Why not try making some yourself using my CROCK-POT BREAD technique!
Crock-Pots and other brand names of stoneware slow cookers are favorites for slow and simple cooking of meats, soups, and stews, and now you can use them for your bread baking too!
I'll take you through my experiments and what I've learned so that I now can bake bread in a Crock-Pot!
This all started after I posted an Instructable on how I bake bread in a Dutch Oven. Somebody commented "but have you tried this recipe with a Crock-Pot?"
That got my brain really going, and I'm proud to now say that "Yes, as a matter of fact, I CAN bake bread in a crock pot!
I'll take you through step-by-step in a direct heating method, and then also show you how to modify a Crock-Pot for baking AND also use a double-boiler baking method!
Follow these instructions, and you too will be able to BAKE BREAD IN A CROCK-POT!
Step 1: Tools and Ingredients
To start with, you will need a Crock-Pot or slow cooker. Make sure it's the round, medium-sized one. That's the right size and shape for this recipe.
You'll also need a mixing bowl, dry and wet measuring cups, measuring spoons, and parchment paper. You may also want a non-contact instant-read thermometer to set up your Crock-Pot the first time.
My crock-pot-bread uses the same recipe as my bread-in-a-pot recipe, except with a little more flour.
For the ingredients:
1/4 teaspoon Active Dry Yeast
1&1/2 teaspoons of Salt
1&1/2 cups warm water
3+ cups flour (all-purpose, unbleached natural white)
Step 2: Mix the Dough
Start with the warm water, and add the yeast to it. Stir.
Add flour a cup at a time and mix. Add in the salt as you are doing this. Once you get in 3 cups of flour, keeping adding more flour in small amounts and mixing until the dough no longer sticks to the side of the mixing bowl. This might be an entire cup or more of flour.
Sprinkle a little flour over the top of the dough, then cover it with plastic wrap, and set out-of-the-way for 8 to 12 hours. I usually prepare the dough the night before I need it, and bake it the next day.
Step 3: Shape and Rise
Dump the dough out onto it and roll around a bit. Shape the dough into a ball.
Line a bowl with parchment paper, and put the dough in it. Leave the dough for 2 hours to rise.
Step 4: Bake
Allow it to preheat. The stoneware should get quite warm.
Once it's preheated, lift the dough by the parchement paper and transfer the dough and paper into the Crock-Pot.
Put the lid on.
Bake for 1 hour.
Check the loaf. The whole Crock-Pot should be somewhat steamy. Feel free to shake the hot water off the lid into your sink when you remove the lid to look inside. The loaf is baked as much by steaming as by direct heat, but you don't want the steam condensing, and getting the bread damp.
You will see that the top should be almost rubbery. It will NOT be crisp and brown.
Crock-Pots heat AT THE SIDES. You may notice nice color at the SIDES of the loaf if you pull it out, and that the bottom is par-baked but NOT browned or toasty.
Slow-cookers come in different power ratings. Yours may bake faster or slower than mine. Check your slow cooker every half-hour or so the first time you make this recipe, to get a sense of your slow-cooker.
Bake for another thirty minutes to an hour.
Bake time can be two to four hours total, depending on your Crock-Pot, its power, insulating the pot, etc. In this Instructable, think of times as only a general guide.
Step 5: Flip It.
WHAT!?!? Yep, you heard me right, flip it over. Because a Crock-Pot does NOT heat in the same way a typical oven does, the bread gets physically flipped upside down to bake evenly.
Only flip the bread after it's about three-quarters of the way baked. You've flipped pancakes, right? The trick with those is not to flip too soon. The same with Crock-Pot-Bread. Flip it after the top is set.
Bake another 30 or more minutes until baked.
Bread is finished when it sounds hollow when thumped and smells like bread.
Step 6: Cool. Slice. Eat.
Slice the bread with a serrated knife, electric carving knife, or old-school electric meat slicer.
You might want to do this right before serving, as it shows off the shape of the loaf and says "Hey people, look at this! It's NOT store-bought!"
