I commented in a post a few weeks ago that we couldn't have fresh bread because my bread machine had broken. I got some comments and questions about the bread machine and what I use it for, so I thought I would write a post on it.
About 3 years ago I asked my husband to buy me a bread machine for Christmas. At that time Walmart carried a fairly inexpensive, easy to use Sunbeam model for around $35 (I think it is $50 now.) I didn't want him to spend a lot of money on it in case I didn't like it and never used it, or if the bread never turned out. Well, I ended up using that machine at least twice a week (sometimes more) until the bread pan warped and I couldn't use it anymore. To replace the bread pan would have cost $25 plus shipping, but a friend had one for sale she had only used once with the instructions for $25, so I bought hers instead of buying replacement parts for mine.
So, what do I make in the bread machine? The most common things I use the bread machine for is: bread (white and wheat), dough for dinner rolls, dough for cinnamon rolls, and pizza dough. There are also settings for French bread, Quick Breads (like zucchini, banana chocolate chip, or nut bread), Pasta,Super Rapid Breads, and Jam. I can honestly say that the best dough I have ever made has come from the bread machine as opposed to mixing by hand or using my Kitchen-Aid mixer.
How easy is it to use? The bread machine itself is very easy to use. You put in your ingredients, push the button until it gets to the right setting, and press start. The hardest part is measuring and adding the ingredients. When using a bread machine you have to add all of your liquids first, then dry ingredients, adding your yeast last. Bread is not a very forgiving food and the measurements have to be exact or it won't turn out right. I have found that using bread flour when baking bread in a bread machine really makes a difference even though I use regular flour when just making dough. To get the best value on yeast, I buy it at Sam's club (well I have someone that has a membership pick it up for me.) They sell a value pack that is two one pound bags for around $5. Even with as much as I use, it will usually last me almost a year and is much more economical than buying it by the packet.