One of the outstanding features of this bread maker is that it offers good support for gluten-free recipes, with 3 separate wheatless programs including one for gluten-free cakes. Unfortunately, its range is somewhat limited: with three settings that only knead, rise or bake, plus another two for cake and jam, only seven remain for conventional bread. In addition, you can’t set a loaf size for any of the gluten-free options.
This problem is exacerbated by the included recipe book containing only 25 recipes, compared to the 300 you can try with the KBS Pro. These are all enjoyable and easy enough to prepare, including non-gluten versions of carrot cake, pumpkin spice and banana bread, so you should find at least a few that appeal to you. Adapting a third-party recipe may be tricky, though, due to the limited number of settings and a user guide that’s really on the basic side.
The Virtue of Simplicity
On the other hand, while you may want to order a gluten-free bread cookbook at the same time as this machine, most people won’t have any trouble getting started. While not as polished as that of the Breville or KBS, the control panel is laid out a little more intuitively than that of the Zojirushi Virtuoso Plus and shouldn’t give you any headaches.
All you need to do (and in fact, all you’re able to) is input the loaf size, type and crustiness, and choose to delay mixing and baking for up to 15 hours if you like. However, the T-Fal is not really meant for 100% unattended operation and even the user manual suggests that you keep an eye on things to ensure that mixing and kneading go smoothly. A small window, though no interior light, is provided for this. You can also lift the lid without pausing the machine.
Though having 3 separate gluten-free programs seems like a major boon for someone with Crohn’s or celiac disease, the manufacturer actually recommends using store-bought premixes rather than your own recipes for gluten-free baking. This kind of defeats the purpose of homemade bread and makes it seem like the manufacturer doesn’t have much confidence in their factory-set programs. Gluten-free ingredients are expensive to begin with, buying them pre-mixed, or taking the risk that your loaves will sometimes come out resembling hockey pucks, is a concern that has to be weighed against this machine’s relatively low price.
The Lazy Cook’s Dream
The above paragraph might have given you the idea that we don’t actually like the T-Fal that much; this really isn’t the case. At the end of the day, a lot comes down to what you expect from your bread maker. There’s often a trade-off between versatility and ease of use, and T-Fal simply chose to lean towards the latter.
That having been said, many loyal users of this brand boast about getting pretty good bread out of it every time, including when baking without wheat flour and using their own mixes. You can introduce a little variety by adding seeds, dried fruit or whatever catches your fancy; the machine beeps when it’s time to put in these.
Another nice feature is a super-rapid setting, which takes under 1½ hours from start to finish. There’s also a less hasty program available which produces slightly fluffier bread, at the cost of taking about 30 minutes longer.
A Good Fit for Some Kitchens, But Not All
This bread machine is on the large side compared to options like the Oster ExpressBake and KBS, and has a somewhat awkward, squarish shape that takes up a lot of space in cupboards and on countertops.
All told, we’d describe it as a good first bread maker, especially for someone who’s gluten intolerant, but not something you’d buy if you’ve already been spoiled by a high-quality appliance. It’s a little noisy while working, but not ear-splitting. People used to city noises shouldn’t mind it at all.
Something that counts in its favor is that it’s very easy to use. The pan slides in and out of position smoothly, the non-stick finish seems kind of thin but is reasonably tough, the pan releases bread well and the whole machine is painless to clean. In general, the preset programs work reasonably well, but won’t satisfy bread connoisseurs who like to use very specific recipes.
- Good for effortless gluten-free baking
- Very simple to use
- 1½ hour rapid setting
- Somewhat bulky and awkwardly shaped
- Little room to customize programs
- Often have to use spatula to ensure even mixing