the beginning. This will not affect the bread.

Sweet doughs will also benefit from an extra rise in a cool place. Place the dough in a gallon-size heavy-duty zippered plastic bag in the refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours.

Very hot water or other liquids, with temperatures above 115°F (45°C), will kill the yeast and your bread won't rise. If you have to add things like melted butter or toasted nuts let them cool before adding to bread dough.

If the paddle sticks to the shaft inside, try applying a little nonstick vegetable spray next time -- before you add your ingredients to the pan.

Use the Whole Wheat cycle for breads containing not only whole wheat flour, but other heavy flours, such as rye, cornmeal, and buckwheat.

Use the French Bread cycle for breads low in fat and sugar because these cycles have a shorter knead time and a longer rise time to produce crisp crusts and soft interiors.

Use the Sweet Bread cycle for breads that are high in sugars and fat as well as ingredients that might burn easily, or use it if you're having trouble with thick, over baked crusts.

If possible remove the pan from the machine and the bread from the pan before the cool down cycle starts. This will prevent soggy crusts. Cool for at least 20 minutes on a wire rack before slicing or the inside will be gooey and raw looking.

Take care not to add excessive amounts of salt or sugar to your dough. Both will inhibit the action of the yeast. Two other ingredients that can inhibit the yeast's activity are fresh garlic and cinnamon.

Raw tops are the result of bread that has risen too high, hit the top of the machine, and sunk back down. Try adding less yeast next time. Be sure to add salt -- this will slow the rise as well.

Unless your bread machine has retractable mixing/kneading paddle(s), remove them immediately after the last kneading. Doing so not only makes removing the bread from the pan easier, it also greatly reduces the size of the hole(s) left in the bottom of "bread machine" baked breads. (Tip courtesy of Hope Pryor.)

Source: Unless stated otherwise, the tips here are adapted from Plugged In by Lora Brody (William Morrow, 1998).

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