Among my shelves of books on baking bread by hand, is a smaller selection of books about using a bread machine to craft loaves and other items. I admit I’ve been somewhat lax in my creative uses of the bread machine, using it only to bake somewhat plain, whole loaves when I wasn’t up to or able to bake one entirely by hand.
The results, I also admit, have been somewhat mixed, in large part because I tend to experiment with ingredients and settings rather than strictly follow recipes (cooking is for me a bit of a science lab…). But that’s about to change. I plan to get more daring and try new things to create in the machine and explore new bread recipes using it (including jams and chutneys). And I’ll try to stick to the recipes as presented at least for the first time.
But before I set out on my new journey, I decided to read through my bread machine cookbooks for ideas, tips, techniques, and, of course, recipes. And I looked for similar content online but face it: books are always better. Below you’ll find some short reviews of the few books I own, based on my recent reading and analysis.
Let me explain my current equipment, first. I’ve owned two bread machines in the past two decades; the earlier one made small, round, vertical loaves in two sizes; it had one paddle and a limited number of programs. I don’t care for the round vertical loaf format, but newer models offer a square pan that makes a loaf more suitable for toast and sandwiches. I am also unsure how well the single paddle can knead the dough, especially of the larger sized loaves.
My current machine is a bulky Black & Decker B6000C bought as far as I can recall in 2013 (based on the manual’s date; the actual model appears to date from 2009 or ’10). It has a horizontal pan with two paddles, and can make 1.5, 2, and 3-lb loaves. It has 11 different program settings (white or basic, whole wheat, French, sweet, low carb, gluten free, quick bread, jam, dough, rapid white, and bake only) and three crust settings. I’ve only used the first three programs so far. It’s worked well for me, but it lacks some of the features newer models offer (like settings for knead-only dough; yogurt, pasta, fermentation, automatic fruit/nut dispenser, dual heating coils, folding paddles, etc.). UPDATE: I have been using a Kitchenarm 29-in-one bread machine since early December, 2022. I am very pleased with it and recommend it to anyone considering buying one. It makes 1, 1.5, and 2 lb loaves (500g, 750g, 1kg).
A small annoyance is the loaf-size selection. The pan is simply too small to make a 3-lb loaf, especially if there’s a tad too much yeast in the mix (it will easily overflow the pan and has done so for me with 1.5-lb loaves; see the photo on the right). And I would prefer a 1-lb setting instead of the 3-lb because I usually make smaller loaves. But it’s easy to use and clean. At least when I haven’t tweaked the mix too much, it has produced reasonably good loaves.
Bread machine technology has changed and improved since I first bought one, and it continues to evolve. Sometime in the undefined future (maybe when I win a lottery…), I hope to buy an upgraded bread machine with additional program settings (including sourdough starter, pasta dough, and yogurt). I’m still reading reviews and making a list of potential devices (Amazon is horrible for reviews, by the way). So on to the books…
Things to consider
The first thing you should read is the instruction manual that comes with your bread maker and try some of the recipes in it before you go on to other recipes and styles in these or other books. The manual’s recipes are (usually) tested to work in your particular machine and can act as guides to further experimentation. Plus, the manual has information about program settings, power outages, order of ingredients and so on. The 39-page manual with my B&D machine has 16 recipes and two variations so almost every program setting can be tested.
UPDATE: My new Kitchenarm machine has a comprehensive, 45-page user manual, and a separate, 59-page recipe book with 77 recipes covering every menu option. Plus the company has a website with more recipes and a custom recipe service to work without own recipes. Kitchenarm recipes are given in both volume and metric weight measurements.
I must add that I much prefer my recipes to use weight rather than volume measurements wherever possible, and to use metric rather than the antiquated imperial units. Weight makes for much more precise and accurate recipes and more consistent results. Using recipes with only imperial volume measurements feels like I’m building an ark using cubits. But I’m okay with mixed volume-weight measurements side by side.
In the reviews below, measurements are noted as MW (metric weight), IW (imperial weight), IV (imperial volume) and MV (metric volume). Some recipes have mixed measurements: for example, they may use volume for yeast, herbs, and spices (usually light items measured in tablespoon or teaspoon sizes) while using weight or volume for larger amounts, like flour and water. American cookbooks are almost entirely written with imperial measurements.
