The best breadmaker for a crunchy, artisan-style crust

When it comes to the crunch, one breadmaker delivers.

Slicing a loaf of crusty artisan bread.

In our test of five breadmakers, one stood out for its ability to bake a crunchy crust – the Panasonic SD-ZP 2000KST.

With many breadmakers, a soft, cushiony crust is inevitable. Bucking the trend is the Panasonic SD-ZP 2000KST ($449). It can bake “artisan-style” bread, where the middle is soft, but the shell is crunchy.

Panasonic SD-ZP 2000KST breadmaker with pan.

The Panasonic SD-ZP 2000KST topped our test when it came to baking an "artisan-style” crust.

Customise your crunch

While our tasting panel couldn’t agree on a favourite recipe, they all rated the SD-ZP 2000KST's baguette-like white loaf highly for its perfectly fluffy middle and crispy crust.

White loaf baked in Panasonic SD-ZP2000KST breadmaker.
Worried an artisan-style crust will be too crunchy for your taste? Some of the programmes let you choose the level of crustiness.

With some of the other recipes, a few people found the crust too hard, whereas others thought it was just right. If you’re worried an artisan-style crust will be too crunchy for your taste, some of the programmes let you choose the level of crustiness. Those programmes include rapid options, which halve the total time (from start to finish) to two hours. However, the shorter proving stage may result in a denser loaf.

Many gluten-free products are dense and crumbly but the SD-ZP2000KST produced excellent breads and cakes. In particular, the gluten-free loaf’s springy texture was reminiscent of “ordinary” bread.

A breeze to use

Panasonic SD-ZP2000KST lid.
The SD-ZP2000KST's lid comes printed with menu numbers.

The SD-ZP2000KST is very easy to use, with menu numbers and a short description printed on the lid. If you need more details, the manual contains helpful explanations and trouble-shooting tips.

The 18 programmes don’t include specific rye or sourdough settings. However, we recommend using Menu 1 with the dark rye bread recipe from The New Zealand Bread Book. (The recipe includes golden syrup, which may caramelise, leaving the outside of the loaf very dark.)

Almost the best thing since sliced bread

The SD-ZP2000KST is great in all respects but one: it lacks an automatic dispenser to add extras, such as nuts and dried fruit.

As Panasonic doesn’t recommend using the 13-hour timer to bake fancy breads, you’ll have to wait for the alert before adding these ingredients. I tried to cheat the system by adding optional ingredients, such as raisins and olives, at the start but they were pulverised in the kneading (the bread was still tasty).

Overall, the SD-ZP2000KST’s great. However, if you love “artisan” bread but want an automatic fruit and nut dispenser, consider the Panasonic SD-2501. You could then add crunch with our bakers’ tricks for crustier bread.

Also, if you’re using a recipe that works well in another breadmaker, be aware the SD-ZP2000KST’s loaf might be smaller because of the way it bakes.

Panasonic SD-ZP 2000KST Artisan breadmaker, $449

Panasonic SD-ZP 2000KST Artisan breadmaker.
  • Exterior: 34 x 27 x 40cm (H x W x D)
  • Bread pan: 17 x 16 x 20cm (H x W x D)
  • Loaf size options: Medium and large
  • Pan shape: Vertical

To find out how the SD-ZP 2000KST performed when it came to baking multigrain and wholemeal gluten-free recipes, see our full test review.

Bakers’ tricks for crustier bread

  • Keep it simple and avoid recipes with lots of sugar, eggs or dairy.
  • Make rolls or small loaves to maximise the crust-to-interior ratio.
  • If you’re baking the dough in an oven, put a pan of water at the bottom to create steam.
  • If you’re baking dough in a breadmaker, brush the risen dough with warm water before the automatic bake mode kicks in.
  • You could also transfer the baked loaf from the breadmaker to a hot oven. Crack the door and let the oven and the bread reach room temperature together.

Tips for consistently good results

  • Although it’s hard to make a flop of things with a breadmaker, it’s definitely possible.
  • Estimating won’t cut it, so use digital scales.
  • Indulge your creative side only once you’ve got the fundamentals down pat.
  • Resist the urge to open the lid for a peek. Keeping the heat in helps the bread rise evenly. Also, as heat can escape through glass, we prefer breadmakers without a window.

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