Small Loaves

Home baked bread is at its best the first day after the fresh loaf has cooled. It loses its appeal after a couple days. Making small loaves is a way to make enough to last for a short time – without having to think about toasting the last several slices, or freezing part of a fresh loaf.

The smallest loaf setting in the Panasonic bread machines with extra large (“2.5 lb”) capacity pans, such as my SD-YD250, is medium – a 1.5 lb. loaf made with 3 cups of flour.  A small recipe, in bread machine terms, would be a loaf made with 2 to 2.25 cups of flour.There is no small loaf setting on this machine. The cycle will depend on the recipe. The two main choices are basic and whole wheat. The other choices are mainly just names on the control panel.

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 along its arm, rising to a fin 5 cm tall. The dough ball for a small recipe (2 to 2.25 cups of flour) will be taller than the paddle.  It 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.  Even a medium recipe may not flow enough.  In the medium recipe it usually means one end of the loaf is taller. It depends on hydration, on how the gluten relaxes, and the mass of the ball. 

Overmixing is a risk, in principle. 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 that can handle several cups of flour, with multiple or variable 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 the majority of the time in a 25 minute +/- mixing phase on a medium loaf setting.  The risk of overmixing is pretty much theoretical.

There is a risk of burning, in principle.  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.  The manual states the total length of the bake phase. The small loaf develops hot spots around the base of the pan but is not burned.  This is pronounced with French bread cycle which has 55 rather than 50 minutes bake time.

There are 1 lb machines on the market including Zojirushi models and some Panasonic models (not available in USA or Canada but available in Japan and on Amazon).   Some large and extra large machines have settings for small loaves. Other methods for making small loaves:

  • scale to a smaller version of a recipe, mixed and baked in the machine on medium loaf settings
    • make a manual intervention to move the dough;
    • let the ball rise where it rests – this may lead to a short loaf that is well formed at one end;
  • mix in the machine on dough cycle; rest for rise and/or divide/shape the dough and bake in the kitchen oven;
  • mix and knead by other methods and bake in the kitchen oven.

3 or 4 cup recipes can be scaled down.

The first step is get a scale by reference to total flour; by recipe size (volume). It can be 3 cups (medium) to 2 (small): 2/3 or 4 cups (large) to 2: 1/2.  It can be 75% of a medium recipe – any ratio of a larger recipe that can be used for calculations.

Scaling from volume measurements is possible, if some extra calculations are made. 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 down to smaller loaves is scaling by weight. This means putting a recipe into a bakers’ percentage formula, and then recalculating each ingredient. Which takes a number of calculator operations or spreadsheet. Some measurements can be left as volume. Meauring sticky, viscous things like honey and molasses by volume is annoying enough. A few drops usually does not matter, and the added work of trying to measure them by weight is not worth it.

Flour, water, salt and yeast must be weighed carefully. Weighing flour and water involved using a bowl or measuring cup, and weighing the measuring cup empty. A scale that goes to 1 gram is precise enough. 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.

Scaling to 2/3 works with white flour recipes on a basic cycle. Recipes with significant amount of whole wheat or rye flour on the whole wheat cycle seem to work well at 75% of the medium 3 cups recipe. I scale whole wheat and multigrain loaves down to 2.25 cups of flour and scale white flour loaves to 2/3 of a 3 cup medium recipe.

I have had small loaves that fill one end of the pan.  The ball settled at one end, flowed to fill the pan in the 14 cm dimension but not 19 cm dimension.  The loaf was properly baked – just short.  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.

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:

IngredientMedium Loaf
Medium Loaf
Weight g.
2/3 by Weight
50% by WeightPercentage
White flour3 cups417 278209
Butter1 tbsp.67 tbsp = 2 tsp.5 tbsp
Salt (recipe)1.5 tsp
Salt @50%.75 tsp4.32.82.21
Yeast R1 tsp
Instant Yeast *.5 tsp1.41.7.3
Water1.3125 (1 + 5/16) cups31020715574

Basic Cycle

Beth Hensperger’s Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook (p. 200) “Chuck Williams Country French”. 75% of a medium recipe makes a short blunt batard.  It can be done basic bake or whole wheat bake. Either way, the dough is may have to be watched and centered to get a symetrical loaf

 Medium LoafMedium LoafMedium Loaf@ 2/3
White Flour2.25 cups313 g75210 g
Whole Wheat.75 cups104 g2570 g
TFW417 g100280
Salt @50%.75 tsp
1.5 tsp
4.3 g12.9 g
Instant Yeast *3/8 tsp
7/16 tsp
1 3/4 tsp
1.1 g.3.7
Water1 + 3/16 cups
(1 cup + 3 tbsp)
1.25 cup

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

 Medium Loaf
Weight@ 75%@ 2/3
B %
Whole Wheat.625 cups
.5 cups
White Flour2.25 cups31323521075
Bulgur.125 cups
.25 cups
Salt @50%.75 tsp
1.5 tsp
sunflower seeds
.25 cups3 tbsp2.5 tbsp
pumpkin seeds
raw, chopped
.25 cups3 tbsp2.5 tbsp
sesame seeds1.5 tsp1.125 tsp1 tsp
poppy seeds2 tsp1.5 tsp1.25 tsp
2 tbsp
Inst. Yeast *7/16 tsp
2 tsp
Water1.25 cups300 g.22520071

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. This recipe can also be done as dough and rested for a few hours. In that case a small recipe kneaded on medium loaf for one 1 lb oven pan or double small recipe kneaded in large loaf setting, and the dough divided and benched in 2 1 lb. pans.

IngredientMedium Loaf
Medium Weight@ 75%Percentage
Whole Wheat3 cups417 g313 g
Milk Powder1.5 tbsp1.125 tbsp =
1 tbsp + 3/8 tsp
Butter1.5 tbsp1.125 tbsp
Salt @50%.75 tsp
1.5 tsp
Instant Yeast *.5 tsp
1 tsp
Molasses1.5 tbsp1 tbsp
Brown sugar01 tsp
Water 1.25 cups295 g230 g71

 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 LoafScaled @ 75%

[Fluid Weight]
Whole Wheat2 cups
1 cup
278 61209
White Flour1 cup
2 cups
Flax meal2 tbsp12039
Rolled Oats.25 cup250619
T. Flours/strong>454100
Flax Seed3 tbsp2.25 tbsp i.e.
2 tbsp + .75 tsp.
Poppy Seed1 tbsp2.25 tsp
Skim Milk Powder if Water, per BLBMC.25 cups
Salt @50%.5 tsp
1 tsp
1 tbsp
Instant Yeast *.6 tsp
2 tsp
Olive Oil3 tbsp2.25 tbsp i.e.
2 tbsp + .75 tsp.
Honey3 tbsp60
45 g. or
2.25 tbsp i.e.
2 tbsp + .75 tsp.
Skim Milk1.3 cup
(1 + 1/3)
(325 ml)
319 g
239 g.
if 1% Milk337 g
if Waterper BLBMC
1.31.125 cups308 g.268 g.
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 Loaf Medium Loaf Medium Loaf Medium Loaf @ 75%
VolumeWeight FluidB%
Whole Wheat1.5 cups20950157
White Flour1.5 cups20950157
Salt @50%.75 tsp
1.5 tsp
4.3 g3.2 g
1.33 tbsp
Instant Yeast *.5 tsp
2 tsp
Canola Oil2 tbsp1.5 tbsp
Maple Syrup2 tbsp40 g13 g.1.5 tbsp
Buttermilk1.125 cups275 g.250 g. 210 g.
(.85 cups)

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