A good cookbook will also provide a guide for converting measurements from volume to weight, and imperial to metric.
The second note is that I like pictures, especially when a particular technique or process is required, and prefer photographs (P) over illustrations or drawings (I). Some illustrations are noted as decorative, which means they add to the aesthetic appeal of the layout, but don’t inform the reader about product or process.
I like having explanatory notes with the recipes that tell me something about the bread or ingredients, the expected flavour or result, history, or anything else that might inform and inspire me. I prefer more information about recipes and ingredients than less. and like to read suggestions for alternate ingredients such as milk for water, with a note of the effects of substitution.
I expect an introduction that explains some basics, like flour types, yeasts, additives, program settings, crust styles, auxiliary equipment, etc. I prefer a detailled discussion about program settings, too, so the reader knows exactly what each should do. Plus, it should have at least some basic tips on operation, techniques, troubleshooting. and machine maintenance. I’ve rated introductions F (full), B (Basic), S (scanty or slim) and N (none).
While I personally don’t use it, there should be a section on gluten-free baking, too. I’ve found almost every gluten-free product I’ve tried tastes like salted or sweetened sawdust, and I never bought into the gluten-free fad (yes, I am aware some people have allergies or sensitivities to gluten, but I don’t). But, yes, others still ride that bandwagon. I also like sections on other things you can do with a bread machine (chutneys, yogurt, sourdough starter, etc.) but this assortment of titles is woefully shy of such content, perhaps because many were published in the 1990s-early 2000s, and those features are on more recent machines.
Something to keep in mind: there are differences between American, Canadian, and European flours that are not always noted in these books. Most American and European recipes call for bread flour because their all-purpose (AP) flour not only has less protein, but in the USA, protein content is inconsistent across states and brands (some AP flours are as low as 8-10%).
Not so in Canada, where AP flour is consistent across the nation, and at 12-14% has the protein equivalent to American and British bread flour (see Cooksinfo). Not only that, but I use unbleached AP flour and it’s hard to find (if not impossible) unbleached bread flour in local supermarkets. When recipes call for added gluten with AP flour, it’s usually to compensate for lower protein; Canadian bakers can probably skip this ingredient.
All of the cookbooks have recipes for machine and oven-baked bread (prepped using the machine’s dough cycle), most have recipes for buns, muffins, pastries, pizza, flatbreads, etc. Most of my comments refer only to the bread recipes. As a random example, I list what, if any, recipes each book has for potato bread (yes, because I plan to make some soon…).
Finally, I appreciate recipes for small (1-lb size) loaves because there’s only two of us and we don’t eat all that much bread (yes, unfortunately bread pans are still rated in imperial sizes). I expect ingredient lists for larger sizes, as well. Recipes should offer multiple ingredient lists for different-sized loaves. I identify the recipe lists by S (small: 1 lb. or 500g), M (medium: 1.5 lb.), ML (medium-large: 2 lb.), L (large: 2.5), and X (extra-large: 3 lb.).
Not all machines can make all these loaf sizes; some are designed to only make one or two. While you can sometimes make a 1-lb. size even if the programming does not identify it, by using the 1.5-lb. setting and light crust, you have to be careful it does not overcook.
The Bread Machine Bible: More than 100 Recipes for Delicious Home Baking with Your Bread Machine, by Anne Sheasby, Duncan Baird Publishers, London, 2009. 176 pages, index, hardcover.
Introduction: B; 12 pages, but doesn’t give details about flour types.
Illustrations: P; Colour photos of finished products for many recipes, none for technique.
Measurements: IV only. Instructions have imperial sizes and temperatures.
Recipes: M & ML: One unstated size only; introduction mentions vague “medium” loaf size, so either 1.5 or 2-lb loaf.
Extras: Festive breads and baked goods.
Recipes lack any notation, or description of the products, nothing on alternative ingredients. Instructions are adequate but some recipes lack necessary technical details (like focaccia). Overall, while attractive in appearance, it’s not nearly as comprehensive as one expects from a book claiming to be a “bible.” No recipes for potato bread. Overall: 2 out of 5.
