Product Type: Panasonic bread makers
Newest Review: ... so this bread maker is perfect. The bread tastes really good too. If this machine ever packs up then we'll be getting another Panasonic... more
I'm Passionate about my Panasonic
Member Name: Vialdana
Advantages: Makes fantastic bread, very easy to use and clean, looks nice, and saves us money.
Disadvantages: Initial outlay to buy it is quite a lot.
Then Christmas came.
My mum who is an extremely generous person, knew exactly which bread maker it was I'd been coveting, as she'd not long treated herself to one and realised just how good it was. Well it seems she'd been shopping en masse for us all, and my gift, my step sisters gift, and my brother's gift were all that of a beautiful new bread maker. It was in fact, the trusty Panasonic SD-255.
Now bearing in mind that these retail around the £100 mark, you might be fooled into thinking that it was ridiculously over priced, and that we were going a bit over the top in wanting such an expensive model. But if I tell you that I've never had a bad loaf from this, and that it's been an absolute joy to use every single time, you might think ok then well... but if you were to actually TASTE the bread that this bread maker produces, then I really think you'd understand immediately where I'm coming from.
~*~Some Quick Facts~*~
This is a largish product and does take up a reasonable space on your work top, however, it's not as large as some, and looks pretty good all in white as it is. But you do need somewhere to keep it on the surface if you're going to use it regularly as it's a little hefty to be moving in and out of a cupboard all the time.
Unlike some bread makers, you're not assumed to be unable to weigh and measure, and instead of giving you all the quantities in cups and spoons, this gives you weights and quantities properly which I like.
It isn't a drop paddle blade, but the slit left in the loaf is ridiculously small compared to many bread makers, and is in fact smaller than the hole left by the paddle in our last bread maker where the paddle dropped flat supposedly to leave no hole (yeah right!).
~*~Ease of Use~*~
So this is a very simple device to work. There are a number of different settings you can select from, but the booklet that comes with it gives not just recipes, but precise instructions about which settings to select depending on what type of bread you're making.
You get a measuring spoon and a measuring cup with this, but to be honest it's just as easy to use your own spoon and jug measures if you want to as everything is like I mentioned given in weights and quantities, and you will need to own some scales for weighing things.
Each recipe gives the list of ingredients in the order you need to add them to the machine, but to be perfectly fair, we don't always follow the directions to the letter in terms of the order you add things, and we've never had a problem with this. So, Flour, yeast, sugar, water, fat and salt - that's all you need for a perfect loaf - and of course the SD-255.
There are two main modes for bread, a regular bake and a rapid bake. The regular bake takes around 4 hours, while the rapid bake takes just 2 hours - this is for a white loaf (wholemeal takes a bit longer). We have tried both, and in all honesty we generally use the rapid bake setting for our every day bread as it uses less power overall to cook the loaf, and is extremely tasty. Within this you can choose your crust setting as well so that you can select how light or dark you want the crust of your bread to come out. We like ours lightly done, so use the lightest setting which gives a nice soft crust to the bread, but my brother I know prefers a firmer crust to his so uses a darker setting. The main difference between the rapid and regular settings is the amount of time and number of times the dough rises for.
The only thing I would say is that unlike with some bread makers, there's no keep warm facility on this one, so you do need to be around to remove the loaf when the machine beeps to say its ready as leaving it in there for more than a few minutes after can result in the crust going rather soggy. I have to admit I've never really found this a problem though.
~*~Ease of Cleaning~*~
One of the things some people seem to worry about with a bread maker is how much cleaning will be involved in the process. Well basically you have a pan with a small paddle that sits in the bottom, and to clean these, you part fill the pan with water, leave for 5 minutes so the paddle lifts out easily, use a bottle brush cleaner to clean out the hole in the centre of the paddle where it attaches to the pan, and then wipe the inside of the pan with a sponge or cloth.
You do have to avoid popping the pan into water, or using anything abrasive on it, and it can't go in the dishwasher, but it's SO easy to clean that it's really not an issue - it's more like wiping a plate that's had a sandwich on it, rather than cleaning a casserole dish that's been baked in the oven you know. I have heard people moan about how their paddle sticks after a few years, or the bread becomes difficult to remove because the pan has got scratched, but almost a year after I got this, mine is fine probably because I don't let anything abrasive near it.
~*~Making other things~*~
As well as the obvious loaves of bread, we've also made a selection of other things using the bread maker. The pizza dough recipe makes excellent pizza bases, and there are some very nice fruit bread and hot cross bun recipes given too though I have to say we prefer to add a touch more spice than they suggest.
A number of the recipes only make the dough and then leave you to bake the resulting item (pizza bases or bagels for example) in the oven, but you know how long each cycle takes so you can plan this ok and make sure you put the oven on at the right time, and apart from shaping these things all the rest of the hard work has been done for you so again it does really simplify things a lot.
~*~Storing the Bread~*~
We store ours in a plastic bag, and then that's placed in the bread bin. I know other people who just place it straight in the bread bin, so I would say just store it in the way you might a loaf you've bought fresh from the bakers really and you'll be fine. In terms of how long it will keep this bread has no preservatives in it other than a bit of salt, so you don't really want to be keeping it for too long. However, ours is normally eaten within 2-3 days and is fine, and in fact I've used the last bits up on day 4 with no problem in the past, though I don't think it's ever lasted longer than that for us.
This model comes with an automatic dispenser for things like seeds, fruit and nuts - basically the sort of things you might want in your loaf, but that are better added a little way into the mixing process so they don't get destroyed by early mixing.
It also comes with a second paddle which has a different look. I believe this can be used to make certain specific products like rye bread and a few other things, but I have to admit that so far it's just sat in the drawer for me.
The next model down (254) is the same as this, but without the automatic dispenser. I believe it is slightly cheaper, but personally for the ease of not having to listen for a beep to add the fruit/seeds/nuts at the right time, I'd prefer to pay the extra few quid and have this one.
~*~A Few More Thoughts & Experiences~*~
We initially started using a bread maker because we wanted to be more environmentally friendly and have less packaging to deal with as well as knowing what was going into our food. We've continued to use one for these reasons, but also because of a few other things too. Firstly having really nice tasty bread to eat that's fresh is lovely. Secondly it's a lot cheaper than buying even a cheapish loaf from the supermarket.
We have tried different yeasts and flours over our years of bread making first with the previous bread maker and now with this one, and the quality of the flour and yeast does make a difference to the quality of the bread you get, but so does the bread maker itself. We now buy our flour by the sack direct from a flour mill and our choice is for a Canadian strong white flour for our basic white loaf, and this combined with a wholemeal flour (again strong), for wholemeal or half and half loaves. For yeast I like the Doves Farm yeast which comes in a bright orange 125g pack - you get a good quantity for a decent price (99p), and it lasts well if kept in an air tight storage container in the fridge. For fat we use olive oil or butter generally, but it'll work with pretty much any fat you've got really, and doesn't change the loaf much.
I really love my bread maker, it gives us lovely light loaves that are tasty and much more filling than the cheap nasty bread you can buy in the supermarket, and I can't see us ever going back to buying bread when we can make it so easily. This particular bread maker has made me realise that there is quite a difference in the loaf according to the machine used to make it, and I hope this lasts me a LOT of years because I really do love the bread that it makes us. It may seem like a lot of money to lay out initially, but if you work out the cost for making bread in this compared to buying it in the store, you'll find it will soon pay for itself too.
Summary: A really GREAT bread maker and one which is actually worth the money you spend on it.
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