Bread machines are wonderful inventions but they can be a little tricky. The margin for error in most recipes is really quite narrow–even for those recipes supplied by the manufacturer—much narrower than breads made in your stand-type mixer or by hand.

Here are some hints that will move the odds more to your favor:

• Always measure the ingredients accurately. Measure liquids in a clear measuring cup at eye level.

• If the water temperature is specified, use a kitchen or candy thermometer to measure the temperature.

• Always use fresh flour kept in a closed container. Flour absorbs moisture from the air and will affect the moisture amount in the recipe. (We receive our flour within 60 days of milling and once opened, store it in sealed containers.)

• Always start with both the machine and the ingredients at room temperature.

If you have trouble baking bread with your machine, do what many experienced bread machine users do: use the machine for mixing and rising but not baking. Many machines have a “dough/manual” setting. Use it and then form the loaf and transfer it to a baking pan or sheet.

To use your bread machine in this way, begin the mix or recipe as instructed. Check on the dough as the machine mixes and kneads. If the dough is too sticky add another tablespoon of flour or if too dry, dribble a little water into the machine. Let the machine continue through the rise cycle. When the machine beeps to signal that baking is to begin, gently remove the dough by inverting the pan over the counter. Gently knead the dough to release the trapped gas and then form the loaf. Bake as a conventional loaf, usually at 350 degrees. You will have tilted the odds back in your favor, you will have the option of forming loaves the size and shape you wish (or even dinner rolls), and you won’t have a thick crust and a hole in the loaf

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The Prepared Pantry
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