You will likely face weeping and gnashing of teeth by serious bread makers at the mention of the word bread machine. And most will say it takes the fun out of making bread all together. True, it probably does but it does allow the masses who are looking for a convenient way to produce a simple loaf of bread without all the chemicals and the big time commitment.
The idea of a kitchen appliance that just produces a loaf of bread started in the late 80’s and caught on very quickly with just about everyone that wanted easy bread at home. Now almost 20 years later the technology has advanced and bread machines are an excellent alternative for most who want fresh bread without the hassle.
Like most technology there are many brands and hundreds of different models of bread makers. While all of them have the same basic function (to make bread), they all suffer from a few common design flaws. One is that most bread machines utilize oddly shaped loaf pans which make it difficult to produce a regular size loaf of bread. Another issue is that most machines have only one mixing paddle which results in poor mixing. Often, to compensate for the lack of mixing recipes will add vital wheat gluten to help expand the loaf.
Recently ChefTalk.com received the Zojirushi Home Baker Supreme Breadmaker. What really intrigued me about the Zojirushi model is that it has two paddles for mixing and it bakes the bread in a traditional loaf pan. After testing the machine for a couple weeks I have had some excellent results.
The Zojirushi Home Baker Supreme comes in stainless steel or all white. Both models are the exact same other than one looks a little flashier than the other.
The top of the machine has a large clear viewing window to see all the action. To the right of the viewing window is a digital control pad with an lcd display for setting the bread cycle.
It has all the standard cycles that bread machine users have come to expect such as:
In addition it comes with the following:
- Bread cycles include: basic, quick, wheat, and dough
- Crust control: light, medium, dark
- Delay time cycle (13 hour)
- Non-bread cycles such as: jam, cake, sour dough starter, and homemade which allows the user to control each step of the cycle.
- One regular size Teflon coated pan
- Two Teflon coated mixing paddles
- Measuring cup
- Measuring spoon
- Manual which contains standard recipes
- Learning dvd
What I liked
Two mixing paddles are what really set this machine apart from all the rest. The bread is more fully kneaded and does not require and enhancers such as vital wheat gluten to help compensate for the lack of kneading.
For baking bread in a bread machine my book of choice is Beth Hensperger’s excellent book “The Bread Lover’s Bread Machine cookbook”. Most of the recipes in the book call for the addition vital wheat gluten to help give the bread a lift. However, the first few loaves I made with the Zojirushi Home Baker Supreme ended up rising all the way to the top of the viewing window which produced a massive loaf and the top was not cooked at all. After several loaves it dawned on me that the “Zo” (as it is often referred to) does a much more thorough job of kneading the dough. I simply left out the vital wheat gluten and the loaves came out perfectly.
Another excellent feature of this machine is how quietly it operates compared to other bread makers. Often when using other models it is surprising how loud the machine is while making bread. In terms of sound the Zojirushi really beats out the competition.
There is no question that what attracts many people to the Zojirushi bread machine is the regular size loaf pan. It produces bread that does not look like it came from a bread machine. The pan has a Teflon coating which seems to do a good job of making the removal of the bread pretty easy. I read a tip and found that removing the mixing paddles on the second rise makes removing the bread even easier.
Lastly, Zojiurshi does not just send you a manual they also send you a slightly cheesy, but informative dvd on how to use the machine. Great touch for getting new bread machine owners up to speed quickly.
What I didn’t like
There are two things that were really disappointing in my testing. One is the bread does not seem to brown evenly or much at all on the top. When you extract the loaf the crust looks great everywhere except the top. There are a couple of ways around this such as using the homemade cycle to extend the cooking time. The problem with this method is that the rest of the crust gets too dark. An acceptable technique is to put aluminum foil over the pan to keep the heat in which works ok but is still disappointing. These machines retail for $200.00 and for that kind of expense it seems like a small thing to expect an even crust.
The other problem with the machine is there is no way to turn off the beeping sound that occurs about a half hour into the mixing cycle. This poses a problem if you want to use the delay cycle during the night since most light sleepers will wake up from the beeping.
It would also be a nice addition if the manufactures added a pizza dough cycle.
Overall this is a solid performer. The under cooked tops were very frustrating, but the more you experiment with the machine the better your bread becomes over time. The recipes that come with the zojirushi home bakery supreme are very consistent and produce a good loaf of bread. However, I recommend you check out Beth Hensperger’s recipes since they are more flavorful. If using recipes other than the ones included with the Zojirushi manual you will have to experiment with the recipe and machine in order to get the bread just right. Once you do you can produce a great loaf of bread every time.
The Zojirushi Home Baker Supreme is available at www.Everythingkitchens.com.