Electric Bread: The Gourmet Recipe Book for ALL Bread Machines, by Suzan Nightingale, Innovative Cooking Enterprises, Anchorage, 1996. 158 pages, index, paperback.
Introduction: B, 12 pages; lists flour, yeast & spice brands, but mostly only American companies. Has a page listing recipes by density of finished product.
Illustrations: P; B&W photos of finished product for all recipes, a few small photos of techniques for a few recipes.
Measurements: IV only. A few instructions have imperial sizes and temperatures.
Recipes: Two unstated sizes for every recipe; “regular” and large loaf, so perhaps M and ML (1.5 and 2-lb).
Extras: Spreads (not made in bread machine).
Recipes have basic notation about finished product, some substitute ingredients, and nutritional information, but most lack any instructions or technique notes. One recipe for “baked potato” bread. Overall: 2 out of 5.
Canadian Bread Machine Baking, by Roxanne McQuilkin, Macmillan Canada, Toronto, 1996. 175 pages, index, paperback.
Introduction: F; The first 45 pages are an introduction to machines, ingredients, and baking. It even mentions triticale, a high-protein Canadian grain.
Measurements: MV and IV. Instructions have Centigrade and Fahrenheit oven temperatures.
Recipes: S & M: Two sizes for most recipes; small and “large” loaf, defined on p.36 as those using 500mL flour vs 750mL flour (equal to 2 or 3 cups, or 1 lb and 1.5 lb loaves).
Extras: Recipes for cat & dog biscuits.
A bare-bones cookbook, but with some solid information in the beginning and a Canadian focus. Small notations precede recipes. Basic recipes have no instructions, but more complicated ones do. No recipes for potato bread but does recommend potato water as a substitute ingredient. Overall: 2.5 out of 5.
Canada’s Best Bread Machine Baking Recipes, by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt, Robert Rose Inc., Toronto, 1999. 192 pages, index, paperback.
Introduction: S: 3 pages.
Illustrations: P: Some colour photos of finished products, with decorative illustrations, but nothing for technique.
Measurements: IV and MV. Instructions have Centigrade and Fahrenheit oven temperatures.
Recipes: M & ML: Two sizes for most recipes; 1.5 lb. (750g) and 2 lb. (1 kg).
Extras: Desserts and holiday breads.
Recipes have notations, with tips and variations. Very few basic recipes; most are fancy with many ingredients. Non-bread products have more comprehensive instructions than most breads. Has a glossary at the back. One recipe for potato-chive bread. This book would go on to become the 300 Best Canadian Bread Machine Recipes (see below). Overall: 2.5 out of 5.
The Bread Machine Gourmet: Simple Recipes for Extraordinary Breads, by Shea Mackenzie, Avery Publishing Group, USA, 1993. 311 pages, index, paperback.
Introduction: S: 32 pages, but 21 of which are a glossary of ingredients.
Illustrations: P: Some colour photos of finished products, with decorative illustrations, but nothing for technique.
Measurements: IV only. Instructions have Fahrenheit oven temperatures
Recipes: S & M: 1 lb. and 1.5 lb. loaves.
Extras: Holiday breads and sweet rolls; whips, dips, spreads, and glazes.
Interesting note on p.3: “The 1-pound loaf is about 7 inches long and approximately 5 inches in diameter; it yields 8 or 9 fairly thick slices of bread. The 1½-pound loaf is 8 to 9 inches long and about 6½ inches in diameter. It yields about 12 slices.” Has 35 pages of whips, dips, and spreads, but none prepared in the bread machine. Recipes have one line of notation and minimal instructions, many of which are generic. One recipe for potato-dill bread. Overall: 2 out of 5.
Easy Bread Machine Recipes, by Rob Wanless, Sterling Publishing, New York, 1994. 128 pages, index, paperback.
Introduction: B: 15 pages, but has an additional 6 pages about bread machines at the back.
Illustrations: I: Three line drawings, two of which show technique.
Measurements: IV only, although one recipe mentions ounces. Instructions have Fahrenheit and Centigrade oven temperatures
Recipes: S, M & ML: 1 lb., 1.5 lb. and 2 lb. loaves.
Extras: Holiday breads and rolls, meals from the bread machine.
