Have you ever used a bread maker? Would you be tempted to buy one? I knew it was one of those gadgets that you either fell in love with and used religiously or it quickly got consigned to a cupboard. In all my years of blogging and gadget testing, I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to give one a whirl, so when Sage Appliances got in touch asking me if i’d like to try out the Custom Loaf Pro, I was super curious to get stuck in.
It’s a sleek and shiny gadget in brushed stainless steel. It’s flipping massive though, so it definitely needs to earn its keep if it wants to stay on the sideboard! The dimensions are: H35.2cm x W24.8cm x D39.9cm – so to give you an idea of what that looks like in reality, it’s about the same width as my microwave, taller but not as deep.
The digital control panel is extremely clear and easy to use. You just select the type of programme you want, style of crust and size of loaf then start and off it goes. It works out the temperature and cooking time all for you. You can also use the delayed start feature so you can wake up to the holy grail of freshly baked bread. Or perhaps you’re selling your house and could set it to be baking when you’re having viewings!!!
What can you make in it?
The Custom Loaf Pro comes with an easy-to-follow booklet of recipes. You can make all manner of breads from start to finish from a basic white loaf, whole wheat breads, crusty loaves, gluten free and yeast free.
There’s also the option to make dough for pizza bases, pasta, sweet recipes like hot cross buns and sticky cinnamon rolls that you go on to shape yourself and bake in the oven. You can apparently also make jam in it.
You can easily experiment by adding extra flavourings to your breads like sun-dried tomatoes, nuts, olives, dried fruit etc via the special dispenser on the machine. It automatically empties them into the dough and gets kneaded in at exactly the right time for the recipe.
You’re able to choose four different sized loaves from a small 500g loaf right up to a whopping 1.25kg. I found the 750g to be a good size for a regular loaf, with the 1.25kg turning out to be more like a skyscraper!
The crust is also customisable with options for light, medium and dark.
Once you’re up and running you can even make up your own bread recipes and program them in using the custom setting.
How did I get on with it?
Sam was at home for the day as his school was closed for the elections, so I thought we’d start off with a basic white loaf just to get the hang of it. We couldn’t believe how easy it all was. You take out the bread tin, add the ingredients in the order of the recipe, place it back in. Shut the lid and then tap the buttons to match the bread you’re making and away it goes on a three hour mission. No it’s not quick, but you don’t have to do anything so it frees you up to do something else. Sam was pretty chuffed that he could bake bread at the same time as playing on the PS4…
We loved the viewing window and internal light so we could keep an eye on proceedings even when it steamed up! I was fascinated to see how the little mixing paddle would work and transform all of the ingredients into a neat loaf without remnants of flour lingering in the corners. I guess with it being a Heston Blumenthal endorsed product, it’s going to be forensically efficient.
It steadily works its way through the processes of bread making – mixing, kneading, rising and baking. I love how it’s all been scientifically worked out so there’s no guessing involved and absolutely no stressing about getting it wrong. If you’re baking for guests you want something that’s going to give consistently good results.
Once it was baked, the loaf was easily turned out onto a wire rack to cool. The mixing paddle leaves a small indent in the bottom of the loaf, but because it’s collapsible it’s not the huge hole that it could potentially be.
The house smelt SO good it was making us all foam at the mouth. Possibly one to avoid if you’re on a diet!
The resulting loaf was majestic. The boys swarmed around waiting to grab the first few slices, buttered and spread with jam. It was so huge that you had to cut the slices in half! A gorgeous crispy crust and soft interior with just the right consistency – not too dense or cakey which is always my fear with home made bread.
I couldn’t wait to make another one, and this time tried a maple and pecan bread in a smaller size. It had a softer crust and an even lighter consistency than the first basic loaf. Needless to say it was hoovered up rapidly.
Pretty simple but you have to be careful and wash it by hand. You can’t put any of it in the dishwasher. The bread pan easily lifts out and you half fill it with warm soapy water and let it soak for 20 minutes. I then gave it a gentle scrub with a plastic cleaning brush, took out the collapsible paddle and removed any remnants of dough with the brush. I left it all to airdry.
Nope. It’s very quiet apart from the odd bleep as it goes through its cycles.
What do the family think?
The boys are delighted that they can help make bread, in fact Sam could do it pretty much on his own as the machine is suitable to be used by children from 8 years and above as long as they’re supervised and given guidance about using it safely.
My husband is enjoying great doorstep sandwiches for his lunch, and I’m finding it all so straightforward that I can see myself happily working my way through the entire recipe booklet. One of Sam’s friends commented that our house “smells like Subway”, and as that’s their favourite hangout I’ll take that as a compliment. I prefer to think it smells like an artisan bakery…
Value for money
With a hefty price tag of £249.95 you need to be pretty sure you’re going to use this machine on a regular basis.
But saying that, the results are so delicious that I think it’d end up paying for itself with the amount of fabulous bread you’ll make in it.
You can keep your cupboard well stocked with the basic ingredients like bread flour, fast action yeast, sugar, salt and oil for very little money.
If you are tempted, a little bird told me it’s on sale at John Lewis for £199.95 until 31-06-16 – click here to check it out
Yes it’s big and expensive, but to have the ability to make bakery-quality bread in your own kitchen with virtually no effort at all makes it a real contender. If you love fresh bread and you’ve got the space and budget for it, i’d seriously recommend this mighty gadget.
I’m excited about experimenting with different types of flour and flavourings to come up with lots of lovely loaves. How amazing to be able to knock up delicious freshly baked bread when you’ve got friends and family coming over for lunch, to serve up with a BBQ or slice up for a picnic.
I’ll be sharing one of my new bread recipes with you next week, so watch this space!
Disclosure: I have been sent the Custom Loaf Pro by Sage Appliances for the purpose of this review. I get to keep the bread maker, but rest assured all views expressed are my own.