Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Baking wholemeal bread in a slow cooker - #recipe

One of the links from #CreditCrunchMunch in July was to
After about half an hour - the bread is rising! 
BakingQueen74 who had baked a sweet cinnamon loaf in her slow cooker. I wondered if a basic wholemeal loaf could also be baked that way. Because of our caravan lifestyle and not yet having taken the plunge to solar power, we almost always pay to have electric hookup on campsites. Practically all of them, especially in the UK, charge a fixed price per day for this so it is far more economical for us to use our electrical appliances where possible rather than eat into our bottled gas supply. Slow cookers are economical anyway because they don't use much power - the highest setting on our Morphy Richards Sear and Stew slow cooker is just 163w! Apparently some slow cookers should NOT be run without liquid in them so please check the instructions for yours before attempting breadmaking. Ours has a metal pot and I think some of the pottery ones run the risk of cracking without liquid to absorb the heat.

It's taken me a while to get around to this baking experiment as we have
An hour later - looks good
but there's a lot of condensation 
been on a soda bread kick since I learned to make that. However today we needed bread for lunch and had no yoghurt so I crossed my fingers and started kneading. I used the same ingredients as I used to use in our breadmaker (before it gave up the ghost) and let the dough prove once before I put it into the slow cooker for a couple of hours.

1 cup of lukewarm water
3 cups of strong flour (I used half white and half wholemeal)
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 tsp salt
1 sachet fast action dried yeast

Put all the ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Mix together with a flat bladed knife until a dough forms, then knead with your hands until the dough becomes elastic. I prefer to knead on a largish flat surface and this dough batch took about ten minutes work to get to the right consistency.

Set the dough back in the mixing bowl, cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave it in a warm place to rise for about 30-45 minutes. Caravans are great for proving bread as they are always cosy!

When the dough has about doubled in size, remove it from the bowl. Knock it back lightly and then put it in the slow cooker pot. I did grease to pot with a little rapeseed oil first to prevent sticking, but this made for quite a firm crust. Next time I will try just dusting with a little flour first and see how that works.

Turn the slow cooker up to high and leave the bread for two hours to
The finished loaf! 
bake. This should be the easiest part of the process. In fact it was the trickiest because I kept wanting to lift up the lid and see how the bread was doing. This wouldn't have been good for the baking though so I had to content myself with snapping photos instead!

After two hours (or thereabouts) remove the bread from to slow cooker. Tap the base - if it sounds hollow then your bread is cooked in which case set it onto a wire rack to cool before eating it.

As you can see in the finished photo - I am not sure why it insists on remaining sideways - there is a small circle of dampness at the very top of the loaf. This was caused by the amount of moisture that could not escape the slow cooker and so dripped back down from the lid. Great for stews, not ideal for bread! When we sliced the loaf, this moisture was only evident in the top couple of millimetres and did dry as the loaf cooled so wasn't a problem from the eating point of view, purely the aesthetic. The loaf itself was delicious with a good texture and I will definitely be baking yeast bread this way again. The slow cooker doesn't create unbearable heat in our caravan on warm days in the same way that the oven can, but we still got to enjoy that fabulous fresh bread aroma as it cooked.

A slice of slow cooked bread 

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