Recipes have notations and basic instructions. Has a recipe for potato bread with four variations, cinnamon sugar potato bread, potato doughnuts, and references to potato flour and water. Overall: 2 out of 5.
300 Best Canadian Bread Machine Recipes, by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt, Robert Rose Inc., Toronto, 2012. 448 pages, index, paperback.
Introduction: B: 13 pages, plus separate end glossaries for equipment, ingredients, and techniques (15 pages total). Also, there are informational notes throughout that are specific to a recipe or ingredient.
Illustrations: P: Some colour photos of finished products, but nothing for technique.
Measurements: IV and MV. Instructions have Centigrade and Fahrenheit oven temperatures.
Recipes: M, ML, L & X: 16 basic breads have four sizes (1.5, 2, 2.5 and 3 lb loaves, others have two sizes (1.5 lb. and 2 lb.), and some have 1.5 and 3 lb. Non-bread recipes have one size.
Extras: Jam, jelly, quick breads, pasta, cookies.
Recipes have notations, tips, and variations, plus instructions that range from generic to detailled, depending on the recipe. Five potato bread recipes, plus notes on using potato starch in recipes. This has long been my go-to book for recipes and ideas, but it really needs an update with weights rather than just volumes. Overall: 4 out of 5.
The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger, Harvard Common Press, Boston, 2000. 643 pages, index, paperback.
Introduction: F: 45 pages, with additional pages of information throughout, plus appendices and list of resources (American only).
Illustrations: I: Decorative line drawings throughout, but only four for products and none for techniques.
Measurements: IV only. Instructions have only Fahrenheit oven temperatures
Recipes: M & ML: 1.5 lb. and 2 lb. loaves. Some breads and non-bread recipes have only one size.
Extras: Quick breads, jams, preserves, chutneys.
Would be a much better book if it had metric or even weight measurements, although it does have a page showing volume-weight (imperial) equivalents. Recipes have excellent notations and instructions. Description of flour types is very skimpy and does not even mention protein content or differences between Canadian and US flour. Most bread recipes call for extra gluten. Six recipes for potato bread. Aside from being somewhat too American, this is chock full of information and good reading, and has the most comprehensive chapter on making jams and chutneys in your bread maker.
Hensperger is the author of other bread books, including The Best Quick Breads (Harvard Common Press, 2000). Overall: 3.5 out of 5.
The Ultimate Bread Machine Cookbook, by Jennie Shapter, Hermes House, London, 2010 edition. 256 pages, index, large format hardcover.
Introduction: F: 60 well-illustrated pages, including examples, techniques, equipment, recipes, and more.
Illustrations: P: Many colour photos of finished products, techniques, equipment. Almost every page has at least one colour photo.
Measurements: IV and MV, plus MW and IW measurements. Instructions have Centigrade and Fahrenheit oven temperatures as well as UK gas settings.
Recipes: S, M, ML: Most bread recipes have three sizes (12-13 oz, 1-1 lb. 2oz, and 1 lb. 5 oz loaves (350-375g, 450-500g, and 600g). Non-bread and some specialty breads recipes have one size.
Extras: Teabreads and cakes.
Recipes have notations, cook’s tips, and comprehensive instructions. It’s a beautiful book and a delight to read because of the large size and the many photographs. Although published for the UK market, and the loaf sizes seem odd in North American machines, these recipes work just as well in Canada, if you use our AP or even bread flour.
The only qualm I have is in the introductory photos showing the baker adding toppings or glazes to risen dough in the machine. Page 22 notes to add a milk glaze “before or during baking” and page 25 suggests adding sea salt “10 minutes into the baking cycle.” However, most machine manuals and other books warn against opening the machine lid during baking because it can cool the loaf and upset baking times. Also, while all the photos show a horizontal pan used for baking, many of the finished loaves appear to have been made in a vertical pan. Two recipes for potato bread. Unlike most other cookbooks, there is no separate gluten-free section and only three recipes for gluten-free bread. Overall: 4 out of 5.
The Best-Ever Book of Bread: A Complete Guide to Making Your Own Bread in a Traditional Oven and Using a Bread Machine, by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter, Hermes House, London, 2013. 512 pages, index, paperback.
This book combines the book above with a similarly-designed and illustrated book on traditional baking, so the notes above also refer to this book.
