Introduction: Cook EVERYTHING With Your Bread Machine

You have a robotic cooking machine, and you may not even know it. Dust off your bread machine, or go buy a bread maker from the second hand shop for a few dollars. They can be used for a lot more than just bread. Main courses, desserts, appetizers and drinks can all be made with this versatile, under-utilized machine.

This guide is aimed at the following groups, who will get the most from it:

  1. People who don't have access to a real kitchen- College students, military folks, people living in their cars or shelters.
    • The bread machine will open up a lot of cooking possibilities- more than a rice cooker or coffee maker. It is safer and often ignored in a way that hot plates are not. It is far better than trying to cook on an iron. Most dorms specifically allow bread machines.
  2. People who don't want to cook.
    • Most of the "recipes" that follow don't have a lot of user interaction. You can wander away and do other things while the machine works. Once you work out a technique, the machine can be programmed to repeat it every time.
  3. People who like certain labor-intensive recipes
    • For most of the recipes, the bread machine is a substitute for a real kitchen, and if you have one, you should use it. However, there are a few recipes that are BETTER when done by a machine. They take a lot of the work out of meals you might not otherwise make. These people should at the minimum check out the Risotto, the Pudding, and the Sloppy Joe Recipes.

Step 1: What If I Want More Than Just Disco? a Rant.

Imagine that it is the year 1979. The portable cassette player has just been released, and the public goes crazy. "Wonderful!" they say. "I love Disco music, and I love that I can carry my favorite Disco tapes with me!" A manufacturer creates a sells a wildly popular device called the "Discoman".

In a few short years, though, the popularity of Disco crashes. No one wants to hear the thumping beat and prominent bass lines any more. Engineers create a new portable music player, based on CDs. The public response is anemic- "I'm just not interested in Disco anymore." Sales are poor. Technology advances, and the MP3 player is developed. Despite the fact that it can hold hundreds of songs of any type, it is named the "Disco3 player" and is only sold in the Disco section of music stores. Manufacturers make categories for tiny differences in Disco variations, but all other music is simply labeled "Other" and is unsearchable. The devices are only given as presents by ignorant grandparents, and most are either ignored, or wind up in Thrift Stores for 10 dollars.

That's the story of the Fully Automatic Cooking Robot. You probably know it as the "bread machine". The cooking robot was invented in the 1980's, and is solely marketed on the ability to make bread. You can make anything you want- as long as it is bread! White bread. Wheat Bread. Gluten Free bread. The cooking robot can add ingredients at precise times for you, so you can make nut bread. Or raisin bread. Or sesame seed bread. The fully programmable timer lets you start the machine any time, so you can wake up to bread. The cooking robot has a powerful motor, so it can mix anything- stiff doughs, wet doughs, even very sticky dough. All get kneaded into bread. The heating element is controllable and precise- do you want your bread crust light or dark? Recently, the cooking robot had a new button added, so you can make jam. To put on your bread, of course. Or a cake button, because cakes are basically sweet bread.

Is anyone else offended by this? 10 buttons on my MP3 player, and all of them Disco. DiscoVolumeUp. NextDiscoTrack. DiscoPlaylist.

What if I want something more than just disco?

Step 2: Statement of Laziness and Disclaimer

I'm not a great cook. A robot is only as good as its programming, and I am a lazy programmer too. What that means for you is that the "recipes" here are only loosely such, and are really more like guides or inspirations. Because each machine will be different, and because the interface to control them is so poor, I can only offer rough outlines instead of concrete directions.

So you won't see things like "Bake at 350 degree for 20 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes" because we just don't have that kind of control... yet. You'll have to tinker with each recipe, and set your own timers or program the cycles.

Step 3: The Obvious Choice: Bread-y Stuff

Based on my previous rant, It might seem a little disingenuous to start with the bread course. But why not? It's what the machine was made to do.

If you have a new (or new to you) machine, make a few loaves of bread to get an idea of how it works. The bread cycles will step through all of the functions of the machine, so you can see how they work. Every machine is different- I have two, and they have some major differences in how they knead, for example.

  • How strong is the knead cycle? Does it use powerful, short strokes, or does it use softer, more continuous strokes? Does it pulse, or is it continuous? Do you have to scrape flour from the walls, or does the paddle reach it? How close to the floor is the paddle- does it leave a lot of flour under it?
  • How well does the bake cycle work? How fast does the machine take to warm up? How much heat escapes through the oven walls? Does the "crust control" setting actually make a difference?
  • What settings does the machine have, and how many of them matter? White bread vs Wheat bread is pretty minor, but a cake setting works a little different. Does it have dough only, bake only options? Is there a jam setting? Keep warm? Ingredient Dispenser?
  • How big is the pan? They are rated in the size of bread loaf they make, typically between 1 to 2 pounds. Is it tall, or wide and flat? Are there 2 paddles, or one? Does the machine work if the pan is not present, or if you take it out mid-cycle?

Recipe Suggestions:

This will be a pretty thin section, because you'll find countless resources elsewhere. We aren't breaking new ground here.

