Understanding Bread Machine Cycles and Settings

Baking with a bread machine can be fun, but the number of cycles and settings can be confusing. Many beginning bakers don’t know what the different names actually imply. Those of you who don’t have the manual or bought your machine used might need a little help with the basics. This list should help you navigate the most common settings and cycles found on modern bread machines.


That perfect white bread that mom made is on this backdrop. Basic breads that don’t require much stirring, American breads, and many savory yeast breads are baked perfectly using the basic cycle. For sweet breads, however, this setting is not appropriate. This can result in bread that is too tough and yeasty.


Sweet bread lovers, fear not. The sweet cycle is your friend. This will help you bake the perfect sweet yeast bread every time. Quick breads, which do not contain yeast, should not be baked on this cycle. The sweet cycle setting includes a rise time and bakes for a different time than sweet yeast breads.

Whole wheat

Whole wheat flour often requires a little extra rise time. As a result, the whole wheat cycle includes a slightly longer rise time, allowing the wheat gluten to do its job and the yeast to work. Adding vital wheat gluten to whole wheat bread can eliminate the need to use this cycle. However, for best results when using whole wheat flour, use this setting.


European breads require slightly different settings than American style breads. Enter the French cycle. You can bake Italian, French and many other European breads on this cycle. The delay is a little longer and on some machines the temperature settings may also vary slightly. These adjustments ensure that you will be able to create loaves with the perfect texture and crust that characterize staple European breads such as French and Italian.

Gluten free

Baking gluten-free bread involves using wheat-free flours, but can still incorporate yeast. If you’re on a special diet and can’t eat wheat, you can still enjoy the benefits of a bread maker. Room temperature ingredients and specialty flours such as almond, millet and sorghum tend to work best. Potato and rice flours, while popular and cheap, don’t make bread as flavorful and satisfying. They can, however, make good additions to wheat or gluten-free bread.


If you want bread fast, exit out of the rapid or rapid cycle. It varies from machine to machine, but generally involves a shortened rise time. In some machines your bread will rise twice, in others only once. Quick rise yeast may be requested by the manufacturer. If you don’t have the manual handy, it may not be advisable to use this parameter.

quick bread

Pound cakes and quick breads are a great breakfast or party treat. If you like them, you will love this cycle. There is no built-in rise time, since these breads do not contain yeast. You might even be able to bake a normal cake on this setting, although results will vary from machine to machine.


If you have perfectly ripe fruit on hand, test your bread machine’s skills by making hot, fresh jam. You can make several flavor combinations, but keep a few basics in mind. The pan, handle, paddle and machine can all be very hot during this cycle. You will need potholders to remove the pan when finished. Use diced, non-pureed fruit for best results. Check the recipes specific to your machine and do not double batches. If the jam spills onto the heating element, it can actually damage the machine.


Creating doughs for pies, pastas, cookies and anything else you can think of is easier with this setting. There is no cooking cycle on this setting, so be prepared to finish baking the dough in your oven or, in the case of pasta, to press, shape and cut it to dry. and use it later. Some machines may incorporate a separate cycle specifically designed for pasta doughs.


Your machine may offer cycles such as a program cycle, custom cycle or delayed start. If you have options that don’t appear on this list, you can actually run your machine with nothing but the bread pan and paddle. Keep an eye on the time spent on each part of the cycle to determine its usage. Opening the machine while it is running will not damage it.

Before you start

Bred machine loaf pans have a limited capacity. Don’t overdo it. If the pot overflows, you can permanently damage the machine. If you want a copy of your manual, search online. You will be surprised at the number of manuals published online for users.


Although bread makers are generally easy to use, unless you know what the different cycles and settings mean, you can still end up with a disaster instead of a masterpiece. The above explanations should, however, help you get to know your machine better. Even if you don’t have a manual handy, this should get you started. Good pastry!

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