The bread in these photos was made from hard red wheat
We love our homemade wheat bread!
After Joshua's experimentation with natural dough conditioners, we arrived at what we consider the perfect loaf: light, slightly sweet, and 100% whole wheat. Our loaves stay soft, yet don't have the chemical aftertaste of store-bought bread. Easy, wholesome, and delicious! :)
I've been using a bread machine for years now, and love the amount of time it saves on kneading dough. With small children and constant interruptions, finding a good time to spend 30+ minutes with my hands immersed in sticky bread dough isn't easy. Measuring the ingredients into the bread machine and letting it entertain my children as they watch it knead the dough for me? Awesome! :)
For the past 5 years, I've been using a Sunbeam bread machine. My mom and I both had this machine and we both experimented with it a lot before giving up on ever actually baking a good loaf in the machine. I continued to use it (using the dough cycle) multiple times each week to knead bread dough, pizza dough, and any other yeast-based bread doughs.
This year as Joshua and I discussed what we might like to get each other for our wedding anniversary, two different kitchen appliances kept coming to mind. One was the Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme bread machine. (The other was the Bosch Universal mixer. I'll share how we decided between the two in a separate post!)
My interest in the Zojirushi bread machine in particular was aroused when my friend Crystal Paine mentioned that she was given one as a gift. (Check out her bread machine buttery rolls at that link, as well!)
I started doing more bread machine research and reading through lots of reviews online. (The Amazon.com listing for the Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme has almost 650 user reviews, many of which contain helpful tips and useful information!)
Some of my main concerns with any bread machine were:
Would it easily handle our everyday bread dough -- made with 100% whole wheat flour?
Is it reliable? What percentage of people absolutely love it? I was never completely satisfied with our Sunbeam bread machine, yet it got fairly good reviews overall on Amazon.com. Will I feel the same way about a Zojirushi?
Will it bake good loaves of whole wheat bread in the machine? I'm tired of "babysitting" loaves of bread, and if I buy an expensive bread machine I want it to bake good bread!
In the end, we decided to go with the Zojirushi bread machine. And we really, really like it!!
I've been using my homemade wheat bread recipe in the machine, and it works wonderfully. The recipe uses 3 cups of whole wheat flour and the resulting loaf rises just above the top of the bread pan in the machine. The texture is great: soft, with a uniformly dense texture while still very light and fluffy!
I have made the whole wheat bread recipe in the recipe booklet that came with the Zojirushi, but we didn't like it nearly as well as our standby recipe. Their recipe used 5 cups of whole wheat flour, and the resulting loaf was the same dimensions as my 3-cup loaf -- so it was much heavier.
Some of the things I love about the Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme bread machine:
It has two kneading paddles, which handle larger amounts of dough easily. It produces a nice, uniform loaf. The motor is very quiet, as well.
A simple control panel that does a whole lot!
The machine is fully programmable. This means I can program however many minutes of kneading, resting, and baking that I want. And setting it up is easier than it would seem at first. I've programmed my own pizza dough setting with just a knead and a short first rise.
Of course, there are plenty of preset programs for various breads, so if you don't want to experiment or do your own thing, you don't have to. My wheat bread recipe has worked so well on their "basic wheat" setting that I've stuck with using it.
The delay-timer remains one of my favorite features of a bread machine. I love that I can add ingredients and press "start" whenever it's convenient for me, and the bread (or dough) is done on time... despite the many interruptions a day can bring! :)
Making bread in a bread machine in easy. So easy. I never really thought it was too much work to grease pans, take the dough out, form it into loaves, let it rise, and then bake the bread. But compared to all that, simply putting the ingredients in the machine and taking the finished loaf out of the machine is shockingly simple!
The kneading paddles leave impressions in the bottom of the loaf, as shown here
Joshua has even been experimenting with breads in the machine. (The apple raisin bread recipe in the recipe booklet is pretty yummy!)
Bread baked in a machine does have a darker crust than oven-baked loaves
Now, what's not to like about the Zojirushi bread machine?
One of the main things we considered when deciding to purchase a bread machine was that it contained a non-stick coated pan inside. As far as I can tell, all bread machines use a non-stick coating on the pan, and none are "eco-friendly". The non-stick coating isn't a health issue unless the pan is heated (during baking), but the point of a luxury bread maker is that you can bake great loaves in the machine!!
So anyway, I'm not a fan of the non-stick, and wanted to mention it since it does merit consideration when making a large purchase.
A typical loaf from my Zojirushi bread machine: only slightly uneven.
Too-stiff dough will produce a loaf that's more lopsided.
The Zojirushi is also made in China. (I was guessing it was made in China, even though I could not seem to find this info online.)
Even though the bread machine motor is very quiet, when the lid of the machine is shut and it is kneading dough, the lid rattles a bit. It is still semi-quiet in my opinion, but if the kitchen is very quiet, the vibrating lid sounds loud and annoying! I've solved the issue by placing a clean dry dish cloth so that the lid rests on it while kneading.
I grind my own wheat flour for fresh, delicious 100% whole wheat bread!
A note about pricing on Amazon.com:
The price of the Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme varies almost daily. I noticed this as we were researching bread machines; often the Zojirushi was around $199, but sometimes higher or lower.
When I saw it priced at $168 one evening, Joshua and I did our final discussing and I went ahead and ordered one. I've continued watching the price, as we plan to get one as a wedding gift for someone this year. I've seen the price down to $179 and as high as $214 in the past month or so, and I've been checking daily.
All this to say, if you are considering this bread machine, have some patience and watch for a good price! A few days' wait could easily save you $20 or more! :)
Full disclosure: All links in this review are to Amazon.com through my affiliate account. This means we will get a small percentage of items purchased through these links. As always, we do not and will not recommend any product that we wouldn't spend our own hard-earned money on! :)
Is it worth the time and expense to make homemade bread? I do a simple cost analysis and talk about why we love making our own bread!