Bread machine settings vary from brand to brand, but most allow you to interrupt kneading cycles (without disrupting the entire cycle), customize cycle times (with the possible exception of baking times) or otherwise manage the machine to your baking project/time frames.
As I visit with bread bakers across the nation, it’s amazing to learn that many of them are hesitant—as I certainly was—to even peek at their bread dough once the bread machine cycle begins.
While every bread machine has its own features/settings, all the brands I’ve used or seen allow for opening the bread machine lid for a variety of reasons. Don’t misunderstand. Too much peeking or disruption of the bread machine cycle could derail your bread making. But when it’s necessary to check or peek, it’s okay! Many bread machine brands also allow users to customize cycles as necessary.
Why would you want to peek at your dough while it’s mixing/kneading?
- To produce soft, moist bread you want to avoid using too much flour. However, using too little flour will cause your dough to be so sticky and formless that it won’t develop the eye-catching dome-shape so typical in traditional loaves. To avoid overly-sticky dough, check early in the first mix/knead cycle to ensure that the dough is pulling away from the side of the bread machine canister. Indicating that it will form the desired shape during baking. If the dough is sticking to the canister, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of flour at a time until the dough stops adhering to the side of the canister. Some machines pause while the lid is open; others continue mixing. Either feature is fine.
- You may also want to check on your dough during the rest period to see if it’s rising properly. This first rise may be minimal, but you want to see some indication that the yeast is working.
Why would anyone want to change the kneading and resting cycle times on their bread machine? For a variety of reasons:
- Once you find a knead/rest/knead cycle that gives you the results you want, it makes sense to keep using those time frames. If you’re using a different machine, the default settings may be different, but you can alter them, either with the machine’s optional programming or manually stopping and starting each cycle.
- As your bread baking skills develop, you may want to bake different kinds of bread, which may do better with different knead and rest times.
- Time restraints may dictate that you have to bake bread in a shorter time frame; reducing knead/rest times can still result in satisfactory loaves.
- If necessary, when manually managing your bread machine, use a timer to track knead/rest cycles.
Regardless of your reason for checking your dough or altering your kneading and rest cycles, just know it’s okay to pause that bread machine and use all its wonderful options to suit your personal needs!
Long time journalist Loretta Sorensen is the author of Secrets To Baking Your Best Bread Ever! and regularly shares information about whole grains and bread baking. You’ll find her book on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the Country Store at Our Dakota Horse Tales. Her weekly bread baking posts are featured at Mother Earth Living, GRIT Magazine, Our Dakota Horse Tales, and on Pinterest and Facebook.