We invested in our first bread machine over 14 years ago. Today, 3 bread makers later, it's still very much a part of our lives. I really don't think I would have made bread from scratch without using the bread machine first.
After nagging my husband, and having him scoff at me (just like he did when I wanted to start buying Organic food) my first bread maker was my birthday present. That very first Sunbeam bread machine was a dream and last a good 10 years. Trust me..... my husband didn't scoff for very long!
Using the recipe book that came with the machine, I learnt to bake lots of varieties of bread, rolls, fruit scrolls, hot cross buns, focaccia, pizza bases and even jam. I even took it with us when we relocated our family to Beijing China for a year and ended up making bread for our little expat community :) It's so easy, even hubby's happy to put a basic loaf of bread on now.
Over a decade later, we replaced our original Sunbeam with another Sunbeam (same model) - why mess with something we were very happy with? Unfortunately the quality of the second machine had declined substantially and we ended up replacing it within 3 years. Our main issue was the quality of the bread pan. In the end it wouldn't sit securely in the machine and as a result jumped around and made a lot of noise.
Our latest bread maker is a Panasonic SD-2501 and it is divine! Cycles are slightly longer than we are used to, but the quality of the bread it produces makes it worthwhile! It has a 6 hour French cycle which is my absolute favourite which makes a gorgeous crusty loaf :)
It's beautiful to wake up to the smell of fresh bread in the morning (thanks to the delay settings on modern machines) but it can be a trap. You'll be tempted to eat more - so please do watch your portion sizes. Also keep in mind a slice of bread is up to 50% larger than a normal store bought slice. As an example, in the beginning I was making a pesto loaf on Saturday mornings that was just sooo good, we would literally eat the entire loaf for lunch between the 4 of us (and the kids were both under 10) Needless to say, I didn't do that for very long!
I usually make 2 loaves of spelt bread and a dozen bread rolls to get us through the week. For a change, I will replace the rolls with focaccia and we usually have pizza if we're all home on Friday night.
Another of the many bonus' of making your own bread? ..... Breadcrumbs galore!
Having a bread maker I find I no longer need to buy bread crumbs. We freeze the crumbs left over from slicing the bread. They are a superior product and much more tasty than store bought bread crumbs. It doesn't take very long to get a sufficient supply.
As a side note, we've noticed the price of bread machines doesn't seem to have moved much over the 14 years - bonus!
Happy Healthy Eating!