  1. For college students:
    • Make bread! You'll be the hit of the dorm when you share some fresh bread one cold morning. Beer Bread will be popular just because of the idea, and you'll likely have some available.
  2. For non-cookers:
    • Make bread. The machine is optimized for it, and will need no supervision. Go for the fancy, elaborate breads, because they take just as much energy from you as the simple breads, like this chocolate chip bread.
    • Get a packaged mix and make a cake. If you want a slightly better looking cake, you can take the paddle out after mixing so it won't affect the cake structure.
  3. For time-saving chefs:
    • Make Pizza dough. You can set the machine to make the dough while you are away or busy, and then make fresh pizza. It is sometimes said that this is the most common task for bread machines. Letting the dough sit overnight will let it build up a more complex flavor.

Step 4: Start With Something Sweet: Jams, Sauces, Syrups, and Pudding

Test your machine's jam cycle by making actual jam. I've made several jams over the summer using berries from the neighborhood and backyard rhubarb. The machine easily transform the tough, stringy, fibrous stalks of rhubarb into thick, syrupy jam.

My Jam Formula:

  • 1 part Fruit
  • 1 part sugar

This actually makes it more of a sauce, because I keep the sugar levels low and don't add pectin. Berries have a fair amount and will make it thicken anyway, but you should add it if you use other fruit.

  1. For College Students:
    • Simple Syrup
      • What do you get if you make a jam without any fruit? You make a simple syrup, or just water and sugar. Simple syrup is very easy to make in a pan on the stove, so this is more for people who can't have a hot plate or access to a stove. It is used as the basis for many mixed drinks, or sodas.
    • Pudding
      • Buy a box of cheap pudding from the grocery store, and use the "dough only" cycle to mix it up cold. It only takes about two minutes.
  2. For non-cookers:
    • Pasta Sauce
      • One of my first explorations into robocooking was making Tomato Sauce. It might be my first instructable. It is closer to a step-by-step recipe and exploration than the other "formulas" or "outlines" that you'll find here. But any kind of sauce is essentially a jam without the added sugar to make it congeal as far as the machine is concerned. I haven't tried it myself, but I bet it could make a decent white sauce or alfredo.
    • Make Jam with frozen fruit
      • Put it on top of the bread you made earlier, or ice cream. Don't worry about pectin, no one will care.
  3. For time-saving chefs:
    • Pudding
      • Make a pudding from raw ingredients. Warm pudding is a dish from another era, and it really has something that cold store bought pudding lacks. I used this recipe: and the pudding was done in the same amount of time as the regular Jam cycle, so it was fairly convenient. I haven't tried a egg-custard style pudding yet, only cornstarch, so be careful of those.

Step 5: Heat and Stir: Soups, Stews, and Chili

Basically, anything whose recipe can be summarized as "heat until warm, while stirring constantly" is a good choice for the bread machine with a jam cycle. There are a LOT of options here.

I've made a fair amount of soup in the machine, both from scratch, from a can or a mix, or a combination. The only thing to be aware of is that a very watery soup may splash over the sides of the pan if your cycle is a vigorous one. I fashioned a "cap" out of aluminum foil to keep everything where it should be and sometimes use it.

  1. For college students:
    • Make soup from a can. It's easy. Just dump it in, wait, and eat it straight from the pan.
    • Practically ANY package from the store that you add water to, heat, and stir can be done in the bread machine. I've even made Ramen- it isn't better than a microwave, but if all you have is a hammer....
  2. For non-cookers:
    • Make chili. Some beans, tomatoes, and corn can all be thrown in with some spice packets, and you can come back to a nice chili. A "Keep warm" cycle will even keep it hot for you! Note: I'm a vegetarian, so I never tried making a meat based chili. I don't know how safe it would be to cook raw meat this way.
    • Sloppy joes (using veggie "crumbles") have been very popular. Put in 1 package of veggie crumbles, a diced green pepper, and a sauce such as ketchup, barbecue, or steak sauce, and let it mix together.
  3. For time-saving chefs:
    • Risotto. This recipe is actually worth getting the bread machine out for this alone. I don't say this lightly, but this is a BETTER way to make risotto. The bread machine is a nigh-perfect method- a relatively low temperature, constant stirring, and a sealed environment to keep the steam in. Risotto made this way is totally worth it, and you may not go back to the old way of stirring in a pan on the stove.

Step 6: Bake at 350: Pasta and Casseroles

Full disclosure- The bread machine is not that great at this as a start-to-finish robo-cooking machine. Sigh. This is terrible news for the non-cookers, as it means that you often can't just dump ingredients in and walk away. I've tried, and it pretty much destroys the pasta if you try to have it stir and cook on the jam cycle, turning it into a gelatinous mass.

The good news is, it is still a tiny oven, which means that baked pasta and lasagna-type recipes are totally doable. Most bread machines cook in the range of 350 degrees, so you can convert any pasta bake recipes that want that kind of heat. If you have a programmable machine, you can have it mix for a very short time, and then bake for an hour or so.

