- + Sourdough
- + Dough settings
- + Timer
- + Versatility
- + Easy to clean
- – Expensive replacement parts
- – Quiet beep
- – Recipe booklet could be better
- – Yeast dispenser sometimes stays open
- – Large footprint
I resisted buying a bread maker for a long time because I don’t have much self-control around bread and as far as kitchen appliances go, they’re pretty big and bulky. Then Panasonic released a model that could make sourdough and suddenly I became very interested.
Some bread makers are squat or compact and will sit nicely in a corner but the Panasonic models are tall and the entire lid opens upwards so they need a lot of clearance. I’d anticipated putting the bread maker on a countertop that has cupboards above it but I wouldn’t have been able to open the lid so now the bread maker has its own dedicated table as if it’s some kind of kitchen appliance royalty.
I bought my bread maker back in 2015 and it’s been lightly used in that time although that’s changed now we’re in Covid-19 lockdown. I’m probably making a loaf a week now and I’ve discovered that I really like using the bread maker just to make dough rather than making and baking a loaf from start to finish. Baking the dough in an oven means that I can choose how to shape the dough and I seem to get a better, crispier crust this way.
The good bits
First things first; I bought this machine for its sourdough capabilities. Panasonic enlisted Rachel Allen to make a series of videos using this bread maker, which I found useful and reassuring, so after watching the sourdough video several times I made my own attempt and 28 hours later (after fermenting, rising and baking), out popped a small sourdough loaf. There are probably two schools of thought on the sourdough that this machine produces:
- It’s inauthentic, it contains yoghurt and the texture’s all wrong.
- I barely had to put in any effort and I’ve got a lovely, tasty loaf of bread.
I’m not a sourdough purist and I’m lazy so I’m definitely in camp 2. Having read up on how to make sourdough starter the traditional way, I now appreciate this bread maker even more. The starter takes just 24 hours to make and none of it gets thrown away. The loaf it produces isn’t like a rustic, chewy, open textured cob that you’d get from a bakery but it tastes really good and if you can be bothered to prove it in a banneton and finish it in an oven, it gets even better.
This leads me to my next point: the dough making capabilities of the ZB2512 are great. I say this as someone who can only remember making one loaf of bread ever. I’m not really an enthusiastic baker so getting a machine to do it for me makes sense but I quickly got bored of the loaves that the ZB2512 produced and I missed the small, crusty loaves that we used to get from the supermarket bakery. We rarely bought soft, square loaves of sandwich bread yet this is what I was making at home. Eventually I bought a couple of bannetons and got the ZB2515 to just make dough and this opened up a whole new world of bread. Wholemeal, spelt, sourdough, rye… they’ve all turned out brilliantly and gotten me enthused about using my bread maker all over again.
A quick note on rye: I made a 100% rye dough and when I opened up the bread maker I thought something had gone horribly wrong and that I’d wasted a load of flour. I had a quick Google and it turns out that it’s normal for rye dough to look like sticky, grainy clay. I figured that I had nothing to lose so I floured it and left it to prove. It did rise, encouragingly, but I still baked it with great suspicion and no expectations. It turned out absolutely fine! Rye flour has different properties to wheat and a 100% rye dough is quite dense, which is why it’s often combined with other flours. If you’re not familiar with it, the dough can look weird and disappointing but I suppose I should have expected this as the ZB2512 comes with its own special rye kneading blade.
The ZB2512 has a timer option and waking up to freshly baked bread is an absolute treat.
It’s possible to make gluten-free bread, cake, jam and compote in the ZB2512 but I’ve only used it to make bread. There’s a dispenser on top so you can add additional ingredients like fruit, nuts, raisins, chocolate, cheese and bacon and these will be dispensed at the appropriate time in the program.
The bread pan and ingredients dispenser are easy to clean although you do need a pipe cleaner or small brush to get bits of dough out of the blade. I’ve never put any of the parts in the dishwasher as they aren’t dishwasher safe but hand washing doesn’t take long.
The bad bits
Don’t drop the bread pan
Replacement parts are ridiculously expensive and if you damage the bread pan then you’ll need to part with around £70 for a new one. From what I’ve read online most people end up buying an entirely new bread maker.
The beep that sounds when the program finishes is pitiful and can barely be heard over the noise of a kettle, let alone in another room, so I set a timer on my phone as an extra reminder.
The accompanying booklet is helpful, detailed and has plenty of recipes but I wish they’d proofread it more carefully. I’m not bothered about the odd typo but there’s a recipe for spiced raisin bread which instructs you to use a program that doesn’t dispense the raisins so when the program finishes they’re still nestled in the dispenser and the finished loaf is sadly raisin free. If you’re making bread that uses additional ingredients it’s worth double checking that the program you’ve chosen will actually open the dispenser (See, ‘When adding extra ingredients’ on page 14).
There are loads of bread recipes but less dough recipes and the ingredient quantities change when you’re making dough. I’d like to bake a 50% rye dough but I’d have to calculate the quantity of water using other recipes as a guide and it would be a bit of an experiment. With dough, the ingredients need to be precise and even a tiny amount of water can make a big difference. When I followed the recipe for sourdough dough, there was too much water and it couldn’t hold its shape. After I contacted Panasonic’s customer services they instructed me to reduce the water by 20ml and it made all the difference. I know that I could probably find a 50% rye recipe online but I bought the bread maker for convenience and it’s a shame that the booklet couldn’t have been as thorough for the dough section as it was for bread.
The booklet itself is pretty flimsy; it would have been nice if Panasonic had provided something more robust like the spiral-bound, plastic covered booklet that came with my Magimix food processor.
The yeast dispenser drops yeast into the dough at just the right time, which is a great design feature because you can get all your ingredients sorted and go and do something else without having to return to add yeast later. The only issue is that the dispenser often stays open once it’s done its job. It’s never caused me any problems and springs back into place if I give it a tug but it makes me wonder if the mechanism might be a point of failure one day. If I’m not paying attention and don’t notice that it’s open, next time I make bread and pour the yeast in, it’ll go straight through into the dough ingredients, which isn’t ideal.
Be warned that when the yeast dispenser opens during the program it makes four alarmingly loud clicks. It’s not a problem during the day but it has woken me up when I’ve set the bread maker to come on overnight and forgotten to shut my bedroom door.
You’ll need space in your kitchen for this large machine and a sturdy surface as it vibrates a lot when it’s kneading dough. While it’s smaller in width than other bread makers, it’s tall and you’ll need a lot of clearance to open the lid.
The measuring spoon
This is the tiniest of tiny bugbears but the measuring spoon perplexes me. Both the teaspoon and tablespoon are smaller than standard measures. I use the Panasonic spoon to measure yeast and my regular measuring spoons for everything else.
It’s hard to comment on build quality as I haven’t used my bread maker regularly over the years but all the parts feel sturdy and the stainless steel casing still looks brand new despite being five years old.
I assumed that once I owned a bread maker I would never buy another loaf again but this hasn’t been the case and there was a period of a year or so where I barely used it at all. Now that I’ve discovered the joys of the different dough settings the ZB2512 has sprung back into life and I’m appreciating it in a whole new way.
A newer model, SD-ZX2522 (affiliate link), has been released which has four new menu options and a glass touch display but otherwise looks similar to the ZB2512.
Would I replace it if it broke tomorrow?
I would probably wait a few months but I’m sure I would eventually replace it.