The lovely Alicia writes:
The Husband loves bread and I will periodically stun and amaze him by making some on a rare, slow weekend. But he cleans without being asked so I’d like him to have homemade bread more often! A full time job and 2 kids makes it difficult though. Any recommendatons on a good bread machineâ€¦it would be heavily used since he can consume a whole loaf by himself (and maintain his 32″ waist, for which I’ve not yet forgiven him).
A deal would be nice too but I’m willing to pay more for easier to use!
I’m sorry, I’m stuck back on the part where your husband can eat an entire loaf of bread and stay skinny. I hate him a little, now. (Kidding!)
Here’s the thing about making bread: While I’m happy to talk bread machines, I also feel the urge to point out that baking bread doesn’t have to be a time/labor intensive endeavor. A good heavy-duty mixer (such as my beloved KitchenAid Pro) can do all the kneading, and if you really want ease, check out Jeff Hertzberg’s Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (possibly the greatest bread baking cookbook ever).
But machines are good, too. Let’s take a look.
Hands down, the most popular brand that seems to offer a good balance of product features and price in this realm is Breadman. I see more Breadman sales here on Want Not than any other brand, and they tend to be fairly well-rated. The Breadman TR-520 is currently $59 shipped from Amazon (look in the “more buying choices” column to see that price), and the machine has a fair number of bells and whistles (timer, options for loaf size, etc.). If you want to stick with Breadman but go fancier, the TR2500BC model adds in more options, but the price rises to around $70. Do note: This is the machine that several of my gluten-free cohorts use, as it has a special setting for that. (Perhaps not of concern for Alicia, but relevant for others, maybe!)
If you’re willing to spend a little more for features, though, I’d say there are two even better options than the souped-up Breadman. First, there’s the Cuisinart CBK-100 for around $90 (though I’ve seen it as low as $70, if you’re willing to wait for a sale). It has the same features as the previously-mentioned Breadman, but a better overall rating. (Side note: I’ve never been disappointed with a Cuisinart appliance, ever.)
Finally, the Mac-Daddy of bread machines: The Zojirushi BB-CEC20. At around $200 (depending on the color and when you buy), this is no small investment. Also, it makes 2-pound loaves only, which may be a drawback if you’d like the option to make smaller ones. This is, however, the highest-rated machine in terms of consistency and reliability. (Does Zojirushi sound familiar to you? They’re also the most highly-regarded manufacturer of fuzzy logic rice cookers. Basically, they have the technology for consistent cooking down.) If you’re willing to spend the money, and if you plan to make 2-pound loaves, and you intend to use this machine every day or nearly so, this would be the investment to make.
For somewhat more casual use, I’d recommend the Cuisinart as a better value. And for those on a tight budget, the first Breadman I linked to is probably fine.
I hope that helps, Alicia. Happy baking!