Small Bread Machine Loaves

Home baked bread loses its appeal after a couple of days. Making small loaves is a way to make enough to last for a short time – without toasting the last several slices, or freezing part of a fresh loaf. A small recipe, in bread machine terms, would be a 1 pound loaf made with 2 cups of flour. There are 1 lb machines on the market including Zojirushi models (expensive), and some Panasonic models (expensive; not available in USA or Canada; available on Amazon).  Some large and extra large machines have settings for small loaves. The smallest loaf setting in the Panasonic bread machines with “extra large” (2.5 lb) pans, such as my SD-YD250, is medium – a 1.5 lb. loaf made with 3 cups of flour. 

Methods for making small loaves using a bread machine:

  • scale to a smaller version of a recipe, mixed and baked in the machine on medium loaf settings. This is what I am focussing on in this post;
  • mix in the machine on dough cycle; rest for rise and/or divide/shape the dough and bake in the kitchen oven.

Overmixing is a risk in principle with a scaled down loaf. The mixing process can stretch the dough too much or too often, and break the gluten strands. An overmixed dough cannot hold the gases, and will not rise.  Intensive mixing may affect a loaf with effects short of the complete failure caused by overmixing. Food processors can mix dough, although a food processor might only handle 3 cups of flour, and may only have one speed – very fast.  The mixing time may be less than a minute.  Some food processors have a dough speed and/or special blade to mix dough. The risk of overmixing dough in a food processor is well recognized.  A variety of mixers are available to the home baker. A home stand mixer can handle several cups of flour, at low-medium speed settings.  The power output of a Kitchen Aid stand mixer with a 5 quart bowl may be 325 watts.  A Bosch Compact Kitchen Machine may output 400 watts into its dough hook in its stand mixer configuration. Larger models may output 800 watts.  They have to be used at the right settings and for a short time. The Panasonic SD-YD250 has a 550 watt motor, and runs for 50- 60% of the time in a 25 minute +/- mixing phase on a medium loaf setting.  The heating element, rated at 550 watts, is outside the pan, around the bottom about 1 cm above the bottom. Heat is applied for intervals.  A small loaf develops hot spots around the base of the pan but is not burned.

The area of the rectangular pan is 266 square centimeters: 19 cm (7.5 inches) by 14 cm (5.5 inches). A small recipe would fill the pan to a depth of less than 3 cm. The Panasonic kneader paddle is 6 cm long, radially.  It is 2.6 cm high, rising to a fin 5 cm tall. The dough ball may not touch the sides of the pan, but centrifugal force stretches the dough away from the paddle. The edge of the ball sticks to the pan, and snaps away.  The machine can knead a small recipe.

A small loaf should rise and spring to a height of 7.5 cm or more, above the top of the kneader, and flow enough. If dough does not flow, the loaf will be irregular.  Flow depends on hydration, on how the gluten relaxes, and the mass of the ball. Even a medium recipe may not flow enough – which usually means one end of the loaf is taller. Scaling down to 2 cups or less does not work well in machines with extra large tall rectangular pans, like my Panasonic SD-YD250, except for a few recipes e.g. French Bread.

Many small loaves get lost in the big pan, and bake in odd shapes. When the dough ball for a small loaf rests at one “end” of the pan, the loaf may not flow to fill the bottom of the pan and may bake at that one end of the pan.  The ball may settle at one end, flow to fill the pan in the 14 cm dimension, but not 19 cm dimension.  The loaf was properly baked – just short.  Generally, and leaving aside recipes for the French bread cycle and dough cycles, 2 cups of flour does not make a large enough dough ball. I find it better, in recipes for basic and whole wheat bake cycles, to work at 75 % of the medium (3 cup) recipe.

An off-center ball can be centered to avoid a sloping loaf.  The best time is right after the last knockdown (in a Panasonic SD-YD250 about 50 minutes before baking starts. A pause to extend the rise helps to get a little more pan flow. If the machine has a power interrupt but not a pause function (like mine) the machine cycle can be paused  by unplugging the machine.  It has to be plugged in within a time limit (for my machine, 10 minutes) to resume where it stopped.  This may have be repeated.  Other ways to extend the rise longer are to stop or shut down the cycle and:

  • leave the dough in the machine pan to rise, and start the machine later on the Cake or Bake only cycle;
  • put the dough in a conventional pan, let it rise, and put it in the kitchen oven.

