Product Type: Panasonic bread makers
Newest Review: ... solid, the lid is hinged well and stays up when required. The shape to is a plus, because it is taller than some similar models it takes u... more
Use your Loaf
Member Name: bollinger28
Date: 16/06/12, updated on 02/08/13 (218 review reads)
Advantages: Easy to use. Delicious bread every single time. Cheaper bread.
Disadvantages: Quite bulky and rather ugly looking. Needs to be moved to actually operate it in my kitchen.
*** WHAT'S IN THE BOX? ***
The SD256 has 18 different programmes, which allows you to make not just bread, but pizza dough, rolls, brioches and even cakes. This model has 3 crust settings, a delay timer and a fast bake programme (which can make you a loaf in just under two hours). If you're on a gluten-free diet, then this breadmaker is also very handy as the instruction manual includes plenty of useful gluten-free recipes.
It has to be said that the Panasonic SD256 is not a particularly attractive addition to our kitchen. It's a rather large white box-like object that rather insists on taking up rather a lot of space on the work surfaces...and unobtrusive it isn't! Unfortunately it's far too large and bulky to be hidden in the cupboards of most average sized kitchen units...not to mention rather too heavy to be lifted often. Although I've placed it next to our toaster which is under a wall- mounted cupboard, you cannot actually use it in its designated place. It needs to moved right into the centre of the work top with no overhanging shelves or cupboards, otherwise the lid won't open. It's worth noting here that even if you can lift the lid of the breakmaker under a wall-mounted cupboard (it opens to over 50cm in height when the lid is raised), it's not safe to leave it in that position to cook with. The breadmaker gets extremely hot when in use, so for safety reasons it needs to be "out in the open" rather than in a constricted air space under a cupboard.
Once we took delivery from Curry's, we unpacked our brand new toy to see what the box contained. Specification wise, to paraphrase Henry Ford, this breadmaker comes in any colour you like... as long as it's white. It weighs in at a rather hefty 6.4kg and stands proud at a height of 37cm, 28cm wide and 33cm deep. On the negative side it's never going to blend into the background of any domestic kitchen, but in its favour it looks like it's built to last being rather robust and substantial looking.
Inside the breadmaker itself is the bread pan and the kneading blade. You also get a plastic measuring cup (for any liquids you need to add to your bread recipe) marked out in 10ml increments up to maximum of 310ml. There's also a measuring spoon for smaller ingredient quantities, such as sugar, salt and of course yeast. The spoon is double ended with a teaspoon "trough" of 5ml and a larger tablespoon "trough" of 15ml.
*** YOUR DAILY BREAD ***
Getting to the nuts and bolts of operating the breadmaker is actually simplicity itself. To the front of the unit is an LCD display with six main touch start buttons - Select, Option, Size, Crust, Timer and Start/Stop. "Select" allows you to choose the type of bread or dough you want to bake (i.e. basic, rye, wholewheat and so on). "Option" decides on the speed of your bake. "Size" is self-explanatory in that you choose the size of your loaf (medium, large or extra-large). "Crust" gives you a light, medium or dark edge to your bread (the darker the crust, the crispier the edge). "Timer" is where you can delay the cooking of your loaf by up to 13 hours. Put simply, you can get pop all your ingredients in the bread pan the night before, and set the breadmaker to finish cooking at say 8.30am...et voila...you have a loaf ready for breakfast...simples. The final button is "Start/Stop", which not only does "what it says on the tin", but has the added advantage of allowing you to alter your cooking instructions should you make a mistake. Simply hold the "Start/Stop" button down for 1 or 2 seconds and the display will go blank, and then allow you to re-programme the machine.
Once you've pressed the "go, go...go" start/stop button, the LCD display will start to countdown the timings on your selected bake option. The quickest loaf will take 1 hour and 55 minutes (a rapid white loaf), something "meatier" like a Wheat Germ Loaf can take anything up to 4 hours and your Malted or Granary Loaf will take around 5 hours. When your loaf is done the machine bleeps quite loudly to tell you it's finished. It's best to remove the loaf immediately and allow it to cool down independently on a wire rack. However, if you forget to remove the loaf or fail to hear the alarm it's not a massive problem, but you may compromise the quality of your loaf. Allowing it to cool down on a wire rack independently of the breadmaker ensures the crust stays nice and crisp. Leaving it to cool down inside the machine allows the loaf to retain rather too much moisture, which may make the finished bread a little soggy inside. Once the alarm sounds you can carefully remove the bread pan and tip your loaf out onto a cooling rack (the bread pan may require a bit of shake to release the loaf). The bread pan and the handle will be very, very hot and oven gloves are essential.
