A bread making machine or bread maker is a home appliance for turning raw ingredients into baked bread. It consists of a bread pan (or "tin"), at the bottom of which are one or more built-in paddles, mounted in the center of a small special-purpose oven. This small oven is usually controlled by a simple built-in computer using settings input via a control panel. Most bread machines have different cycles for different kinds of dough×including white bread, whole grain, European-style (sometimes labelled "French"), and dough-only (for pizza dough and shaped loaves baked in a conventional oven). Many also have a timer to allow the bread machine to activate without operator attendance, and some high-end models allow the user to program a custom cycle.
The Funai Electric company's machines added a fan to cool the bread after baking, which allowed for full unattended operation, and so claims to have produced the world's first full-fledged entirely automatic bread-making machine on the market, sold as the Raku Raku Pan Da in Japan in 1987 and sold in the US as the Dak Auto Bakery model FAB-100-1.
To create a loaf of bread, ingredients are measured into the bread pan in a specified order (usually liquids first, with solid ingredients layered on top) and the pan is then placed in the breadmaker. The order of ingredients is important because the instant yeast used in breadmakers is activated by contact with water, so the yeast and the water must be kept apart until the program starts.
The machine takes a few hours to make a loaf of bread. The ingredients are first rested and bought up to optimal temperature. The ingredients are then turned into a dough by stirring with a paddle. The dough is then proofed using ideal temperature control, and then baked.
Bread machine recipes are often somewhat smaller than standard bread recipes, and are sometimes standardized based on the capacity of the machine's pan; most common in the United States market are 1.5 lb/700g units, and the majority of recipes are written for that capacity; however, 2 lb/900g units are not uncommon either. Packaged bread mixes are available, specifically designed for breadmakers, containing premeasured ingredients including flour and yeast, as well as flavorings and occasionally dough conditioners. Only water usually needs to be added. Bread machines generally do not deal well with non-wheat flours, so any recipe that requires a substantial addition of a grain such as rye or corn that lacks gluten will prove difficult at best in a bread machine, as will any dough with unusually large amounts of liquid (such as ciabatta).
Breadmakers are often equipped with a timer to control when the breadmaking begins. This allows them, for example, to be loaded in the evening but only begin baking early in the morning, to produce a freshly baked loaf for breakfast. They can also be set only to make dough, for instance to be used to make pizza. Some can also be set to make other things besides bread, such as jam, pasta dough, udon or mochi, a kind of Japanese rice cake. One of the most recent innovations is the facility to add nuts and fruit during the kneading process automatically from a tray.
Some breadmakers sold in the 1990s had vertical pans, some horizontal. Today, the vast majority available retail make horizontal loaves. For that reason, they produce a smaller, shorter loaf than their predecessors. It is more difficult to mix a long, horizontal loaf because the ends are distant from the mixer-paddle and gravity does not assist the distribution of the dough. Some machines attempt a better kneading by using two paddles, one at each end. The vertical loaf machine may require a higher powered motor, because the entire mass of the dough-ball is on the paddle as it kneads the dough against the nearby sides of the loaf-pan. Economy in production may account for the manufacturer's preference towards horizontal loaf-pans. Finally, a vertical loaf-pan yields a uniform slice from end to end of the loaf rather than a loaf that is smaller at the ends.