I have to be honest, I’ve never made bread from scratch.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to spend all day preparing raw ingredients and then baking them for hours to the perfect temperature.
And one little mess up and you’ve ruined your bread!
Thankfully, bread makers are much more forgiving!
They say that cooking is an art but baking is a science.
One mess up and you ruin the project!
Luckily, bread makers nowadays come with all kinds of settings and features that make baking easy.
With a best rated bread machine, you gather and put in all of the necessary ingredients and then just turn it on. Your bread machine will let you know when it’s ready. That’s it!
Because a bread maker’s strength is all of its settings and features, you should familiarize yourself with those features.
Becoming familiar with the features and settings that your bread machine has means that you’ll be able to bake delicious bread every time.
Bread Machine Cycle Stages
What happens when you press start?
Your bread machine goes through numerous stages that are called cycles.
For the most part, these bread machine cycles are similar among bread makers all across the market.
The kneading cycle is the first and probably most important step to making bread that contains yeast.
Kneading totally mixes all of the ingredients and is probably the noisiest cycle on your bread machine!
This cycle can often take anywhere from 15-45 minutes. The timing depends on your bread machine and also on the type of bread you’re baking.
Often, there are kneading paddles at the bottom of the baking pan that mixes everything thoroughly.
The rest cycle is what lets the dough rest before it starts kneading again.
The technical baking term for this is called autolyzing the dough.
Basically, it allows the gluten and starch in your dough to fully take in the moisture around it.
This cycle can take from just a few minutes to well over 35.
If your bread has gluten in it then it’ll need this cycle in order to properly rise, or lift up.
This is what makes bread fluffy and airy.
This involves slightly raising the temperature of the dough and allows the years to ferment.
This cycle will usually take around 40-50 minutes, depending on your bread machine. Sometimes it can take significantly longer, especially if you’re baking French bread.
Once your dough has completed the rise cycle then the Punch Cycle is next.
The punch cycle is called this because it in this cycle, your bread machine begins to knead the dough all over again.
The difference is that in this stage, it’s done much more lightly and the purpose is to release the tiny gas bubbles that are formed by the fermentation of the yeast in the rise cycle.
Punch, also sometimes called the shape cycle, is typically a fast cycle that takes mere seconds to complete, but it’s still important!
Finally, we get to my favorite cycle! The bake cycle!
This is the time when your bread machine actually bakes your bread.
This cycle can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over 90 minutes, depending on your bread machine and on the type of bread you’re baking.
Different Bread Machine Cycles and Cycle Times
Your bread machine will use a combination of different cycles depending on what kind of bread you’re baking.
Some breads will require more than one kneading cycle or more than one rise cycle. And some don’t.
It all depends on the type of bread and on your bread machine.
Below, we’re going to give you an overview of what the cycles look like for some of the most used settings.
The Basic White Bread cycle will probably be your go to cycle.
It’s what you’ll want to use the majority of times.
It’s also a versatile cycle that can make white bread to potato bread and even garlic bread.
This cycle often takes three to four hours to fully complete and goes something like this.
Knead – Rest – Second Knead – Rise – Punch – Second Rise – Shaping – Final Rise – Bake.
This cycle is for baking bread that has sweet ingredients in them like dried fruit, nuts, and things heavy in powder like sugar or cinnamon.
These ingredients will cause your bread to cook much faster so the bread machine has to cook it at a lower temp.
Sweet bread baking using this cycle will come out great, use any other cycle and you’ll burn your bread. Below is the typical sweet bread cycle on a bread machine. The approximate baking time is around 3 hours.
Here is the typical cycle of baking sweet bread on a bread machine:
Knead – Rest – Second Knead – Rise – Punch – Second Rise – Shape – Final Rise – Bake
In reality, the only difference between this cycle and the bake one is the temperature of the bread machine.
Bread machines will usually have a whole wheat or whole grain bread cycle that are used to bake breads that are heavy with large amounts of whole wheat, or cracked grain.
This cycle is used for doughs that have large amounts of gluten in them.
This kind of dough requires more rising and kneading time in order to be baked properly.
Rest – Knead – Rest – Second Knead – Rise – Punch – Second Rise – Shape – Final Rise – Bake
French is another popular cycle on bread machines.
