A bread machine or breadmaker is a home appliance for baking bread. It handles the process from ingredients to a finished loaf, automatically. The machine consists of a bread pan with a paddle mounted in the centre, in a special purpose oven, with a control panel.
Ingredients (often flour, water, salt, sugar, yeast, butter, and milk powder or fresh milk) are measured and added to the bread pan, which is then placed into the bread machine. The machine takes a few hours to make a loaf of bread, first by turning the ingredients into dough using the paddle, then baking the loaf. When it has finished baking and has cooled down, the pan is removed from the bread machine, and the bread freed from the pan. The paddle is now in the bottom of the loaf, and has to be removed, leaving a small paddle-shaped hole.
Generally, the bread goes stale faster than bread from a commercial baker because it doesn't have the same additives. However, it is possible to use a sourdough starter in bread machine dough recipes. Sourdough contains a symbiotic brew of yeast and lactic acid bacteria cultures. Lactic acid produced by these bacteria greatly preserves bread, as well as enhancing its flavour. However, a sourdough rise takes much longer than a yeast rise, and most bread machines do not have a programmable cycle that caters to this.
Some bread machines are equipped with a timer, so that they can be loaded at night before going to bed, and be set to start in the early morning, presenting a freshly baked loaf ready for breakfast. The machine can sometimes be set to just make the dough, not to bake it, in which case it is baked in an oven. Pizza dough is another option.
Packets of bread mix are available, designed specifically for bread machines. They consist of the ingredients pre-measured. The only other ingredient that needs to be added is water.
The first bread machine was released in Japan in 1986. They became popular in the United Kingdom and the United States in the late 1990s.
Using a bread maker is a convenient way to avoid the hydrogenated vegetable oil that supermarkets add to their bread to make it bake more quickly, as well as other unwanted additives.