*** UPPER CRUST? ***
I must say that the instruction book that comes with this machine is very good indeed. There are plenty of photos and diagrams showing you not only how to operate the breadmaker, but how to get the best loaf results and how to care for your machine. Included are plenty of recipes not just for bread, but for cakes, brioches, rolls and pizza dough. There are also a good range of gluten-free recipes as well as plenty of ideas for making your own dough into things like Hot Cross Buns, Panettone or even Croissants (which are then cooked in a conventional oven as opposed to your breadmaker). These more ambitious recipes we have yet to try. I, for one, have little confidence that my attempt at a Chelsea Bun or a Croissant would end up looking anything like it should...and would probably end up as the proverbial dog's dinner :o) So far we have contented ourselves with just making bread with our new toy.
The breadmaker is simplicity itself to operate and we quickly moved on from baking a simple white loaf to much more exotic fare. We started off with a simple white loaf, and then moved onto more ambitious loaves such as Wholemeal, Granary and Ciabatta...all of which turned out most successfully and very tastily. Our Ciabatta proved to be a particular triumph and we made it all that more interesting by adding some olives and a handful of parsley and oregano.
Throwing all the ingredients into the bread pan couldn't be easier using the included measuring cup and spoon. It literally takes less than five minutes, and then you're good to go with the baking. If you're in a hurry, the fast bake option works well and you can have a slice of toast and jam on your plate within less than two hours. However, the resulting bread isn't nearly as tasty as something that takes longer to bake like a Wholemeal or Granary loaf. From the off, we've baked a nigh on perfect loaf everytime we've used this machine. Granted, we had an initial teething problem with a loaf that did not rise too well and was rather holey. This we put down to using yeast that was past its sell-by date...oops.
It's worth mentioning here that you do need to use "strong" bread flour if you're making bread. We started off using the Allinson range of bread flours i.e. Allinson's Premium White Very Strong Bread Flour (c£1.50 for 1.5kg) and Allinson's Premium Wholemeal Very Strong Bread (c£1.46 for 1.5kg). However, to my mind our most delicious loaves have been made with Hovis Granary Malted Brown Bread Flour (c£1.39 for 1 kg) - this flour makes a really crusty loaf with a wonderfully nutty flavour.
Next we're going to try making a loaf with Allinson's Seed & Grain Bread Flour (c£1.10 for 1kg). As well as the flour, you will of course need butter, salt, sugar, water and of course, the second most important ingredient of any loaf....yeast. We've been using Hovis Fast Action Bread Yeast which is sold in sachets (6 per pack for c89p).
We'd never made our own bread before, and we've been more than impressed with the results we've been getting....not to mention the cost savings in making your own bread. Before we purchased our SD256, we regularly purchased at least two loaves of Hovis Granary Bread every week at a cost of c£1.35 per loaf. We've worked out that making our own loaf costs us approximately 75p, and it's a million miles more tasty. Added to which our freshly baked loaf doesn't contain all those nasty additives and preservatives they add to bread nowadays to extend its shelf life. The only drawback for us is that a freshly baked loaf in our household doesn't last nearly as long as the shop bought Hovis Granary loaf did :o( The aroma and taste of a freshly baked loaf does tend to invite a "I'll-just-have-another-small slice" mentality, or "I'll-just-try-it-with-some-honey-as-well-as- my-usual-jam".
*** COMING CLEAN ***
Looking after your breadmaker could not be easier. The outside of the machine just needs a rub over with a sponge every now and then. The bread pan itself is non-stick so you should never scrub it. However, most of the cooking debris is easily removed with soaking and a light rub with a sponge. The kneading blade will need to be inspected to check whether there is any dough stuck inside. If it proves difficult to remove, a soaking in warm soapy water usually does the trick.
*** A RECIPE FOR SUCCESS? ***
The SD256 certainly is a recipe for success. It's extremely easy to operate and produces a wonderfully tasty loaf every single time. It's easy to maintain, robust and well up to the job in hand. Despite it being a rather ugly looking monstrosity on my kitchen worktop, it's more than earned its keep already in five months of usage. The instruction book is very easy to follow, and after a very short while I doubt you'd need to refer to it at all if you're making the same or similar loaf everytime. However, there are so many tempting recipes in the back of the manual, you be letting yourself and your breadmaker down if you didn't attempt as many of them as your possibly can! Highly recommended.
*** TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS ***
A full description of the SD256 breadmaker can be found on Panasonic's website at http://www.panasonic.co.uk/html/en_GB/Products/Kit chen+Appliances/Breadmaker
* 10 x different bread and dough modes
* 3 x different loaf sizes
* Crust control
* Rapid bake = 1 hour and 55 minutes
* 13 hour delay timer
* Power Supply: 240V
* Dimensions: Width 28cm Height 37cm Depth 33cm
* Weight: 6.4kg
* Power Consumption: Maximum 505-550W
Please note that this particular model has been discontinued and replaced by a newer model -the Panasonic SD2500 WXC, which retails at anything from £98.99 (Amazon) to £108.10 (Dixons) or £119.99 at (Argos). However, you can still buy the SD256 - there are a steady stream of refurbished or second hand models on offer for anything from £60 to £70 on good old eBay :o)
Summary: It's rather bulky, but this Panasonic breadmaker turns out a very decent loaf every single time.
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