The baking of bread at home declined during the twentieth century due to the rise of industrialized baking and retailing. By 1950 most people bought their bread from small local bakeries, which in turn were overtaken by the large supermarket chains.

In the United Kingdom, the late 1970s saw a reaction, led by food writers, to the rather bland industrially produced bread and a demand for greater choice. This feeling was amplified when more people took holidays in France, where the tradition of the small local bakery has remained intact, even in large cities. Supermarkets responded with “instore” bakeries and a much wider variety of breads inspired by French and Italian recipes.

Bread could be baked in the home in a gas or electric oven, but during the early 1990s manufacturers developed countertop breadmakers designed to give good results every time. West Bend produced the first American model in 1993. The company moved very quickly to enter this niche market, completing the project in only thirty-five weeks, from concept to shipping. A breadmaker is essentially a mixer, proofing oven, and mini-oven in one. They have plastic “cool wall” cases, usually with viewing windows. They automatically knead, proof, and bake, and they can take up to three sizes of loaf tin. The ingredients are placed in a nonstick baking tin, a cycle is selected, and the machine does the rest. A paddle in the bottom of the bread pan kneads the dough, stopping two or three times to let it rise. Settings are usually for overnight baking, but some models offer high-speed programs that deliver a loaf in less than two hours. Most models have midcycle indicators to allow extra ingredients such as fruits and nuts to be added. They come in a variety of sizes, which usually relate to the size of the loaf, from one to two and a half pounds.

Popular manufacturers include Black & Decker, Breville, Oster, Panasonic, Prima, Sunbeam, Toastmaster, and West Bend.