Crock Pot Bread Baking (Fast Bread in a Slow Cooker)
When I moved to the midwest I was introduced to Crock Pot cooking. I had never even seen a slow cooker before and had no idea the range of foods that could be created in a plug-in cooking pot. Since then I have had everything from No-Peek-Chicken, Swedish Meatballs and Peach cobbler, done in one of these magic devices. When my husband was an art director Aveda they had “crock pot parties,” which meant everyone plugged in their slow cookers at their desks and made a dish to share. Brilliant! Maybe kids should bring crock pots to school and have healthy food cooking at their desks.
But, bread in a crock pot? Over the years we have gotten requests from readers to develop a method of baking our dough in a crock pot. I had my doubts, lots of them. I didn’t think the slow cooker could get hot enough, I thought it would take too long, I didn’t think it would bake through or have a nice crust and I resisted trying it. I was so convinced it would be a fail. Oh, how wrong I was. The crock pot does indeed get hot enough, and it takes less time than using your oven, because the rising time is included in the baking. The only thing I got right was the crust, it is very soft and quite pale when it comes out of the slow cooker, but just a few minutes under a broiler and I got a gorgeous loaf. I am a convert and it is just perfect for summer baking when you don’t want to heat up your oven. You could even amaze your friends at work by baking a loaf under your desk!
1 pound of pre-made, dough (I used the Peasant Bread on page 46 of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, but the recipes from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day would also work.)
Form the dough into a ball and place it on a sheet of parchment paper. Lower the dough into the Crock-Pot (Slow Cooker), mine is a 4-quart, but I think it will work in any size.
Update: I just mixed up a fresh batch of ABin5 Peasant Bread Dough, let it rise for the two hours in the bucket, then formed a 1-pound loaf and stuck it in the crock pot. So, you can use fresh or refrigerated dough.
Turn the temperature to high and put on the cover. (Not all crock pots behave the same, so you should keep an eye on the loaf after about 45 minutes to make sure it is not over browning on the bottom or not browning at all. You may need to adjust the time according to your machine.)
Bake for 1 hour (this will depend on your crock pot, you may need to increase or decrease the time. If you are using a 100% whole grain dough, you may want to go for a bit longer as well). You will have a fully baked loaf of bread, but the crust is very soft, almost like a steamed bun. To check for doneness I poked the top of the loaf and it felt firm. Before it is fully baked it felt soft and almost mushy when I gently pressed the top.
The bottom crust should be nice and crisp, but the top of the loaf will be quite soft. Some folks desire a softer crust, so you will love this loaf. If you want a darker or crisper crust…
Stick the bread under the broiler for 5 minutes or until it is the color you like, with the rack positioned in the middle of the oven.
Let the loaf cool completely before slicing. Cutting into a hot loaf is tempting, but it may seem gummy and under-baked.
It is fantastic with butter or as a sandwich. I love this method!