Tuesday Tip: Using a Bread Machine to Make Dough for Baking in the Oven

I adore bread. My mom has often reminded me that too much bread can be bad for you. And yes, I get it, mom, everything in moderation. But bread – good bread, not cottony white sandwich bread – is worth the effort.

When I was young, I was able to visit France two summers in a row. At ages 10 and 11, I was a budding food enthusiast, and I was blown away by the experience of dining at the home of our French host family. Vegetables and fruits were fresher than anything I had ever experienced. Cheeses were pungent. Sauces were not all ridiculously salty or tomato-based. And the bread was bought fresh daily at the local boulangerie. And I’m not talking just any bread – crisp, shattery-crusted French baguette, a long, thin loaf perfect for tearing off a chunk to mop up soup, spreading with a soft cheese, or toasting leftovers for a breakfast perfect for dipping in hot chocolate.

My host mother, trying to provide me with lunches I would eat while we were out sightseeing, would purchase cottony American-style sandwich loaves with which to make me sandwiches. When I demurred, asking why I had this bread when my host father was eating delicious-looking sandwiches on a baguette, she chuckled and told me she would give me the baguette in future. I still remember the first one – paper-thin slices of ham and salted butter on baguette. Amazing that something so simple can explode with flavor.

In my tiny, rudimentary college kitchens, I baked sourdough loaves for my roommates and I to share. I first made my famous focaccia bread in one of those kitchens. When my French host family visited my parents a few years later, I sought out a recipe for baguettes that they deemed by far the best bread they had enjoyed since leaving France.

As you can see, I enjoy a lifelong affair with bread. Fast-forward ten years, and I have three children. I’m a stay-at-home mom, so I’m home more than working parents – but my life revolves around their schedules. I struggle mightily to make yeast breads from scratch, both because I often have appointments or school pickups or sports practices or lessons to ferry them to, and because I have bad wrists that don’t allow me to knead by hand. And yet my family always has a fresh loaf of bread in the pantry, waiting to become school sandwiches, or breakfast toast, or dinnertime sides, smeared with salty butter. And the surprising part, especially for nearly everyone who comments on the deliciousness of a loaf I’ve made, is that I’ve mixed nearly every one of them in the bread machine, spending next to no hands-on time crafting something that you would most likely find at a fancy artisanal bakery. (In fact, this past summer I baked for a local farmer’s market, and I made nearly every bread in the bread machine!) The bread machine mixes, kneads, and rises the dough, and I remove it to shape and bake the bread in my oven.

in the bread machine

in the bread machine

Below, I’ve shared some recipes we’ve posted on Cooking for the Fam that I’ve been successful at making in my bread machine. And as I’ve done so, my confidence and my ease with the transition from hand-mixed or stand mixer recipes has grown, to the point that I almost always make new bread recipes for the first time in the bread machine, whether they call for that method or not, and I very rarely have any failures. Read your bread machine manual, familiarize yourself with that model’s quirks and methods – when to add wet, when to add dry, when to add yeast – and experiment. From my experience, even the failures will get eaten!

Let us know if you like this post in the comments – we’d love to hear from you about what you make in your bread machine, or requests for recipes you’d like us to post for the bread machine. I’ve got some possibilities in mind – jumbo cinnamon rolls, cinnamon roll bread, and blueberry pie dessert bread are all recipes I could post if there is enough interest.


Cooking for the Fam recipes I’ve successfully made in the bread machine:

Other recipes:

My two favorite bread machine cookbooks, which get heavy use: