Although baking results can differ from one bread maker to another, the texture of bread baked in a machine is quite different from that of oven-baked bread, even when the same recipe is used. Rather than light and airy, bread machine bread generally has a heavier and more compressed dense texture.
Bread Machine Flour
Although you can improve baking results by using bread machine flour (rather than all-purpose flour), the difference often does not warrant the added cost of specialty flour. Breadmaker manufacturers do recommend bread machine flour, but we've found we can achieve good results with regular flour. Sometimes, simply experimenting with ingredients and measures can improve baking results.
What causes bread maker bread to have such a dense texture? The confined space of the pan restrains the rising process slightly and the bread bakes at this level. How the bread maker baking cycle is designed can also affect how long and how much it rises, as can certain ingredients. A machine loaf often has a different shape or size than a standard bread, depending on the design of the bread maker pan.
Is the Dense Compacted Bread Just as Good?
Yes because it is made with the same ingredients and in some cases, it may be better, since you can create your own bread varying ingredients and using your favorite whole grains. Some people actually prefer bread machine bread than oven-baked or store-bought loaves. There's something to be said for a densely textured toast. On the other hand, a slice of bread is so much nicer if it has risen higher, is lighter and fluffy in appearance.
The bread shown in the image were both made from the same recipe and started in the bread maker, one on a full cycle that included baking in the machine (tall loaf), while the other was made on the dough setting and baked in a range oven (horizontal loaf). The machine bread has the typical heavier texture, while the oven-baked loaf rose higher and lighter. The bread maker used in this test was the Sunbeam - you can read my Review of Sunbeam Model 5891 Breadmaker for more information on this model.
The Texture of the Bread
While consumers love homemade bread, some are not fond of the texture of bread baked in a machine and often overlook the convenience that a bread maker can provide, when it comes to making bread. On the dough setting, the machine does all the work of kneading and allowing it to go through the initial rise and rest periods. This not only saves time but also creates less baking mess. You can make pizza dough, sweet dough and basic dough for cinnamon buns, just to name a few options, by using the dough setting and a basic white bread recipe.
Starting a bread in a bread maker and finishing it in the oven renders great results with less effort overall, than kneading by hand. When the dough cycle ends, you shape it and allow it to rise for the second time. Then bake in the oven as per your recipe. Using a bread maker for even a part of the bread process, allows you to focus on other household chores or meal tasks, while the dough cycle is operating. So in a sense, it allows you to multi-task.
Bread Makers Vary in Function
Bread makers vary in function with some having more than basic bread cycles. Although more expensive, some bread machines have jam, dessert loaves, sweet dough, gluten-free and cake cycles which makes them versatile kitchen appliances. If you need inspiration for ways to use your bread machine, check out a few recipe books, you'll get lots of ideas. You certainly could make bread the traditional way, without a bread maker, but this machine is convenient, saving on clean-up as well as prep time.