This is unique because it produces bread with a thicker crust than basic and therefore, requires for time for the three main cycles, knead, rise, and bake.
Knead – Rest – Second Knead – Rise – Punch – Second Rise – Shape – Final Rise
French bread will typically take a whole four hours to complete, from start to finish.
Being Gluten Free doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy delicious bread!
Using the gluten-free cycle on your bread machine you’ll be able to bake gluten free bread whenever you like.
The Glutren free setting will typically bake bread faster than the other settings, that’s because there’s not gluten to mix around in the bread.
Therefore, kneading is much faster and even bake is faster.
Knead – Rise – Bake
You can typically do this entire cycle in approximately 2 hours!
Not all bread machines have a rapid cycle, but if yours does, like the Oster Expressbake, then you’re in for a treat.
This cycle allows you to bake basic white bread in under 90 minutes, and if it’s a smaller loaf, the Oster ExpressBake will do it in 1 hour!
Knead – Rise – Bake
Cake and Jam
Did you know that you can bake cakes and even cook jams with your bread machine?
Yes, this isn’t just for baking bread, but for making marmalade, jams, and even baking desserts like a cake.
Typical Jam Cycle:
Mix – 10 mins
Cook – 45 mins
Typical Cake Cycle:
Mix – 20 mins
Cook – 60 mins
Best Bread Makers
If you’ve been reading this, then you probably already have a bread machine.
But in case you don’t, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite bread machines.
Hamilton Beach Bread Maker
- 12 settings including gluten-free developed with nutrition in mind, settings include: French, quick bread (no yeast), sweet, 1.5-pounds express, 2-pounds express, dough, jam, cake, whole grain and bake audible reminder for adding fruits and nuts
- Choose 1.5 pounds or 2 pounds loaf and crust settings select your loaf size and choose from light, medium or dark crust setting
- Large digital display with delay timer view and select the cycle, crust, and loaf size use delay timer to add ingredients and begin the baking process later — perfect for breakfast and entertaining
- Non-stick, dishwasher-safe pan & 2 kneading paddles interior pan removes for easy cleaning in the dishwasher two kneading paddles let you use one while the other is in the dishwasher
- 3 easy steps: Add ingredients, select cycle and start
This Hamilton Beach Digital Bread Maker has all the bread machine cycles and settings talked about here.
This is a highly durable bread machine that will last you for years to come.
Basically, you can do every cycle mentioned here with a push of a button.
Oster Expressbake Bread Maker
- 650 watts oster bread maker with upto a 2.0 pound loaf capacity is ideal for larger families
- 12 bread settings and 3 crust settings for making a variety of breads, dough, and jams
- Expressbake setting bakes bread in under an hour
- 13 hour programmable baking timer for fresh bread anytime
- Large LCD display and intuitive button controls for easy operation; 40 inch cord length
The Oster Bread Maker is a workhorse of a kitchen appliance and not only will it last you forever, it’ll look good doing it.
And best of all, it has the fastest bake time of them all. The ExpressBake feature will bake basic white bread in just 1 hour!
Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Bread Maker
- Various healthy course settings include Multigrain, Whole Wheat, Rapid Whole Wheat, Gluten Free, Salt Free, Sugar Free and Vegan
- Double Kneading Blades thoroughly knead dough for superior results; Dual heaters on the bottom and lid of the bread maker promote even baking and browning
- Rapid courses allow you to bake a loaf of white or whole wheat bread in just 2 hours and 25 minutes
- Large, easy-to-read LCD display with convenient key code on lid simplifies course selection; RAPID SETTING: Use Rapid setting to have your loaf ready to eat in under two and a half hours
- Electrical Rating 120 volts / 700 watts.Cord Length:39 inch
Welcome to Zojirushi! Zojirushi produces top of the line, high quality, best in class bread machines.
This bread machine is super easy to use and features 15 cycle settings.
This is the king of bread machines and if you can afford it, you definitely won’t regret it.
Bread machines have made baking a cinch.
Once you know what the different cycles and settings are for, you can make delicious bread with the touch of a button.
If you enjoyed this article, let us know in the comments below!