  1. For college students:
    • You CAN make the cheap macaroni and cheese in the bread machine... it just won't taste very good. But it wasn't going to taste very good anyways. Go for it if it was on sale and you have 50 boxes.
    • I have not tried it, but the Pasta-Roni products should work well. They don't need to drain the noodles, which is a problem for the machine with typical pasta recipes.
  2. For non-cookers:
    • Make a tomato sauce baked pasta. Most recipes will be just variations like the following: Use the "Bake only" option and give the whole thing a couple swirls with a spoon before you walk away. It may take more or less time depending on how hot your machine gets, so stay nearby when it is almost done.
  3. For time-saving chefs:
    • Don't. You have better options (like draining your pasta) and aren't afraid to use them.

Step 7: Breakfast

Something you might not expect the machine to do is scrambled eggs. One of my machines does them well, and the other one needs some help. It seems to be a matter of pan-and-paddle differences. My larger machine has a gap under the paddles that means that some of the egg mixture doesn't get mixed well, and I have to go in and help it out with a soft spoon. (Don't use metal- it'll scratch the non-stick coating!)

In the pictures above, you can actually see a fairly representative flow of what the machine does. Use the jam cycle so it heats and stirs at the same time, and once the eggs are cooked, add in your additions and let it mix those as well.

Something even easier is oatmeal. As we know, the bread maker is quite good at anything that is just "heat and stir".

I haven't tried it yet, but a baked french toast looks pretty feasible. Perhaps one of you will try it and let me know how it goes?

Step 8: Snacks!

Perhaps you'd like something that you would normally throw in the oven or microwave and just heat up? The bread machine can do that too.

I've made tater tots, (fake) buffalo wings, and pizza rolls like this. The instructions say to "spread out evenly on a baking sheet", but it doesn't matter THAT much if you just dump them in. This is aimed at the people who don't have a toaster or real oven- anything small enough to fit is fair game.

If you feel like living dangerously...

You can pull the pan out entirely, and replace it with some aluminum trays. I cut up some pie plates to fit in the machine, and rest them on the heating elements. I used it to make toast. It's a terrible idea, but you could probably use this to warm up a slice of pizza. It's a bad idea because it will probably leak food elements onto the heating elements, which will burn and smell bad.

But, it is possible.

Step 9: Cheesecake?!

This one is for all three groups- The college students, the non-cookers, and the time-saving chefs! I followed the recipe here:

  1. For college students: bring this to a dorm party and you will be the King-and/or-Queen. No one expects a fresh cheesecake at the all night kegger, and you can probably pull this off while a little bit drunk and eat it later to sober up. If you don't have a refrigerator, you can probably leave it outside on a cool night to accomplish the same effect.
  2. For the non-cooker: there are basically only two steps for this- assemble ingredients, and then put on the crust after an hour. You don't need any odd equipment like a springform pan, and it has a lot of downtime between steps that are relatively forgiving if you forget about it.
  3. For the time-saving chef: This will save you space in the oven if you are making other dishes, and doesn't need much active time. If you don't pull the paddle out before it bakes, it is going to look terrible (we both know that the folks in the above categories won't care), so that will be the most tricky part of the operation.

You can disguise where the paddles (or posts) were with the topping. With enough fruit topping on it, no one can see the crater!

Step 10: The Future

I'm not the only one who sees the possibilities of robotic cooking machines-

There is a lot you can do with these types of machine. Imagine how much more could be done if manufacturers weren't crippling it with a terrible interface...

Imagine if the programmable settings included what temperature to cook at, and for how long. Imagine if you could decide how often, and how hard to stir.

Things a TRULY programmable machine could do:

  1. It could replace every function of a rice cooker.
  2. It could replace every function of a slow cooker.
  3. My large machine is still small enough to fit in my freezer. If it could stir WITHOUT heating, it would be an ice cream maker.
  4. With the paddles stirring slowly to circulate, and a pan full of water, it could be a sous vide system.
  5. If you could boil, and then hold a low temperature afterwards, you could make yogurt.

I've got an Arduino, and am preparing to replace the controller of one of my machines. It will be a long road, as I have a lot to learn, and there is a lot that could go wrong with a powerful appliance like this. (You can be sure I'll be reading and re-reading this instructable ) But maybe one of you can do it better and faster? I hope you will share your plans with me.

Step 11: What to Try Next?

There are a number of recipes that I know are possible but I have not tried yet. Perhaps some of you would like to give them a shot a let me know how well they work.

  1. Hot chocolate- The machine ought to be able to make about a liter / half gallon of hot chocolate at once. It should keep it warm like a crockpot/slowcooker would too.
  2. Rice- I haven't tried replacing my rice cookers primary function yet, but it should be just a matter of working out the heating timing.
  3. Meatloaf- as a vegetarian, this is a low priority for me, but Zojirushi has a recipe for meatloaf.
  4. Frying- would a pan full of oil get hot enough to fry in? I've been afraid to find out.
  5. I've tried baking potatoes in it, but no great success. Is it possible?
  6. What would be the best bread to make a Bread Bowl in?
  7. I haven't used the Keep-Warm cycle- what could it be used for?
  8. Would the bread machine be an effective Fondue pot?
  9. What would be a good Quiche to try?
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