It’s a superb reference for all sorts of baking and a wealth of recipes (more than 250) but suffers from being made physically smaller. The resulting type is more difficult to read than the book, above. The descriptions of flours in the first part (108-109) are inadequate and do not provide necessary information about protein content or the effects of gluten protein in baking. Six recipes using potatoes (including latkes). Overall: 3.5 out of 5.
More to come…
- The Father of Modern English - © March 19, 2023
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- More Venery - © March 12, 2023
A new cookbook was just received:
Betty Crocker Best Bread Machine Cookbook: The Goodness of Homemade Bread the Easy Way, by General Mills, 1999, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Minneapolis. 240 pages, index, spiral-bound hardcover.
2009. 176 pages, index, hardcover.
Introduction: B; 21 pages, but doesn’t give details about flour protein levels and nothing at all about Canadian or European flours, but is well laid out and has a good troubleshooting section.
Illustrations: P; Colour photos of the finished product for almost all recipes, none for technique.
Measurements: IV only. Instructions have imperial temperatures.
Recipes: M & ML: either 1.5 or 2-lb loaf. However, there is a chapter called “Smaller Can Be Just Right” with 14 recipes for S & M (1 and 1.5 lb).
Extras: A conversion table for US IV measurements to Canadian and Australian metric units. Four-page glossary. Sweet breads and coffee cake chapter.
Recipes have some tips and a few bits of information, but nothing about the expected taste or use of the products. Most instructions are generic, except where ovens are used for baking. Nutritional information accompanies every recipe. Nothing at all on other uses such as jams or even a machine’s bake-only option. Five recipes for potato bread. It appears a solid, basic cookbook aimed at the American market, but seems overpriced for Canadians. Overall: 2.5 out of 5.
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My latest acquisition is:
The New Bread Machine Book by Marjie Lambert (Firefly Books, 1999). Measurements in volume for 1 and 1.5 lb loaves (M & ML). 11 pages of a reasonably good introduction. Basic descriptions of bread and results, with a few notes on technique but only minimal (generic) instructions for many loaves. Colour photos of many finished products and a few of the ingredients. Four recipes with mashed potatoes, but others for sweet bread and rolls (no recipes for potato flakes, though). 3.5 out of 5.
I’m still looking for more (and more recent) titles, and have a recipe book for the Kitchenarm Smart Bread Maker 29-in-one device.
Making Artisan Breads in the Bread Machine, by Michelle Anderson, 2021, Harvard Common Press. 208 pages, large format paperback.(see photo here)
Uses MW and IV for measurements. Colour photos (P) of some of the finished leaves but nothing for technique. A paragraph about each bread type. The introduction is 39 pages long and very good (F). Mentions Canadian flour in the intro, too, but her recipes mostly use American bread flour which has the same protein content as Canadian AP flour.
Recipes are all for 2 lb loaves, but the author has a simple table on p. 47 for converting to 1, 1.5, 2.5 and 3 lb sizes.
The book contains 100 recipes, but only 27 use the bread machine for the full process. All the rest are simply to mix the dough in the machine, then require the oven for final baking. Recipes have basic techniques for shaping and handling those loaves made in the oven.
There are not many of the standard loaf recipes in this book made entirely in the machine: if you’re looking for the usual white, whole wheat, French loaves you can make for sandwiches, they aren’t here. But there are a lot of interesting recipes for more exotic fare, often with added ingredients like seeds, fruit, and cheese.
I’d recommend it for bakers with some experience in oven baking. Since all the recipes that use the oven require you to handle the dough and prepare it for the second rise, they expect some previous practice and a warm place for that rise to occur (my kitchen is generally cool and I use a homemade proofing box for the rising). I was a bit disappointed that there were not more recipes that use the bread machine for the entire process.
One recipe for potato bread, using the oven, which also has a tip for using potato flakes instead of mashed potatoes. And there are no recipes for quick (soda) bread or other non-yeast bread.
Overall: 3.5 out of 5.
PS. The other book in the photo, Crusts, is full of recipes for oven-baked bread and pastries, and will be reviewed in another post. The third book is about making pickles, chutneys, and jams, something I’m learning to do with my bread machine as well.