Are you sitting down? OK, good, because what I’m about to tell you might just blow your mind: You can make a loaf of fresh, warm, homemade bread in your slow cooker. You read that right. You don’t have to turn on the oven this summer to get your fresh bread fix — just plug in your Crock-Pot.
How To Make Bread in the Slow Cooker
When I first heard about baking bread in the slow cooker, I was skeptical. I’ve been baking bread for almost 2 years, and in all that time, I’ve only pushed my oven temperature hotter when making bread. The idea of “slow cooking” a loaf of bread seemed completely counterintuitive to me. But it only took a few bread-baking trials on a hot summer day to convince me that slow-cooked bread is a fantastic alternative when it’s too hot to turn on the oven or the oven is otherwise occupied.
So how does slow-cooker bread work?
Exact cooking temperatures can vary from slow cooker to slow cooker, but most reach upwards of 200°F on their HIGH setting. Coincidentally (or maybe not!), this is also around the target internal temperature for baking most breads. The trick is letting the bread hang out in the slow cooker for long enough that it bakes all the way through — undercooked loaves mean gummy interiors. On the upside, there’s no need to let the dough rise before you put it in the slow cooker; the loaf will rise and bake all at the same time.
How long does it take to bake bread in the slow cooker?
The first few times you make bread in the slow cooker might require some trial and error. In researching the technique and trying it myself, I found that total baking times can swing from one hour to two-and-a-half hours, depending on your slow cooker. In my six-quart slow cooker, my average baking time was two hours.
The first time you bake, check the loaf after an hour and then every half hour, and then more frequently as it gets close to finishing. Checking the internal temperature is the best way to gauge when the bread is done — a baked loaf will have an internal temperature of 190°F to 200°F. The top will also feel set (no longer spongy) and the bottom will be slightly browned.
Can I bake bread in any slow cooker?
Yes, round slow cookers or oval slow cookers can both be used to bake bread. You’re only limited by the size of your slow cooker. In my six-quart oval slow cooker, I was able to bake both round loaves and sandwich loaves inside bread pans. In smaller or circular slow cookers, you may only be able to make round loaves. You can also make dinner rolls in the slow cooker.
What’s the downside?
Slow cooker bread isn’t totally perfect, especially when you compare it to oven-baked loaves. In the oven, that initial burst of high heat helps loaves to “spring” and poof up into rounded domes. In the slow cooker, the slow ramp-up of baking temperature means you lose the initial burst of oven heat, and loaves tend to stay a little flatter.
Slow-cooker breads also don’t brown or develop a crust the same way as oven-baked loaves. If you love soft crusts, then you’ll love slow-cooker bread! If you like brown, crusty loaves, then run the loaf under the broiler for a few minutes to firm up the crust.
Tips for Baking Bread in the Slow Cooker
- Prepare for some trial and error at first: Consider your first loaf or two as an experiment. Once you know how long it takes for your loaves to bake, subsequent loaves will require less attention.
- Line the slow cooker with parchment: This makes it easier to lift the loaf from the slow cooker and prevents it from sticking to the bottom.
- Check loaves with an instant-read thermometer: The best way to know when loaves are done baking is with an instant-read thermometer. A baked loaf will have an internal temperature of 190°F to 200°F.
- Handle loaves as little as possible: Until they’re fully baked, handling the loaves can crush the delicate crust and cause dimples in the loaves. (This is another reason why the first few loaves are an experiment and subsequent, less-handled loaves turn out better!)
- Run loaves under the broiler for a brown crust: Place the loaf right on an oven rack positioned in the middle of the oven and turn on the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes. Check frequently as the crust can go quickly from golden to burnt.
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