If you’re interested in bread-making at home, you might be wondering whether to choose oven baking or to let the bread machine work its magic. What method suits your bread recipes best? Which equipment gives better baking results? This list of factors relevant to the bread machine vs oven debate should help you decide.
The space and the even circulation of hot air inside the oven allow your bread dough to rise beautifully. The increase in volume results in a light and airy texture. You can examine this further when you slice the baked loaf and look at the well-distributed air holes on the crumb. This bread texture also has an excellent mouthfeel and is ideal for slicing.
A bread machine, on the other hand, has little room for your dough to rise freely. Although its size has several benefits, it can also be the culprit for your dense compacted bread. Some people prefer this type of bread though, especially for toasting or grilling. But, in terms of overall texture quality, the oven wins in this case.
If you can make two identical white bread loaves baked in the oven and bread maker, one way to distinguish them is to look at the crust. The bread machine typically produces a thick and hard exterior, which also explains why there’s a slight resistance when you slice the loaf. On the other hand, a tender and light crust is one reason why oven-baked bread is better. Most people, especially the kids, don’t like a hard crust. They will probably trim it off, which is a waste of good bread.
Do you bake bread in batches? Perhaps you do this for freezing or to serve your big family. Baking bread from scratch can be tedious, and one way to make the most of the long rising time is to bake several loaves in one go. And in this case, the oven is the best equipment for the job. Bread makers have a limited capacity and can only bake one loaf at a time. In some models, you even need to wait for the bread machine to cool down before baking another batch.
Size and Shape
Another important bread machine vs oven factor is size and shape. Baking is an exact science, but it’s also a work of art. And I especially like how the oven has plenty of space for baking a basic loaf or a crusty artisan bread. I love how we can make rolls in various shapes or how the crescent-shaped croissant is distinct from a boule or French bread.
Dough baked in a bread maker, on the other hand, can only take the capacity and shape of the bread bucket. Some bread machines have modified pans to ensure proper mixing and kneading. However, the design often results in a not so Instagram-worthy loaf. The bottom would usually have dents or holes left by the kneading blade. The bread machine manual usually has suggestions on how to troubleshoot this issue. But then, these often mean extra work and still substandard baking results.
One of the factors that make bread machine worth it is the knead-free operation. Manual bread kneading is hard work. Some would use a standing mixer to skip this tiring task. But with a bread maker, there’s no physical effort involved or extra standing mixer to buy. Your bread maker is powerful enough to do it for you.
Oven baking, however, requires skill, patience and lots of practice. Most home bakers don’t have the time or strength to make homemade bread from start to finish. Also, baking beginners would probably find kneading, fermentation and shaping too complicated to do correctly.
Prep Time and Clean-Up
Here’s another reason that makes your bread maker a winner: prep and clean-up are both super quick. All you need is to prepare the exact ingredients, put them in your bread machine in the correct order then press the start button. With its built-in dough cycle and baking cycle, the entire bread process is stress-free! Plus, you only get to hand wash a few measuring tools, a bread pan and the kneading blade.
With oven baking, you need to prep your ingredients, mix them manually and knead your dough. Next, you have to grease your pan, let your dough rise twice and shape it before you can put it in the oven. All that work can be tiring, and don’t forget that you still have loads of baking equipment to wash and a countertop to clean.
I would have to say that the oven and bread machine are equal when it comes to being versatile. The oven has a generous space and adjustable temperature so you can cook delicious meals other than bread, from roasted meats to baked casseroles. The bread maker, on the other hand, comes with nifty features for baking sourdough, sweet bread or wholemeal loaf. You can also use it for making your fresh pasta or pizza dough. Some units even have jam and yoghurt-making functions.
Both oven and bread machine are also equal in terms of their functionality. Ovens may leave your kitchen warm or consume more power, but it is also ideal to cook more food simultaneously to save time and energy. Bread makers may not give you the best-looking basic white loaf, but the results are still exceptional, especially for those with dietary restrictions. With an oven or bread machine, you know the exact ingredients that go into your dough. Most importantly, both help you save money. There’s no need to buy expensive store-bought bread when you can make it at home, using cheap ingredients.
Bread Machine vs Oven: Verdict
If there’s one thing that can resolve the bread machine vs oven argument, it’s your personal preference. A bread maker is ideal if you’re still learning the ropes of bread-making or if you enjoy its convenient features. On the other hand, experienced home bakers would be happier to make oven-baked bread with the right texture, crust and size.
I’m impressed at how intuitive bread makers can be. However, they have yet to perfect the effort and timing involved in handmade bread baking. The yeast in bread and its unpredictable behaviour is probably the reason why bread-making is a challenge to technology. Unless a bread machine can detect proper gluten or crust development, then most bread bakers will likely make bread by hand.
Honestly, I prefer oven baking over a bread maker because, for me, both process and results are rewarding. Still, I’m glad that bread machines are widely available, so we can all enjoy making homemade bread from scratch!