We're just coming up to our first anniversary with this breadmaker and (touch wood) all's well! We didn't pay full price for it: ti should have been£45 but we purchased it in Debenhams sale for £32, with vouchers received as a wedding gift and to be honest, it's been our most used wedding present! I use it almost daily and so far it has proved totally reliable. My husband didn't want one (he had to be persuaded!) but now he readily agrees that there's no going back to supermarket loaves now that we have got used to baking our own with this breadmaker.
So, all to the good:
* The recipe book makes it easy to get started. Instructions are clear and the recipes and options are easy to follow. The book also gives a breakdown of the timings of different programmes, allowing you to choose the most suitable programme if time, rather than type of loaf, is the deciding factor.
* Rapid bake facility is particularly useful and gives our preferred texture of bread. It's easy to put a bread on, make a soup whilst it's baking and then enjoy both together in a couple of hours!
* I use the wholemeal setting the most and have had no problems with it. The booklet says that if it's too heavy, using half white, half wholemeal makes it lighter and this is the method we have been using (although probably slightly more wholemeal to white than half and half) and this turns out fine. Most of the basic recipes give the quantities for either small or large loaf, depending on what you need.
* Once you become familiar with the routine and programmes, it is possible to play around a little with the recipes. Although the book says that all ingredients and quantities must be adhered to, we found that we just really didn't want sugar in our bread, so we now leave it out, with no noticeable effect on the size or texture of the final loaf. I always use Allison's Fastbake dried yeast, which possibly helps (I think quality yeast is a key factor). Similarly, due to blood pressure issues I have reduced the amount of salt I use when making loaves, again with no negative effects on the finished loaf, although my husband feels it's a bit bland (but then he puts salt on everything)! If salt's really wanted for flavour, using a multi-grain flour gives a lovely taste which more than compensates for any lack of salt taste-wise.
* Similarly the range of breads you can make with this breadmaker is impressive - there are lots of recipes in the booklet and it's easy to adjust these to suit taste, simply adding in fresh herbs makes good supper bread, and we love the cheddar pepper bread (it's just a shame you can only make a small loaf at a time)! The raisin bread is also lovely: it becomes great toast for breakfast - it's just like eating toasted tea cakes!
* Apart from the paddle holes in the bottom of the loaf, the bread always comes out looking like a 'proper' loaf, which is pleasing!
* There's a dough setting which is very useful, either for baking the bread in the oven instead (to avoid the holes in the bottom of the loaf that you get from baking in the machine) or for pizza dough. I use it mostly for pizza and find it a real time-saver as with a family I always have to make 4 at a time!
* The bleeping timer keeps you alert to adding ingredients at specific times or knowing when the bread has finished baking. If you can't get to it straight away, once baking has finished the machine has a 'stay warm' where it keeps the bread warm for up to 60 minutes.
* Similarly, the time delay is a really useful extra. You can delay the start of cooking for up to 13 hours, allowing you to set up to have fresh bread the next day. This is particularly useful as homemade bread tends to go stale slightly more quickly (because it's free of all those nasty preservatives)!
A few minor niggles:
* The mixing paddles sometimes get stuck, which can make the loaf difficult to turn out of the tin. I tend to use a piece of kitchen towel to quickly wipe a bit of oil over the stem that the kneading paddle attaches to, which helps the whole thing to turn out more easily. We always run a silicone spatula around between loaf and tin before turning out and this helps too!
* Not very good for cakes! I tried the booklet's Parkin recipe once and ended up with a kind of flat gingerbread that was only about 2" high and very dry! Although the book does say that cakes do not rise above 2", considering that this is the approximate height of the kneading paddles, this means a bit of a weird flat, holey end result that just didn't seem worth the effort. It certainly wasn't worth the waste of expensive ingredients to me (even my husband didn't like it), so I wouldn't recommend it for cakes.
* Sometimes it can take a bit of welly to get the whole tin out of the machine after baking. The machine's usually hot at this point and the handle remains hot for a little while after coming out of the machine: I have burned myself more than once. Now this is clearly more due to stupidity on my own part than a fault of the machine, but it does need to be remembered that oven gloves are a must, even when you think it may have cooled down a bit - just a case of using your loaf, I guess!
* You need to remember to turn the finished loaf out of the tin within a certain time otherwise your loaf ends up with a soggy bottom !
All niggles aside though, this breadmaker has been the first I have ever used and I have been very happy with it: certainly it's been ideal for this first-timer! I would buy this model again without hesitation and have recommended it to several people.
I have had this machine for over a year I paid £45.00 from Argos and use it every day to make fresh bread It comes with a full instruction book, measuring cup and plastic scraper and some recipes which include advice to make jam , which as yet I have never been adventurous enough to make
It comes with 11 settings but I use the dough setting the most as I prefer to bake my bread in the oven and not in the machine ( crazy I know but no holes in the bottom of the bread)
I have used the bread maker to make bread and it can be done in about 3 and a half hours for a 2lb loaf, but as I have mentioned I prefer the dough setting
There are three different crust types available ( light, medium and dark ) and also size ( small , medium , Large)
It also comes with a quick bake facility which means that you can bake bread in 1 and a half hours , I tired this setting and wasnt overly impressed with it , I felt the bread was a bit stodgy
The machine also comes with a jam making and cake baking facility I havnt used these , so wont comment upon them , there are also various settings for different types of bread such as french bread , rye bread , and sweet bread
Unlike other bread machines this one comes with a loaf shaped tin and not a square flower pot tin , it also has two kneading keys , which fit into the bottom of the pan
The out side of machine gets warm but not overly which is an advantage , the clear top also allows you to watch the bread being made , the machine also comes with a 13 hour delay which allows you to put your ingredients in at night and wake up to fresh bread in the morning
I tend to use a maximum of 1lb 4 oz of flour for a plain loaf on the dough setting which takes 1 and half hours to make a dough which I can put straight into the oven
Ive made all sorts of bread in the machine using oats , honey , and nuts , it is a very versatile machine , which will sound a beep to let you know when the last period you can add ingredients to the dough
When the timer has finished the machine again beeps to let you know that its time to take your bread out , obviously if you have used the full bread making cycle the tin pan gets very warm as the bread is baked in the machine using convection heating through the element at the bottom of the machine
The only complaint I have about the machine is when your trying to take the pan out , it can be some times a bit of a struggle as it seems to expand but a good hard pull gets it out
Overall I think this is one of the best bread makers , as I say I use it almost every day and you cant beat the smell of fresh baked bread !