Dec. 5, 2012 at 8:19 AM ET
By Kara Reinhardt, Cheapism.com
For a holiday meal with all the trimmings, fresh-baked bread and rolls beat store-bought every time. Yet who can find time for all that mixing and kneading and baking amid all the shopping and wrapping and decking the halls? Therein lies the appeal of a bread maker: Just feed it a few ingredients and press start. Unfortunately this is one of those fancy gadgets that can easily cost a couple of hundred dollars and wind up forgotten in the back of a cabinet. But depending on what kind of bread you typically buy, the machine may pay for itself with regular use. A loaf of homemade bread doesn’t cost much more than the flour, salt, and yeast that go into it, plus a pinch of time and a dash of electricity. And that’s not to mention taste or nutrition.
Below are Cheapism’s top picks for bread machines under $60.
The different settings on these machines include various kinds of bread -- basic white, whole wheat, French, sweet. (A baker and author writing in The Guardian recommends tweaking the recipes that come with the machine before consulting external sources.) Other settings yield dough for making things like pizza and rolls, and express cycles turn out loaves in less time. Users can adjust a separate crust control to light, medium, or dark.
The models listed above produce rectangular loaves similar in shape to those you’d find at the grocery store, with one exception. The Hamilton Beach HomeBaker makes taller, squarer bread. All the baking pans are nonstick for easy cleanup.
One additional perk of all four bread makers: Users can program these machines to delay the start of the bread-making process, so a fresh loaf finishes in time for dinner or first thing in the morning, ready for toast.
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