Making Slow Cooker Bread
If you are a homemade bread fan, I want you to save this recipe, make it when you have some extra time, and let me know if you agree with Cliff…it makes your home taste like a bakery or in his words, a Subway restaurant (random, I know). I was craving a rustic bread that could be enjoyed as toast, a panini, or just warmed with some butter. It may have taken over a month, but I guess I joined the isolation baking club that has been taking over social media. I love the concept of cooking “low and slow,” which is why the crock pot is front and center in our house. When I traveled more for work, it was a life saver to prep in the morning, hit the road, and have something delicious waiting when I got home. You can’t just leave slow cooker bread for the day, but I think it is a great way to make bread from scratch with little to no maintenance. This recipe makes a bread with mild crust and light, slightly spongy interior that we just love. Note that we enjoy an artisanal appearance, so the slight dip in the middle just added to its charm. If you want a more uniform finished product, you can insert a loaf pan into the slow cooker, or bake in the oven.
Advantages of Baking in a Slow Cooker
Though there is not one primary advantage of baking in a slow cooker, I believe there are a few that can really prove useful. First, you can make homemade bread without leaving it to proof, or rise (that’s an oversimplification), overnight or for several hours. Slow cooker bread rises while baking at the low temperatures. In my opinion, one VERY useful benefit is freeing up space in the oven if you have a multi-part meal to prepare. Homemade bread is often overlooked as too difficult or time consuming, especially if getting ready to entertain a crowd. I love this recipe because it is simple, allows you to leave it alone for a few hours, keeps the oven available, and SMELLS DELICIOUS WHILE BAKING.
Disadvantages of Baking in a Slow Cooker
Unless you have a loaf pan that fits in the slow cooker, the bread will be a little more oval and flat than a traditional loaf. Again, this is best for a more artisan appearance. With traditional bread-making, the rise of the loaf benefits from the quick burst of heat in the oven. However, you WILL get some rise and can easily transfer the bread to the top rack of the oven for a few minutes at 475ºF to brown the top.
Serve your finished bread in a cast iron skillet (pre-sliced, so a knife doesn’t hurt the finish of the pan) for a rustic aesthetic on the dinner table.
A few notes before you begin:
- Slow cooker bread without a loaf pan will be larger and a little flatter than your traditional bread loaf.
- My “secret ingredients” that add flavor similar to sourdough are both honey and apple cider vinegar. The hints are subtle, so it easily pairs with any dish.
- I’ve mixed this by hand and using the stand mixer – both will work well, but I found mixing by hand to make the dough a little easier to work with.
- When kneading (it requires very little), it does help to add a little oil to your work surface and hands.
- You are welcome to bake this in a loaf pan, either nestled in the slow cooker or in the oven.
- The dough will be wet and sticky – avoid the temptation to add too much flour to the dough when preparing it to place in the slow cooker.
- Parchment paper will make it easier to remove from the slow cooker.
- The apple cider vinegar adds subtle fruity notes (as mentioned earlier), but also makes the bread crumb more springy.
Slow Cooker Bread
- Slow cooker
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour keep a few extra tablespoons on hand for brief kneading
- 1 ½ cups lukewarm water 1/4 cup reserved for yeast fermentation
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 packet active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- ⅛ cup olive oil for keeping dough moist for kneading
- Proof the packet of active dry yeast by combining with 1/4 cup warm water, at a temperature between 105 and 110ºF. Add one teaspoon of granulated sugar and stir. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes so the yeast activates and doubles in size.
- In a bowl or stand mixer, combine flour and yeast until combined. Then add apple cider vinegar, honey, salt, and remaining water. Stir for a few minutes, until the mixture is consistent and no more dry flour is visible.
- Allow to sit for about 30 minutes to allow the flour to absorb liquid and flavor.
- Lightly oil your work surface and hands, and knead dough for about 5 minutes. You can use a stand mixer with a dough hook. The dough will be wet, but should be "springy" and resume its shape after manipulation.
- Add the dough to parchment paper and form into a ball (it will be difficult to do, so just keep it in a similar shape. Lift the parchment paper with dough and add to the slow cooker. Cook on high for about 2 hours, or until the interior temperature reaches about 200ºF.
- Once the bread is firm to the touch, transfer the parchment paper and bread to a baking sheet. Place under broiler set to about 475ºF for about 5 minutes to brown the bread. Pay close attention so as not to burn bread. Remove and allow to cool on cooling rack until ready to serve.
- TIP: Transfer the bread to a cast iron skillet for a rustic presentation at your next gathering.
If you are a fan of sourdough, the honey and apple cider vinegar offer a flavor very similar to the “sour” notes in a traditional sourdough. Pair this with some “lighter” chicken salad and enjoy! And, until next time, cheers to your #hearthhealthhappiness.