Product Type: Panasonic bread makers
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Give us our daily bread....
Member Name: dee778
Advantages: Fresh and delicious bread every day
When I saw that the Panasonic SD256 was reduced at Argos from £99 to £79.80, I went straight out to buy it.
The SD256 is advertised as having 18 programmes, 3 crust settings, a delay timer and a fast bake programme. I checked the functions of the next model up in terms of price, and the only thing that I appeared to gain by spending an extra £30 was an automatic ingredient dispenser, which I decided was not worth the extra investment.
A basic white box, the Panasonic 256 does not look attractive on my work surface, and it also takes up a lot of space (width 28cm, height 37cm and depth 33cm) so I like to hide it away in a large cupboard. This breadmaker is not light! Weighing 6.4 kg, I always have to be careful when lifting it in and out of the cupboard. However, the design is extremely practical and durable and this really feels like a quality product.
The control panel is angled which makes it very easy to see - and has large, square touch button controls - SELECT, OPTION, SIZE, CRUST, TIMER AND START/STOP. These controls allow you to choose the type of dough, the length of bake time, the size of loaf, the type of crust and the option to set a time delay. This extremely simple design makes the recipe instructions very easy to follow.
The LCD display on the control panel counts down the time remaining on the bake, minute by minute so that it is easy to see when the loaf will be ready. On completion, the breadmaker beeps nine times. There are no repeat beeps, so you have to be listening out for the alarm. If you fail to take the loaf out of the breadmaker to cool down, this is not a huge problem, but the quality of the bread will be better if the loaf is removed and allowed to cool slowly on a wire tray.
Great care must be taken when removing the bread pan from the breadmaker as it gets extremely hot. Sometimes the thin metal handle has almost been too hot to hold, even through an oven glove - and this is not helped by the difficulty I nearly always experience when removing the scalding hot bread pan. The instruction manual tells me to use a twisting motion to remove the pan, but this is a knack that I have not yet acquired and I always struggle and swear as I take it out.
Throughout the process the sides of the breadmaker remain completely cool to the touch. Some steam issues through the vent at the back, and I always make sure that the vent is kept well away from overhead cupboards and kitchen unit lights to avoid damage.
Programming the breadmaker is extremely simple, following the clear instructions in the manual. Firstly it is necessary to select the type of bread or dough, using the Select button and scrolling through the options. Secondly the type of Bake must be chosen. The recipe instructions clearly tell you which type to choose for each loaf. Next the size of the loaf is selected, using the Size Button, and lastly the Crust Button is pressed to choose either light, medium or dark crust. The digital time button will show the total bake time (usually around 4 hours for a basic loaf), but if the Timer Button is depressed several hours can be added to this total, delaying the finish time by up to 13 hours. Pressing the start button will begin the mixing and kneading process.
At first I was confused about how to stop the process once it had begun - if I changed my mind about the bake time or crust. Pressing the Start / Stop button will just interrupt the process, not cancel the programme. Switching the breadmaker off at the mains will cause the Power Alert to show - if the power interruption is 10 minutes or less, the programme will not interrupt, as a safeguard against accidental break in power supply. Consulting the manual, I discovered that the programme can be reset by holding down the start/Stop buttton down for 2 seconds. This will cancel all existing programmes.
The instructions include a one-page overview of various types of bread that can be made (ie rye, whole wheat, French, etc), with a total bake time and a breakdown of the rest, knead, rise and bake times. A few pages further on, there are fourteen pages of recipes. These pages are divided into Bead Recipes, Gluten Free Recipes, Dough Recipes and Cake Recipes. So far I have only tried the Bread recipes and all of them have worked very successfully. The Bread recipes are subdivided into Basic, Whole Wheat, Rye, French, Italian, Brioche, Sandwich - and then further subdivided into about 16 types within this. This gives a huge and very exciting range of ideas to inspire the beginner baker - for example, the Basic recipes include Cider Apple Bread, Pizza Loaf, Oak and Bran Loaf and Cheese and Bacon Loaf and many more - enough to keep me going with new ideas for quite a while!
As a novice breadmaker, I found the instructions extremely easy to follow. I started out by making a basic white loaf, on a medium crust. The results were excellent but I quickly realised that my preference was for a darker crust, as this stays crisp and firm once the loaf has cooled down. Since that time I have make wholemeal, seeded, and rye loaves - all have been absolutely excellent.
I find that putting all of the ingredients into the bread pan takes me around 3 minutes now. Then it is only a question of selecting the programme, switching the breadmaker on and waiting for the loaf to finish (on average around 4 hours).
Including a measuring spoon and jug really helps to quickly put all of the ingredients together.
I usually opt to make the large loaf, as this is an ideal size that does not dry out as quickly as a smaller loaf. The options are the medium loaf (approx 450g), large loaf (approx 1.0kg) or extra large loaf at 1.2kg.
Using the fastbake setting is not something that I would recommend, as the resulting loaf is smaller and not well risen. However, it is very useful to reduce the baking time from 4 hours to less than 2 hours when you are in a hurry, and the loaf that produced still tastes delicious.
The loaves have all been very well shaped and I have never experienced any that were soggy, pale or had holes. The blade has always stayed inside the loaf tin, and the hole that it leaves in the bottom of the loaf is fairly small and unobtrusive.
I always remove the loaf tin to put the ingredients inside, so there is never any spillage inside the breadmaker that needs to be cleaned up. The loaf tin itself is non-stick and is easily wiped clean with a damp cloth and some warm soapy water. I have never needed to scrub the tin at all and the instructions warn users not to submerge the bread pan in water.
The blade needs to be removed every time the tin is washed, as dough gets stuck around and inside the mechanism and this can burn and spoil the taste of the next loaf if left in place. It is frequently very difficult to remove the blade from the shaft as the dough glues it in place, but a little soaking and gentle pressure will sort this out. The outside of the machine is easily wiped clean with a damp cloth.
I would completely recommend the Panasonic SD256 It is very efficient, provides a very good range of programmes and is very easy to clean. The all over strength and reliability of the product is greatly helped by the excellent manual and recipes that are provided and I am confident that it will continue to provide me with delicious and cheap bread well into the future.
Summary: An excellent buy that will save you time and money
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