Eat the bread as a side with meat dishes or soup, or slice for sandwiches. This recipe works especially well for grilled sandwiches. It also makes the best crouton ever for French Onion Soup.
Also excellent with butter, jam, or honey. (Or Chocolate Hazelnut spread!)
You can store this bread in a plastic bag for no more than about three days. Without commercial preservatives, home-baked bread will either dry out or go moldy in just a few days. Fortunately, it always gets completely eaten right away, usually within minutes.
Step 7: Modding a Crock-Pot
To me, it's always seemed a shame that a Crock-Pot is not insulated. If you've ever used on, you probably have noticed that the sides of the pot, and even the counter it's sitting on get rather hot!
If a Crock-Pot was insulated, it would reach higher temperatures, cook faster, and be more efficient.
So, I experimented with insulating a Crock-Pot. The obvious cheap and simple household material to use is corrugated cardboard. I found a box that was about the right size, and put the Crock-Pot in it. Unfortunately, I ended up being away from the Crock-Pot against my will, and managed to melt the handles off.... (Click here to see the fascinating story, including me crawling UNDER my house to get to my kitchen!) Please make sure to always attend any modified kitchen appliance!
So a cardboard box is NOT ideal, however, wrapping a single layer of corrugated cardboard around the pot works very well. Cut around the handles, the Hi/Lo knob, and the power cord. The cardboard can be held on with metal tape or cutting opposing slits in the two ends of the cardboard and hooking them in to each other.
To insulate the bottom of the pot, just set everything down right on top of a layer of cardboard.
I also wondered if I could run the appliance on a timer. I had a simple timer with a watt rating more than good enough, and thought that If I timed it right, I could have fresh-baked bread first thing in the morning.
I attempted to just put the dough in the pot, and set the timer so that bake time would finish not that long after I was up for the morning. The down-side of that is that the Crock-Pot is NOT pre-heated before the dough goes in. Also, in the long slow heatup time, the pot simply becomes a yeast incubator, causing the bread to greatly rise before it actually starts baking.
The finished effect was that of a giant par-baked muffin. Bread can bake great in a Crock-Pot, just no on a timer. Pre-heating is important.
Just like microwave ovens, all slow cookers are a little different. I've seen ones from 35 watts up to 275 watts. The typical medium round pot is somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 watts. If you ran the pot for 5 hours, that comes to one kilowatt-hour of energy, which costs about ten cents in my area. With insulation, I can bake a loaf in under 2.5 hours, using about 5 cents of electricity. Seems like the Crock-Pot is a pretty economical way of cooking.
For more on hacking the Crock-Pot for baking use, please visit EcoProjecteer.
Melting the handles off my wife's Crock-Pot
Why doubling a recipe is a BAD idea
Baking with a timer
Learning from Failure
Baking in a Double-Boiler
Step 8: Alt. Method: Crock Pot Double Boiler
Simply find a stainless steel mixing bowl that fits nicely inside the Crock-Pot. I had one with a wide lip, so It sat perfectly on top of the stoneware with about an inch space between the crock and the bowl.
I fiilled the crock about an inch deep with hot water, and then set the mixing bowl into the crock. The Crock-Pot heats the water, which in turn heats the mixing bowl and the bread.
This method creates a very even heat, preventing and scorching of the edge of the crust. The entire loaf bakes very evenly, although it takes longer than the direct heating method. That last time I baked with the double-boiler, it was about a 4 hour bake time.
More more details on this unusual baking method, please see my original blog entry on the topic: Double Boiler Crock-Pot Bread.
Step 9: Now YOU Make Some!
The Crock-Pot uses very little energy, and doesn't heat up your whole kitchen in the summer the way the big oven would.
So, are YOU ready to give it a shot? Why don't you bake a loaf, and let me know what your results are!
Good Luck, and Good Eats!
PS: If you are looking for a way to make great crusty bread, check out "Bread in a Pot!"