In many recipes, but especially when we use our bread machines, we have to get the water just right. Too much water or too little water will make a dramatic difference in the end result. And with a bread machine, water at the wrong temperature may spell failure.
To get the right amount of water always use a clear measuring cup designed for liquids. Fill the cup nearly to the desired mark. Place the cup at eye level on a shelf or on the window sill. Dribble water from a glass into the cup until the liquid is just right on the mark.
For bread, we always use a thermometer to get the correct temperature even though we bake bread so often that we can tell temperature by touch to within a few degrees.
After measuring the water, place the thermometer in the water and give it a few moments to adjust. If the water is a few degrees cool, place the cup in the microwave for ten seconds or so. If it is a few degrees too warm, place the cup in the freezer for a couple minutes. If the temperature is off more than a five or ten degrees, it is usually quicker to empty the cup and start again.
For most bread machine mixes and recipes, eighty degrees Fahrenheit is about right. If you are fine tuning a particular mix for your machine, always use the same temperature of water. (In our work, we are nearly exact—the temperature is never more than one degree off of target.) For most traditional mixes, we use water at 110 degrees.