playing with a bread machine

Is amazingly good fun. It certainly has been my obsession for the past few days, but I’ve approached it as a typical geek and actually read up on what each ingredient is used for – my first loaf was a packet mix and therefore just fine. My second was possibly the most useless lump of duck-killing wheat that’s been seen in many years, but I have now learnt some things that are so obvious no-one bothers to actually mention them:

  • Warm your water – tap water at the end of December (even in the UK) is way too cold to help the yeast rise, especially when on a rapid program and no resting time is given for the mix
  • Milk is not milk powder – again, blindingly obvious, but swapping real milk for milk powder will result in a mix that is far too wet
  • Just because the box beeps, don’t whip out the loaf – check the look of the top crust and don’t be afraid to leave it for another 10 minutes to help brown the top and keep it crispy
  • White flour is boring; investigate wholemeal and granary – mixtures of more than one type have the most satisfying result (so far)
  • Swap olive oil for butter – if you prefer, 1ml of virgin olive oil can be used in place of 1g of butter. This is what I tend to do mainly because it’s less sticky to measure but it might be healthier. Allegedly
  • Think about things – I’ve heard some interesting ideas that include putting different ingredients into different corners of the mixing pan, and creating hollows for other parts and the most important factor was omitted: Which machine was this for ? My first loaf was a packet mix and that was fine so I tend to premix all my dry ingredients outside of the machine. This is a bad idea if you wish to use the timer setting

I’m not going to play it coy (like the BBC of the 80’s and 90’s) – when I use an ingredient I’ll most likely state the brand I used: this is not an attempt to get my blog sponsored but an idea to help out the very new. Most receipies state that even the same brand of flour can vary by season or grain source, so even giving the name isn’t 100% accurate but being confronted by the baking aisle in a supermarket for the very first time can be a little daunting.

For the record, I have a Panasonic SD253 and most of the early recipies I post will be based on the ones found in it’s excellent user guide. I have checked the entire booklet for any copyright statements and there are none, so I will quote the page number when I’ve started from one of these but for the most part I’ve changed at least one item…

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  1. Ian, we have the same bread machine as you, bought last year. Room temperature tap water is probably best. Dave made the same mistake re milk instead of milk powder although he did adjust the amount; using milk gives the bread a really horrible taste of, well, milk (uness of course you like that sort of thing). White flour can be really nice if you get the right one and the yeast is very important too. We have used various different types of white flour but small person and I prefer the wholemeal made by Marriage’s. Its sold in Tesco or try your local health food shop; Marriage’s also do white. If you are doing wholemeal, then remember to put in a Vit C tablet (buy them from the health food shop) as all the Vit C is lost in baking. Dave uses uses the Hovis Granary flour, although the packet mix isn’t too bad either. We had been using Allinson yeast but now prefer Hovis.

    My one bit of advice would be not to use the quick bake setting as we found the loaves don’t turn out as nicely. We tend to put it on timer for the following morning – there is nothing nicer than smelling fresh baked bread when you get up 🙂 You are right in that their recipe book is excellent – we have’t deviated from it yet or been very adventurous but are about to do so. Will report back with findings as soon as.

  2. They realyl are crackingly good bits of kit, aren’t they? We’ve also got the model of bread maker you have, we got it early last year when small person was looking like she was Gluten intolerant, and this machine has a gluten free setting. Good stuff.
    Anyway, something you won’t find in the manual is a recommendation on the type of yeast to use. We used to use (and still have 1/2 a packet of) Allinsons quick action yeast. Yuck. Seriously bad stuff, the bread was a bit like plastic bread, you know, the rubbish sold in plastic wrap. We’ve since moved onto the Hovis yeast (*suitable for bread machines) which comes in a box, with 6 individual sachets of dried yeast in. Superb stuff, the bread now tastes like real bread used to 🙂
    And a recommendation for flour: Hovis granary. Does excellently using the first recipe for Granary loaves in the panasonic cookbook. I can even do this recipe from memory, now…

  3. Yup – the Hovis Granary is good (just posted the recipe – I use 5ml less water than the book, and bump up the yeast to allow a rapid bake) but I haven’t had a problem with the Allinsons yeast (includes vitamin C in the mix) at the moment, but I’ll pick up some of the Hovis stuff and see how that tastes. I did notice there were two sorts of Allinsons on the shelf and only one was for bread machines, but I’d not accuse you of making that mistake 🙂

    Thanks for the flour suggestions – I’ve only used Carrs for white and wholemeal so far, but have totally run out of flour now and so I’ll have a look and see what’s on the shelf at our local Tesco tonight.

    I know it’s not just me that likes the result as I brought a 400g Granary into work this morning and there’s not much left at all now 😛