This is my second breadmaker, replacing an ancient Kitchenmaster VBM100 whose heater packed in. It was 13 years old, so it had a good run. I have made many loaves with the Shef and I am very pleased with it. On the basic setting the hopper drops down at the 2 hours 20 minute point, so if I am around at that time it is easy enough to push it back. I am sure that if I really wanted to I could stop it dropping one way or another.
Quite often I make a cheese and onion loaf. This involves less water due to the moisture in the cheese and onion. I use fresh onion, not dried onion. I find that I need to set the crust to light because it gets quite dark on the medium setting. This also happened with my Kitchenmaster. This is down to the type and amount of cheese.
The basic recipe I use is one I got with my Kitchenmaster and it works fine. I still have the recipe book. I have not looked at the free recipe book that came with the Shef in much detail. I am sure it is easy enough to adapt the recipes in there for the Shef.
I have made one or two wholewheat loaves but have not got it right yet. I had the same issue with my Kitchenmaster, so it is down to me, the ingredients used and the ratios.
There are plenty of good books out there for recipes and methods. If anyone wants the recipe I use for cheese and onion I can provide it. I guess I could add it as a comment or maybe as an update to this review.
One minor point - the cup provided has the 1 cup measurement right at the top, so this may cause a little bit of spillage with liquids, eg water. I still use the old one from my Kitchenmaster so not an issue. Same with the recipe book, it is free (£4.99 is the price on the back), so no moaning about that either. I suggest go and use those recipes, experiment and see how things turn out. I experiment quite often with recipes. Try coconut and lemon, or spicy ones with chillies and a few spices, or sun blessed tomatoes - that is a good one. I use the Sainsburys sun blessed tomatoes in rapeseed oil with garlic and I think tarragon. Also, adding a tablespoon or so of olive oil will make the loaf more moist and make the crust softer.
I like the option of being able to customise the process with the homemade option. I have not tried that one yet, but plan to soon. As to not being able to skip certain steps, perhaps it is possible to set the time for those steps to zero? I have not tried that but will look into it. Perhaps someone else has tried it?
Overall, well recommended and a real bargain at the price. I bought this one because it had 4 and 5 star reviews unlike others which had reviews down to 1 star. For those having issues with their loaves, try changing the ratios of the ingredients. Usually, loaves that sink may be too wet (I did a garlic one once and that was too wet, but very tasty). Or, use the Shef on the dough setting then take it out and let it do its second rise in a loaf tin or similar and cook in the oven. Easier than you may think.
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