Like Zojirushi, the Oster company has a pretty good reputation when it comes to domestic appliances. Their design philosophy is very different from the Japanese firm, however: instead of specializing in high-end, painstakingly designed products, Oster tends to think in terms of serviceable, workaday machines that combine durability with value for money.
In other words, the ExpressBake isn’t really anything fancy, but it’s a breeze to use and does well at preparing basic breads. Its white color scheme and a compact footprint will fit well into many kitchens, while it’s small and light enough to stick in a cupboard even with limited overhead space. With a large window, raised buttons and intuitive menu operation, it’s also a bread machine that children will love to use.
On its fastest setting, it can produce a somewhat palatable loaf in only an hour, or be loaded up with ingredients and programmed to start up to 13 hours later.
A Couple of Annoyances
Unfortunately, this bread maker likes to beep loudly at the end of every cycle, giving you an idea of when to throw in sun-dried tomatoes, seeds or raisins, or remove the kneading blade. We’re all in favor of keeping things simple, but surely the addition of a mute button wouldn’t have raised the price all that much? The kneading action itself is fairly quiet, although at only 8 pounds (compared to 11 for the somewhat similar Cuisinart CBK-110P1), this machine does tend to walk around on your counter, noisily, unless it’s placed on a grippy surface.
It doesn’t have a specific gluten-free setting, but this isn’t that big a deal: it actually does pretty well at baking these kinds of loaves using the “Basic” or “Whole Wheat” program as long as you use the right recipe. Apart from selecting a loaf size and level of crustiness, however, there’s no easy way to deviate from the preset programs, so you’re out of luck if you want to use this machine to replicate your great-grandmother’s special recipe.
Something which will displease more people is the shape of the loaf. Not only is it somewhat short and squat (which is pretty much the norm with compact bread makers), a sizable divot is left in the bottom due to the paddle’s irregular shape unless you remove it prior to baking. Still, this is mainly a cosmetic problem, and this hole is usually smaller than the one left by the Cuisinart CBK-110P1.
Makes Life Easier
The ExpressBake comes with built-in functionality to make jam, pastry and pizza dough. Preparing these staples yourself might not be on the cards for you right now, but it’s worth keeping the possibility in mind – you may even come to enjoy it, not to mention enjoying better, healthier food.
The pan has a very nice non-stick coating which makes this machine no trouble at all to clean, though it’s a good idea to only wipe it down with a damp cloth or sponge rather than throwing it into the dishwasher. The machine’s lid is removable for easier cleaning, too, though the hinges aren’t terribly sturdy and should be treated with kindness.
Considering its size and the lack of a top element or air circulation fan, the Oster ExpressBake gives a pretty consistent texture and crust on all sides, although the top will still be noticeably lighter. As with any new bread maker, you’ll probably get some disappointing loaves on the first few attempts. That having been said, this machine seems to be more forgiving of measuring errors and less-than-fresh ingredients than most. Considering its price, this is a great buy unless you’re specifically looking for a premium appliance.
- Durable non-stick baking pan
- Relatively small
- Straightforward to use
- Irritating beeps can't be muted
- Best to remove mixing blade between kneading and baking
- No way to deviate from preset programs