I am a long-time user of breakmakers. I wrote a review of the Cuisinart CBK-200 breadmaker and have since thrown that one away. A friend of mine gave me a Breadman Ultimate, but it seems that the Breadman Ultimate and the Cuisinar t are manufactured by the same company because both have the exact same breadpan, same layout, and both over-cook loaves that are overdone on one side (this is the downside of the convection 'feature'). That was a letdown because my previous Breadman was amazing and I had it for 10 years and was saddened by how my new Cuisinart breadmaker was performing.
Recommend this product?
I then took a chance on this one after reading a few reviews on various sites, and I am really glad I did. First thing I noticed upon unpacking the unit was how nice and heavy the breadpan was... it just felt solid. The two paddles seemed very small and I was worried that they may not mix the ingredients well, but they do a fantastic job, and since they are small... the 'hole' they leave in the bottom of the loaf is much smaller (though there are two). In fact, it mixed the ingredients so well that this is the first breadmaker I've ever used where I would feel comfortable setting it to delay bake so it would be ready in the morning. All the single-paddle units needed help getting the ingredients off the wall and into the dough.
The first loaf I made was my standard loaf that I always make that uses 4 cups of dry ingredients, and it just didn't fill the pan very well so the loaf looked a little funny. I then upsized it to 5 cups and the loaf is perfect.
The ingredients are mixed in about 3 minutes, which is very fast compared to the single paddle ones I mentioned above. Another great feature is that it lists the temperature that it bakes at... so you can use this in the manual program option if you choose. No other breadmaker I've used shows the temperature, and it is nice to know.
There is only one drawback of this machine, and that is that it doesn't have an automatic setting that will bake the bread in about 2 hours. There is a "Quick" setting, but it does not warm the dough and so it doesn't rise. It was a bit of a surprize because all the other breakmakers I've used has this feature, and they are all setting # 2, and in this breadmaker, the Quick is setting #2 but after reading the manual I see that it is for non-yeast breads. Very strange. Although it does have a 1-hour setting, I have not used it mostly out of concern that it will not do a good loaf... but as I said... I have not tested that.
Instead, I programmed in the settings from my old Breadman for a quick loaf and it makes a great loaf in 2 hours and 12 minutes.
This breadmaker is available for about $80 and for that price it is well worth the money. After my experience with Cuisinart CBK-200 (where I ended up throwing it away) and my brief experience with the Breadman Ultimate (which seems to be a nearly identical unit to the Cuisinart... possibly manufactured by the same sub-contract company) I can state comfortably that this breadmaker beats both of those hands down. If you want a nice, big loaf of bread cooked nicely over its entire length, this is the breadmaker for you. I hope the quality is there to last a long time... I want to keep using this one. I would recommend this to anyone interested in making good sized loafs.
For anyone interested, this is the recipe I typically use, sized for this machine:
1 2/3 cups water, warmed in microwave for 28 seconds
5 tbsp brown sugar
5 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp salt
1 cup oats (old fashion style... not the 1 minute variety)
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour
Sometimes I will grind up some flaxseed and use it to replace some of the whole wheat flour.
After 5 minutes of mixing, I will toss in some chopped walnuts and a handful of sunflower seeds. Also yummy is pumpkin seeds that I throw in a grinder for a few seconds to make the seeds a bit smaller.
Both my 3 year old daughter, and her 18 month old younger sister love eating this bread. No Wonderbread for my girls.
Update - I tried the "Super Rapid" setting today. I had misread the documentation thinking that it made a loaf of bread in an hour, but it makes the dough in an hour and indeed it bakes a loaf in just over 2 hours. It did a good job, but the medium setting uses 390 degrees and so it was darker than medium would suggest. I probably should have set it to light, but I wanted to update this to indicate that there is a setting that is similar to other breadmakers that takes just a little over 2 hours. But for anyone that wants the settings that I used to make the recipe above to perfection, it is the following (setting 11 allows the user to program their desired settings).:
Knead 1 - 12 minutes
Rise 1 - 22 minutes
Knead 2 - 8 minutes
Rise 2 - 10 minutes
Rise 3 - 30 minutes
Bake - 50 minutes at 355
Warm - 1 minute
Some other comments:
- It is not the most beautfiul of things, but beauty is in the eye as they say, so I didn't put it in the negatives.
- The buttons are not so great to use. They are a little sloppy, and every time you press any of them they make a very loud beep. I am not deaf, and I have kids that sleep and I bake when they are asleep, so a mute button would be nice.
- The digits on the LCD screen go right to the very edge, so it is a bit difficult to read near the edge.
But I can live with these drawbacks... it is a great product for the current cost.
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