The first step is get a scale by reference to total flour; by recipe size (volume); e.g. 3 cups (medium) to 2 (small): 2/3, or 75% of a medium recipe. Scaling from volume is possible, with careful calculation and measurement. Such as – 2/3 of 1.25 (1 and 1/4) cups of water is .8375 cups; a cup is 16 tbsp or 48 tsp.  Three quarters of cup plus 1 tablespoon is 13/16 – .8125.  Three quarters of cup plus 1 tablespoon plus 1 tsp is 40/48 – .8333.

The most precise way to scale is by weight. As almost all home recipes list ingredients by volume, working by weight means finding conversion factors. Conversion factors are not always easy to find, and sources may disgree or only apply to some varieties of an ingredient, or to a brand of a commodity.

Flour, water, salt and yeast must be weighed carefully. Weighing flour and water involves using a bowl or measuring cup, and weighing the measuring vessel empty. A scale that goes to 1 gram is precise enough for flour. The volume measurements of salt and yeast for small loaves are fractions of a teaspoon.  I use a scale that goes to 0.1 grams.

Seeds and herbs should be scaled, but don’t have to be measured down to the gram. Oils, sugar and and sweet fluids should be scaled but don’t have to be measured to the gram. It is worth being aware of water in honey, maple syrop, molasses, eggs and different kinds of milk.

I don’t trust recipes that call for 2 tsp of yeast for a medium loaf to work in this machine.  I bake for low sodium. My tables scale at 50% salt, with yeast adjusted for salt. I also adjust yeast for this machine in two ways.

French Bread Cycle

Panasonic’s French Bread.  A 3 cup recipe makes an extra large loaf by volume. The French Bread cycle has a long initial rest, a short mixing phase, a long rise and 10% longer baking time. Bakers shape lean, wet white dough into batards and baguettes which hold up and slice better. I have scaled to 2/3 and 1/2 of 3 cups (2 cups and 1.5 cups of flour). The 1.5 cup version produces a loaf that is as “tall” and “wide” as bakery French Bread but 19 cm “long” – a short blunt batard:

 "Medium" Loaf"Medium" Loaf @ 67%@ 50%
IngredientVolumeWeight g.B%
White flour3 cups417 100278209
Butter1 tbsp.67 tbsp = 2 tsp.5 tbsp
Salt (recipe)1.5 tsp
Salt @50%.75 tsp4.312.82.2
Yeast R1 tsp
Instant Yeast *
*for 50% sodium
.5 tsp1.4.31.7
Water1.3125 (1 + 5/16) cups31074207155

Basic Cycle

Beth Hensperger’s Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook (p. 200) “Chuck Williams Country French”. 67% of a medium recipe works – this is a rustic French bread – on basic bake cycle. The dough is may have to be watched and centered to get a symetrical loaf

 Medium50% Sodium50% Sodium50% SodiumScaled @ 75% medium
50% Sodium
White Flour2.25 cups313 g75235 g.
Whole Wheat.75 cups104 g2578 g.
TFW417 g100
Salt1.5 tsp.75 tsp
4.3 g13.2 g.
Instant Yeast1.75 (1 3/4) tsp7/8 tsp
P. <.4375 (7/16) tsp
1.1 g.
.3.8 g
Water1 + 3/16 cups
(1 cup + 3 tbsp)
1.25 cup
28071210 g.

