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A bread making machine or bread maker is a home appliance for making and baking bread. It consists of a bread pan or "tin", at the bottom of which are one or more built-in paddles, mounted in the centre of a small special-purpose oven. This small oven is usually controlled by a simple built-in computer using settings input via a control panel. Most bread machines have different cycles for different kinds of dough - including white bread, whole grain, European-style (sometimes labelled "French"), and dough-only (for pizza dough and shaped loaves baked in a conventional oven). Many also have a timer to allow the bread machine to activate without operator attendance, and some high-end models allow the user to program a custom cycle.
Bread is a staple food prepared from a dough of flour and water, usually by baking. Throughout recorded history it has been popular around the world and is one of the oldest artificial foods, having been of importance since the dawn of agriculture.
There are many combinations and proportions of types of flour and other ingredients, and also of different traditional recipes and modes of preparation of bread. As a result, there are wide varieties of types, shapes, sizes, and textures of breads in various regions. Bread may be leavened by one of many different processes, ranging from reliance on naturally occurring microbes (so-called "sourdough" recipes) to addition of chemicals or industrially produced yeast to high-pressure artificial aeration methods during preparation or baking. However, some products are cooked before they can leaven, sometimes for traditional or religious reasons. Many non-cereal ingredients may be included, ranging from fruits and nuts to various fats. Commercial bread in particular commonly contains additives, some of them non-nutritive, to improve flavour, texture, colour, shelf life or ease of manufacturing.
Depending on local custom and convenience, bread may be served in various forms at any meal of the day. It also is eaten as a snack, or used as an ingredient in other culinary preparations, such as fried items coated in crumbs to prevent sticking, or the bland main component of a bread pudding, or stuffing’s designed to fill cavities or retain juices that otherwise might drip away.
Partly because of its importance as a basic foodstuff, bread has a social and emotional significance beyond its importance in nutrition; it plays essential roles in religious rituals and secular culture. Its prominence in daily life is reflected in language, where it appears in proverbs, colloquial expressions ("He stole the bread from my mouth") in prayer ("Give us this day our daily bread") and even in the etymology of words, such as "companion" and "company" (from Latin com "with" + panis "bread").
Dough’s are usually baked, but in some cuisines breads are steamed, fried or baked on an un-oiled skillet. It may be leavened or unleavened. Salt, fat and leavening agents such as yeast and baking soda are common ingredients, though bread may contain other ingredients, such as milk, egg, sugar, spice, fruit (such as raisins), vegetables (such as onion), nuts (such as walnuts) or seeds (such as poppy seeds). Bread is one of the oldest prepared foods, dating back to the Neolithic era. The development of leavened bread can probably also be traced to prehistoric times.
Fresh bread is prized for its taste, aroma, quality and texture. Retaining its freshness is important to keep it appetizing. Bread that has stiffened or dried past its prime is said to be stale. Modern bread is sometimes wrapped in paper or plastic film or stored in a container such as a breadbox to reduce drying. Bread that is kept in warm, moist environments is prone to the growth of mould. Bread kept at low temperatures, in a refrigerator for example, will develop mould growth more slowly than bread kept at room temperature, but will turn stale quickly due to retrogradation. The soft, inner part of bread is known to bakers and other culinary professionals as the crumb, which is not to be confused with small bits of bread that often fall off, called crumbs. The outer hard portion of bread is called the crust.