A bread machine can be a very effective way to mix and knead dough to prepare it to bake in your oven.
The first few times I used my new bread machine, I completed the entire baking cycle in it.
However, as my baking skills improved, I wanted a “traditionally” shaped loaf I could only get by baking my bread in a bread pan.
So why use a bread machine at all?
Not only is using a bread machine for mixing and kneading more of a “hands off” process than using a mixer, the bread machine does a very thorough job of kneading and maintains a consistent temperature in the machine’s canister that makes your yeast happy!
I barely used the bread machine I had some 20 years ago, but I expect an older bread machine is just as effective at mixing and kneading dough as newer models.
In my experience, a cycle set to mix/knead for 15 minutes, rest 20 minutes and mix/knead for another 15 minutes is sufficient for developing the gluten necessary for a satisfactory rise and texture.
Regardless of your bread machine model, you can manually manage the length of time your machine kneads the dough by using a timer to time kneading and rest periods. I’ve had good success with either setting a custom program sequence or simply cancelling the mix/knead cycle after 15 minutes and restarting it following the dough’s 20 minute rest period.
Generally, I’m able to complete my loaf – from mixing to baking – within just two hours.
I hesitate to recommend kneading dough any longer than 18 minutes at a time because gluten can be “overworked” and fail to produce the nice rise you want to see in your loaf. Kneading it less than 15 minutes likely won’t work the gluten long enough.
In addition to thoroughly preparing bread dough for its final rise and baking, the bread machine provides a controlled environment where a temperature range of 105- to 110-degrees (Fahrenheit) can be maintained so the yeast can do its job of supporting that light, airy rise we all want to see in our loaves.
Long time journalist Loretta Sorensen is the author of, “Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever!” and regularly shares information about whole grains and bread baking. You’ll find her book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and the Country Store at www.ourdakothorsetales.com. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at “Mother Earth Living,” “Grit Magazine,” www.ourdakothorsetales.comand on Facebook at @yourbestbreadever. You can subscribe to her bread baking blog posts at www.bakeyourbestever.com.