This is the Japanese company’s updated version of the previous Virtuoso, without the “Plus”. The main differences are that the Plus has an improved control panel and better support for specialty breads. In our opinion, it’s definitely worth paying more for the newer model.
On the other hand, this is far and away the most expensive of the home bread makers we’ve selected. If you’re not willing to shell out quite this much, you may want to look at the BB-CEC20 Home Bakery Supreme from the same manufacturer, which shares several of its virtues.
Some of the qualities that sets this premium product apart from the pack is the fact that it has two kneading blades instead of one. This leads to better, more consistent mixing and, since each paddle is wide but shallow, leaves smaller divots in the finished loaf. More importantly, the Virtuoso Plus applies heat from both above and below, giving you a much more evenly browned crust.
Superb Control for Superior Results
Like most products from this manufacturer, this bread maker doesn’t bother with many frills, but excels what it’s supposed to do. As with with the Home Bakery Supreme and Breville, you can set and store your own custom programs. In this case, the machine’s memory can accommodate three of them and they’re called, charmingly but a little confusingly, “Homemade”.
With these, you can allow your dough to rise at a controlled temperature for up to 17 hours, which is desirable for some kinds of bread. If you like, you can also make use of a special preset program to cultivate a sourdough starter, though doing this in only a few hours seems iffy. Most seasoned bakers will prefer to follow a traditional recipe as long as their house isn’t too hot or cold.
Other programs include options for vegan bakes, sugar/salt free, glutenless, jam and cake. This machine isn’t really geared for baking a loaf as quickly as possible: the “Rapid” options take about 2 ½ hours, though you can make use of the user-defined programs to address this lack.
The Virtuoso Plus’s control panel is not nearly as stylish as that of the Breville, but isn’t terribly difficult to use once you get the hang of it. The biggest everyday annoyance is that each program is denoted with a number, which you have to look up on a list printed on the front of the machine.
You’ll have to spend some time getting to know this machine to get the most out of it, however. As one example, it is possible to mute its beeper, which is certainly a point in its favor. This is done by holding the “Timer” button down for several seconds instead of a dedicated setting, though, which is far from intuitive.
Some 50 recipes are included. These are good for starting out with since they’ve been tested on this particular machine. Adapting recipes from other cookbooks shouldn’t pose too much of a problem; just know that this machine doesn’t have a setting explicitly for loaves smaller than 1½ pounds, so you’ll have to improvise.
This bread maker doesn’t look very cool and it’s definitely not an economy option. It does not, however, disappoint in most other ways and is put together very well. Significantly, the pan’s non-stick coating is highly resistant to scratches and flaking. Unfortunately, the paddles are made of aluminum and will have to be replaced after a few hundred uses, especially if you don’t press them all the way down onto their shafts.
As this bread maker is solidly built and quite heavy (24 pounds), it’s also very quiet even when kneading. The dual-paddle design probably helps here too. Though producing a simple loaf of bread is somewhat easier with a machine like the Oster Expressbake or KBS, the robust control the Virtuoso Plus offers is almost in a class of its own. Special recipes, including vegan, gluten-, sugar- and sodium-free, come out surprisingly well even without fine-tuning the ingredient quantities. It also produces a longer, more normal-shaped loaf similar to what you can buy at the grocery store, making it easier to fit slices in a toaster or lunchbox.
We would have liked to see an automatic fruit and nut dispenser like that found on the Breville and KBS, but having to wait for the buzzer before tossing in your add-ins isn’t the end of the world.
Of course, this bread maker’s high price will by itself be enough to make some people look elsewhere, even if they’re planning to bake their own bread every day. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for, and the Virtuoso Plus definitely boasts higher quality than the Breville and is miles ahead of cheaper products, not only in terms of durability but also in the bread it produces.
- Browns crust evenly
- Relatively quiet
- Somewhat tolerant of recipe errors
- Costs quite a lot
- Controls take some getting used to
- Only 1-year warranty, but can be expected to last much longer