The first few times I used my new bread machine, I completed the entire baking cycle in it.
However, as my baking skill improved, I really wanted to produce “traditionally” shaped loaves and bake my bread in a bread pan. I know now that mixing and kneading my dough in the bread machine, then baking it in my oven, is extremely easy and effective, producing beautiful loaves.
Not only is using a bread machine for mixing and kneading more of a “hands off” process than using a mixer, the bread machine does a very thorough job of kneading and maintains a consistent temperature in the canister that makes your yeast happy!
Since I barely used the first bread machine I was gifted some 20 years ago, I can’t speak about its ability to thoroughly mix and knead bread dough. However, the Hamilton Beach bread machine I purchased in December 2017, on a 2-pound regular cycle, mixed and kneaded the bread dough for 15 minutes at a time two different times. That’s far more kneading than I’ve ever done in the past.
While each bread machine brand may vary in cycle options and the length of kneading and rest times, you can manually manage the length of time your machine kneads the dough by stopping and starting the machine to set kneading times. You can also adjust the dough’s rest time for the first rise if you wish.
Generally, I prefer to complete my entire bread baking cycle in just over two hours because that time frame generally fits my schedule.
I have learned that mixing/kneading the dough for 15 minutes, resting for 20 minutes, then mixing/kneading for 15 minutes again, does a beautiful job of preparing my bread dough for the final rise. By thoroughly kneading and maintaining an even temperature throughout the process, my final rise is just 30 minutes and my loaves of bread are soft, airy and so delicious!
If your bread machine cycle isn’t set for this timing, you can use a timer and turn your machine off after 15 minutes of mixing/kneading, allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes, then turn the machine on again for the final 15-minute knead. I use a timer to coordinate this and have found it to be effective with my own machine.
I hesitate to recommend kneading dough any longer than 18 minutes at a time because gluten can be “overworked” and fail to produce the nice rise you want to see in your loaf. Kneading it less than 15 minutes might not work the gluten long enough.
Kneading bread dough is important because it develops gluten found in the flour, which in turn causes the bread to be light, airy and chewy. Without proper and adequate kneading, bread can be flat, dense and tough.
In addition to thoroughly preparing the bread dough for its final rise and baking, the bread machine provides a controlled environment where a temperature range of 105- to 110-degrees (Fahrenheit) can be maintained so the yeast can do its work throughout the first and final rise.
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 www.ourdakothorsetales.com. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at “Mother Earth Living,” “Grit Magazine,” www.ourdakothorsetales.comand on Facebook at @yourbestbreadever.