It took me many years to realize that, if I used the right recipe method, my bread machine would produce loaves to die for.
So, what is the right method? While it’s not the ONLY way to coax beautiful bread from a bread machine, you’ll have much better success with making bread if you start with a precise temperature range for your recipe liquid and keep your dough in warm conditions during the mix-knead-rise process.
How does that help? It’s a scientific fact that yeast needs to be warm to “activate,” to cause bread dough to rise. In my own experiments, I’ve found that heating my recipe liquid to a temperature range between 105 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit makes my yeast very happy!
Most of my bread is whole grain, so my recipes call for water. I use the hottest water right out of my kitchen tap because I add refrigerated maple syrup for sweetener, which quickly cools the water. Most times, the combination of hottest water and refrigerated syrup results in the desired temperature range: 105 to 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Before starting my yeast mixture, I use hot water to warm the measuring cup, so that I can better manage the water temperature for the yeast mixture.
If for some reason my water/syrup mixture is less than 105 degrees, I will use a microwave to warm it. That takes about 15 to 20 seconds. If the water is more than 113 degrees, I cool it by running cold water on the outside of the measuring cup holding the yeast mixture. Liquids of 115 degrees or hotter will kill the yeast. Once I find that sweet spot, I dissolve my yeast in the warm liquid.
This is a good start for my bread baking method, but my temperature managing techniques don’t stop here. I also use hot tap water to warm my bread machine before I start putting recipe ingredients in it.
The major difference between my method and standard bread machine methods is activation of my yeast before I start the machine and managing dough temperature until its ready to go into the oven.
Bread machines are great for keeping dough warm and moist as it mixes/kneads, rests and kneads. Beads of moisture clinging to your bread machine viewing window indicate that the dough is warm enough to maintain yeast activity.
If you bake bread in your machine, no need to do anything with it once you start the machine. One tip: you can slip the dough out long enough to remove the paddle(s) before it goes to the bake cycle.
If you bake your dough in the oven, be sure to warm the bread pan before you put the dough in it for the last rise. During that last rise, you can warm your oven to 100 degrees (or slightly above that) to boost yeast activity and achieve a high rise.
Even if you don’t strictly follow bread machine instructions, this appliance can be a wonderful way to produce bread for your family!
Long time journalist Loretta Sorensen is the author of Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever! and regularly shares information about whole grains and bread baking. You’ll find her book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth Living, GRIT Magazine, Our Dakota Horse Tales, and on Pinterestand Facebook.