Automatic Bread Machine Basics and Adapting Recipes for the Bread Machine

Whether maker bread by hand, with a heavy duty stand mixer or in an automatic bread machine (ABM), there are similarities between the procedures.

Using an automatic bread machine is different.

The first thing you need to decide is if you are going to be baking the bread in the machine.  The reason for this is not all breads bake the same length of time and some kneading and proofing times are different.  The best recipes tend to be ones already designed for the automatic bread machine which will require little if any modification.  But if you decide to make and bake your own bread in the ABM, if you are check your manual for a recipe style similar to what you are making and try that setting out first. Most bread machines will make a 1½ or a 2 pound loaf.  (Remember that ABMs are rated on loaf size not amount of flour like most bread baking pans but as a general rule if the recipe contains 2 cups of flour it is a 1 pound loaf, 3 cups of flour for a 1½ pound loaf and 4 to 4½ cups for a 2 pound loaf.

The second thing to consider is most ABMs use a rapid, instant or bread machine yeast as opposed to fresh compressed yeast cakes or active dry yeast.  The advantage of the rapid/instant yeast is it does not need to be proofed and it works a little quicker.  But you can safely use active dry yeast, but you should modify you recipe slightly if you do.

The third thing is the order to place the ingredients in the bread pan in an ABM.  Usually you place in the liquid first, followed by the dry and finally you make a well on top of the flour and place the rapid/instant yeast.  If you intend to use active dry yeast, that can be placed directly in the water along with the sugar and mixed with a fork and allowed to proof to become foamy/bubbly/frothy before placing in the remaining ingredients.

Also you must decide if you are going to be making the bread right away or delaying the start. Many bread machines give you the option to delay the finish cooking time up to 24 hours.  If you decide to delay the start, the bread should have no eggs or milk in it since these ingredients can spoil or create germ problems which may not get killed off in the baking process.  If you bread has milk in it, use a milk powder and place it on top of the flour away from the water.  Remember place the yeast on the top of the flour and not in contact with the salt.

Once you are all set you can hit the “Start” button.  I would advise you to keep and eye on the dough as it is mixing.  You might need to add additional water or flour.  Flour absorption of the liquid is not always exact.  Humidity and moisture content of the flour can vary from day to day.  (I remember once being in a hurry to make a pizza dough, so I placed all my ingredients in the machine and started the dough only cycle.  When the bell rang that the cycle was finished. I was getting ready to make my pizza. . .Well to my surprise I wound my dough never mixed properly, it ended up needed an additional half cup of water. . . needless to say pizza was late that night.)

If you are running the dough only cycle.  I find mixing a bit easier. The ABM heats up a little to provide the perfect warm environment for the dough to rise.  To finish baking the bread in the oven, follow like any other bread recipe by shaping your loaf and doing a final rise as per your instructions.


Now that we have ABM basics out of the way lets talk about adapting any recipe for the bread machine.

  • Not all recipes can be adapted  You just can not cook a baguette in the bread machine.
  • Your recipe should have no more than 4 cups of flour (maybe 4½ cups)  This will be equivalent to a 2 pound bread machine loaf.  You may have to scale your recipe accordingly.
  • Remember liquids in the bread pan first followed by dry with the yeast being the last item which should be in a well in the flour.
  • If possible find a recipe already designed for the ABM.

With those few tips hopefully you can adapt your recipe successfully.

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