LCD screen lights up
Gluten-free setting works well
Some recipes just don’t work
Mixing isn’t always thorough
Loaves frequently have pale tops
From basic white to whole wheat, we went through pound after pound of flour in an effort to test out the Hamilton Beach HomeBaker’s various settings. This type of machine is ideal for folks who want to craft basic breads without a lot of fuss and without having to babysit a dough as it rises. Besides testing its breadmaking abilities, we also made dough for pizza, cooked and stirred jam for breakfast, and even baked a cake to celebrate our successes. Lots of buttons were pushed in our quest to determine whether this bread machine rose to the occasion—see what we thought.
Performance: Mostly solid with a few fails here and there
We started our testing with Hamilton Beach’s basic bread recipe. The loaf rose well and made great sandwiches, so we marked it a success. Next up, we moved on to the express setting, which bakes loaves in less than an hour. Our first attempt turned out dense, doughy, and underbaked, which was a disappointment, but we tried again and the second loaf worked out better. That said, it was still shorter than a normal loaf and dense, with dark sides and a pale, cracked top. It was okay for a super-fast loaf of bread, but we wouldn’t opt to make it again if we had time to devote to a standard loaf.
We started our testing with Hamilton Beach’s basic bread recipe. The loaf rose well and made great sandwiches, so we marked it a success.
After two basic breads, we tried out the included recipes for sweet cinnamon bread (omitting the raisins) and moist devil’s food cake which reminded us of chocolate pound cake. Most of the recipes that we tried from the book worked out well, but we did have some failures, like our rye loaf which collapsed into itself. As an experienced baker and recipe developer (check out my cookbook, Make Ahead Bread), I know bread can be finicky, so I can’t blame the machine entirely for the failures. Since many of the recipes worked out well on the first try, it may simply be that the failed recipes needed some adjusting. The recipe booklet offers plenty of troubleshooting tips, including directions to reduce or increase different ingredients. After trying a few of the suggested tweaks, we did wind up with better results.
After breads and cakes, we attempted pizza dough and jam and were happy with the outcome of both. The real surprise with this machine, however, was how well our gluten-free creations came out. Gluten-free bread is notoriously tricky, so we were excited to see decent results on our first try.
The [machine’s] mixing mechanism isn’t as thorough as we’d like. Often, dry flour was left in corners of the pan and it attached to our loaves as they baked.
As for machine pitfalls, the mixing mechanism isn’t as thorough as we’d like. Often, dry flour was left in corners of the pan and it attached to our loaves as they baked. This didn’t happen every time, but it was often enough that we’d suggest peeking at the dough during the kneading cycle and using a spatula to manually stir in un-mixed ingredients.
Additionally, the bread paddle stayed embedded in most of the loaves we made, which meant we had to consistently fish it out of the pan. We also found that most of our breads had a paler top since the machine only heats on the bottom.
Design: Understated rather than flashy
Hamilton Beach’s black exterior is quite understated, so it won’t call attention to itself on your counter. Generous hand-holds on the sides of the machine make it comfortable to lift and carry and at 15 pounds, it’s lightweight enough to be moved in and out of storage if you don’t want to leave it out.
The control buttons are logical, and the LCD screen lights up as soon as you press a button. While the backlit screen is a nice touch, some of the information displayed is quite small, so it may be hard to some to read. A list of programmed settings is printed on the top of the lid, which made it easy for us to pick the one we wanted.
The bread pan is slightly rectangular, but as larger loaves bake, they end up being taller than they are long, so slices don’t resemble normal sandwich bread. We were happiest with mid-sized loaves, which yielded more traditionally sized slices.
The bread paddle stayed embedded in most of the loaves we made, which meant we had to consistently fish it out of the pan.
Features: Lots of programs
This machine has a total of 12 different programmed settings, including dough, jam, cake, and grain. Crust control can be set for light, medium, or dark, and the loaf size can be set for 1 pound, 1 ½ pounds, or 2 pounds.
We found it odd that the “Quick” setting is not for baking bread more rapidly, but for yeast-free quick breads, like banana or pumpkin. Because the “Quick” setting on every other machine we’ve used has meant speedier baking time, we think it would make more sense to call the setting “Quick Bread.”
Hamilton Beach’s HomeBaker isn’t the abosulte cheapest machine you’ll find, but it’s on the lower end of the spectrum. At $69.99 MSRP, it doesn’t have all the extra features you’ll find on more expensive models, but it covers most bakers’ needs with 12 specialty settings.
Hamilton Beach HomeBaker vs. Oster ExpressBake Bread Machine
The Hamilton Beach HomeBaker and Oster ExpressBake are pretty similar in size, settings, and price (at $69.99 and $89.99, respectively). Having worked with both, we found that the Oster kneaded breads better, had fewer failed bakes, and required less tweaking of personal recipes. Unless you’re keen to use Hamilton Beach’s gluten-free setting, we’d recommend going with the Oster.
Decent results as long as you make the required tweaks.
While we were slightly disappointed that we had some initial failures with recipes from the included booklet, the troubleshooting tips helped us adjust our recipes for better results. This would be a great machine for someone baking just a few recipes over and over, but might not be the best choice for someone interested in experimenting.
- Product Name HomeBaker
- Product Brand Hamilton Beach
- MPN 29882C
- Price $69.99
- Weight 15.22 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 10.43 x 14.13 x 12.2 in.
- Color Black
- Material Plastic
- Warranty 1 year