This bread maker is somewhat similar to the Virtuoso Plus from the same manufacturer, at least as far as having dual paddles for even mixing and a fairly long bread pan goes. However, it’s less capable and lacks a top element to help a good crust form on the top without the bottom and sides becoming too chewy.
It also lacks the array of settings that you’d expect to find on a machine costing this much: though there are nine pre-set courses, three of these are just condensed, faster versions of others. It does allow you to make sourdough starters, cakes, jams and dough, but lacks a dedicated gluten-free setting.
More importantly, this is the least user-friendly bread maker of all those we’ve selected. It sometimes seems like the Zojirushi company assigns all their rockstar engineers to designing components the normal public will never see, and leave the user interface to a gaggle of interns.
Not Quite Like Riding a Bike
As with the Virtuoso Plus, the control panel and bare-bones LCD display are tilted toward the front, which shorter people may appreciate. That’s all it really has going for it, though: it’s definitely old school. You have to hit the “Course Select” button repeatedly and see whether one or more arrows corresponding to the program you want light up: if “Quick” and “Wheat” are activated simultaneously, for instance, the machine is planning to bake a wholewheat loaf in about 2 hours.
Fortunately, you can enter your own custom baking programs, but again you have no choice but to press a button repeatedly – as in, approximately a million times – to set the desired times. If holding the button down, you can easily overrun your target value and will have to start from the beginning. This will not bother a person who plans to mainly use the presets, but is really a major oversight as far as simple usability goes.
You’ll Love It Once You Get to Know It
Both the Home Bakery Supreme and the Virtuoso Plus come with an instructional DVD, which is a nice touch: it’s always easier to watch than to read. Baking bread doesn’t involve a huge learning curve, but being confident in the basics will help you avoid simple mistakes and let you produce beautiful loaves consistently from day one.
The included recipe book is on a par with that of the Virtuoso Plus, while the user manual does a fairly good job of explaining what you have to do and why you should be doing it. Unless you’re already a master baker, a couple of pieces of paper really can make your experience with bread makers that much better. It’s a shame that some manufacturers overlook this fact.
Though there are no specific programs for specialty breads like gluten-free or vegan bread, recipes for these are included and work fine even if the cycle is called something else. There’s also no particular setting for making loaves smaller than 2 pounds, though you can easily work around this limitation by using a lighter crust setting. As with most bread makers, you can ask the machine to wait several hours before starting to mix, knead, rise and bake, and it will beep to let you know when it’s time to add solid ingredients like chocolate chips or walnuts.
Holds Its Own
Like all Zojirushi products, the build quality really is all you can reasonably expect from an appliance intended for use in the home. The fact that the warranty runs for only one year from the date of purchase may be due to cultural factors, since there’s little to worry about regarding sturdiness. There is one caveat you should be aware of: make sure to insert the mixing paddles all the way to the bottom around each drive shaft or they may strip over time. This is the weakest point in this machine, but luckily replacements are cheap and easily available.
The value of this level of reliability goes beyond the peace of mind of not having to replace this appliance soon, but comes out in many subtle ways. For instance, the knead cycle is very quiet compared to cheaper, lightweight products, and it’s easy to insert or remove the baking pan without worrying about damaging something.
Also, like with higher-priced bread machines in general, you can expect a good loaf pretty much every time you use quality ingredients and follow the instructions. Due to the clunky control panel that seems straight from the 80’s, the latter part is where you can expect trouble.
- Produces consistently good results
- Dual paddles mix all kinds of dough well
- Instructional DVD for novice users
- Relatively cumbersome to use
- No specific program for gluten-free bread
- Somewhat expensive compared to competitors