Bread machines are ultra-convenient—they mix and knead the dough, let it rise, shape it into a loaf, and bake the bread, all with just a push of a button. But when the dough is baked in the machine, the resulting loaf is oddly shaped with a denser crumb and tougher crust. If this doesn't appeal to you, baking the bread machine dough in the oven is a simple solution. Let your bread machine do most of the work for you, and then shape the dough, transfer to regular loaf pans, and bake in the oven.
Start With the Bread Machine
Follow the bread-machine recipe for making a 2-pound loaf (for two 9 by 6-inch loaves) or a 1 1/2-pound loaf (for two 8 by 5-inch loaves). Set the bread machine to the "dough only" setting. The machine will combine the ingredients, knead the dough, and give it its first rise. When the bread machine beeps, it means the dough is ready to shape.
If your machine doesn't have a "dough only" setting, you'll have to watch it carefully to see when the first rise is over and the dough gets punched down.
Divide the Dough
Remove the dough from the machine and transfer it to a flour-dusted surface. Using a knife or a bench scraper, divide the dough in half. You can use a kitchen scale to ensure that the two pieces of dough are exactly even.
Shape Into a Rectangle
Pat the dough into a rectangle, about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. The narrow sides of the rectangle should be parallel to the edge of your counter.
The First Fold
In order to achieve that classic loaf shape, the bread dough needs to be folded in a certain way. Starting with the top of the rectangle (the edge that's furthest from you) fold one-third of the dough over onto itself.
The Second Fold
Now, fold the bottom third of the dough up over the other folded piece, as if you were folding a letter.
Repeat the Folds
Turn the piece of dough 90 degrees, then repeat the folds, folding the top third of the dough down over the middle.
Fold the bottom third of the dough over the center. You should now have a thick, square-ish piece of dough.
Repeat the shaping process with the other piece of dough.
Transfer to the Pans
Turn the dough over so that the seam is on the bottom, and tuck the layered sides underneath so the entire exposed surface of the dough is smooth. Place the dough in greased pans (either sprayed with cooking spray or coated with oil). Use your hands to flatten the dough a little toward the edges of the pan. The dough does not need to fill the entire bottom of the pan because it will expand as it rises.
Cover both pans of dough with a dish towel or a piece of plastic wrap that's been sprayed with cooking spray, and allow to rise in a warm space.
The Second Rise
The dough should rise for 45 minutes to an hour and a half, or until it is doubled in size. A good indication that it has risen enough is if the dough is a little past the top of the pan.
Set the Oven
Preheat your oven about 20 minutes before the bread will finish its rise. The temperature depends on the type of bread you are making; consult a bread cookbook to find the most similar type of bread to your recipe. Typically, doughs that are made with whole grains or large amounts of rich ingredients like butter or eggs will bake at 350 or 375 F, while leaner doughs will bake at a higher temperature, 400 to 425 F.
Slash the Loaves
With a very sharp paring knife or a razor (or a lame, a special bread baking tool), quickly slash the dough lengthwise down the middle of the loaf, about 1/4 inch thick. This will help the bread expand as it bakes, and will also give your bread a professional look.
Bake the Loaves
Place the loaves in the preheated oven. The bread will probably take 30 to 45 minutes to bake (check it for doneness after 30 minutes). The crust should be firm and browned; the underside of the loaf should be firm as well and make a hollow sound when tapped. You can also use an instant-read thermometer and look for a range of 180 to 210 F, depending on if your bread is soft or crusty. Remove the bread from the pan immediately and cool on a rack.