By Louis DeNicola, Cheapism.com
Artisan breads often cost upward of $5, yet the thought of a thick slice with butter or a piece of perfectly crisp toast keeps expensive loaves from staying on store shelves for long. Instead, why not make your own at home for a fraction of the cost? It's too much work, say some. It takes so long, say others. But a bread machine sweeps those objections off the table like crumbs. Although a high-end bread maker can cost a couple hundred dollars up front, at Cheapism we found a number of well-loved machines for less than $60.Hamilton Beach HomeBaker 29881
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- The Hamilton Beach HomeBaker 29881 (starting at $56) is easy enough to use that even complete beginners give it rave reviews online. Add three ingredients, select the correct cycle from among the 12 settings, which include an express mode for when you're in a hurry, and choose your preferred crust shade -- light, medium, or dark. You can make 1.5- or 2-pound loaves and other baked goods such as pita bread and pizza dough.
- The West Bend Hi-Rise 41300 (starting at $53) offers bakers a wide variety of options, including four loaf sizes, three shades of crust, and 11 pre-programmed settings. You can also customize each part of the prep -- the kneading, rising, and baking cycles -- to create unique breads. Reviewers appreciate that even dense ingredients fully rise into light loaves with the dual knead blades; most budget machines have only one paddle.
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- The Oster Expressbake CKSTBRTW20 (starting at $60) proves true to its name: It can turn out a fresh loaf of bread in less than an hour. With less time to let the dough rise, the bread may turn out denser than it would under the normal three-hour setting, but nonetheless users are happy with the speedy results, according to reviews. This machine can make loaves up to 2 pounds.
- The Breadman TR520 (starting at $59) offers only eight functions but still has some bells and whistles: three crust options, a signal bell for adding fruit or nuts at the right time, and a choice of three loaf sizes: 1, 1.5, or 2 pounds. Some reviewers find the yellow control panel hard to read but say the results beat store-bought bread any day, even if recipes need some tweaking before they turn out right.
All these bread makers feature 12- or 13-hour delay-start timers, so you can have fresh bread ready when you wake up.
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An added advantage of baking bread yourself is the unique variants you can create. If you don't care for bleached flour or want the extra kick of a certain spice, it's up to you what goes into the bread -- or doesn't. The Hamilton Beach and West Bend models offer gluten-free settings.
One online reviewer notes that you might want to think twice about buying a bread machine if you're trying to stick to a low-carb diet in the New Year. Warm, homemade bread can have such an allure that you can be halfway through a loaf before you realize it.
More from Cheapism:
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Budget coffee makers
Best inexpensive microwave ovens
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