Pembina Bread is based on BLBMC Country French and BLBMC Dakota Bread:

 Medium LoafMedium LoafMedium Loaf @ 75%
Weight g.B %
Whole Wheat.5 cups.625 cups
White Flour2.25 cups31375235
Bulgur.125 cups
.25 cups
Salt 1.5 tsp..75 tsp
Sunflower seeds
.25 cups3 tbsp
Pumpkin seeds
raw, chopped
.25 cups3 tbsp
Sesame seeds1.5 tsp1.125 tsp
Poppy seeds2 tsp1.5 tsp
2 tbsp0
Inst. Yeast2 tsp7/16 tsp1.2 g..3.9
Canola Oil2 tbsp
1.5 tbsp.
Honey2 tbsp21 g.
{5 g. water}
15 g.
(1.5 tbsp)
Water1.25 cups300 g.225
Total fluids305 g.73

Whole Wheat Cycle

Panasonic’s 100% Whole Wheat Bread.  Small loaf at 75% of medium, with slightly higher hydration works in the machine on whole wheat bake cycle; medium loaf setting.

 Flax Seed Whole Wheat Bread, a variant of BLBMC Flax Seed (p. 118).  Getting this recipe to work involved figuring out the difference between using milk vs water and dry milk (powder) and using honey. It also helped to tune this formula, which makes changes to the BLBMC source:

 Medium LoafMedium LoafMedium LoafMedium LoafScaled @ 75%
BLBMC Volume
50% salt &
Whole Wheat2 cups
1 cup
278 61209
White Flour1 cup
2 cups
Flax mealx2 tbsp12039
Rolled Oatsx.25 cup250619
T. Flours/strong>454100
Flax Seed3 tbsp2.25 tbsp i.e.
2 tbsp + .75 tsp.
Poppy Seedx1 tbsp2.25 tsp
Skim Milk Powder
if Water
.25 cups
Salt 1 tsp.5 tsp
Gluten 1 tbsp0
Instant Yeast **2 tsp.625 tsp
Olive Oil3 tbsp2.25 tbsp i.e.
2 tbsp + .75 tsp.
Honey3 tbsp60
345 g. or
2.25 tbsp i.e.
2 tbsp + .75 tsp.
Skim Milk1.3 cup
(1 + 1/3)
(325 ml)
320 g
240 g.
if 1% Milk337 g
if Water1.125 cups
Fluid Weight30267

Cornell Bread, a BLBMC recipe (p. 161).  The  BLBMC calls for one large egg for the medium loaf (and for the large loaf, for that matter). I can adjust water down – which is what I try to do:

 Medium Loaf

@ 75%
@ 2/3
B %
Whole Wheat1.5 cups209 g.15614048
White Flour1.125 cups156 g.11710536
Soy flour.33 cups40 g.30 g.27 g.
Wheat germ 1.5 tbsp6.5 g.4.9 g.
Milk Powder.25 cups25 g.19 g.17 g.
Flour Total437100
Brown Sugar2 tbsp1.5 tbsp1.3 tbsp or
1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Salt @50%.75 tsp
1.5 tsp
4.3 g.3.2 g.2.9 g.
1.5 tbsp
Inst. Yeast *1.25 tsp
2.5 tsp
3.5 g.2.6 g.2.3 g.
Canola Oil2 tbsp1.5 tbsp1.3 tbsp or
1 tbsp + 1 tsp
157 g.36 g. 11
Honey2 tbsp40 g.8 g.1.5 tbsp
(6 g. water)
1.3 tbsp or
1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Water1.125 cups281205180

Buttermilk Whole Wheat Bread, a BLBMC recipe (p. 108), is a 50% whole wheat loaf with buttermilk.

 Medium Loaf50% Sodium
50% Sodium
 @ 75%
BLBMCVolumeWeight B%
Whole Wheat1.5 cups209 g.50157 g.
White Flour1.5 cups209 g.50157 g.
TFW418 g.100
Salt 1.5 tsp.75 tsp
4.3 g3.2 g
1.33 tbsp
Instant Yeast
2 tsp1 tsp|.5 tsp.

ns|1.4 g..33ns|1.1 g.
Canola Oil2 tbsp1.5 tbsp
Maple Syrup2 tbsp40 g.
[13 g. fluid]
1.5 tbsp
Buttermilk1.125 cups275 g.
[250 g. fluid]
210 g.
(.85 cups)
Fluid263 g.63

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