The fact that you can make homemade bread in a slow cooker shouldn’t surprise me. I mean, you can make meat, soups, stews, macaroni and cheese, fruit butter, yogurt, spaghetti sauce, veggies – even dessert! I don’t think there’s anything you CAN’T make in a slow cooker.
But BREAD in a slow cooker?! Time-laden, kneading-required, yeast-filled bread? Yeah.Right. I thought that only fared well in a real oven, not in a kitchen counter appliance created so that home chef’s didn’t have to stand monitor over a hot stove for hours.
Fortunately for all of us who love homemade bread but don’t always have time to make it, I was wrong.
PS – if you’re looking to expand your repertoire of slow-cooker meals, follow me on Pinterest. I’m constantly adding new recipes to the boards, including the slow-cooker board!
In case you hadn’t heard, our oven broke last December – just two weeks before Christmas.
Yes, it was inconvenient in that we had to find alternate methods for cooking pizza on family night and yes, we had to buy bread for the first time in well over a year, but in the grand scheme of things, not having an oven really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
We made tortillas and pita flat bread on the griddle. Baked a double chocolate peanut butter lava cake in the slow cooker. We also pan-fried chicken, ate lots of tacos and basically “made do” with what we had. Meals were good, cooking got creative and no one starved. Mission accomplished.
Well, except for the yearly Christmas cookie bonanza. Some of our favorite recipes were put on hold for a few weeks during this oven debacle, though we were able to snag a few while visiting family out of town… and according to my post-holiday waistline, their oven worked perfectly!
Once we got back from vacation we officially looked into getting the oven fixed. Our first method of repair was to order a part recommended by a neighbor and fix it ourselves. Unfortunately, he didn’t really know what he was doing and we were afraid to mess with the gas lines and end up making a bad situation worse. Blown-up house = bad.
Our second option was to call another friend who is skilled at this sort of thing, but he was busy and we were busy and our schedules just weren’t jiving. Ya’ll know how that goes, right?
Finally, our third option was to call landlord’s maintenance. Looking back in hindsight, we should have done this the first place. Which is how we this whole “bread in a slow cooker” idea came about… Lesson learned.
Meanwhile, amidst the issue of trying to get the oven fixed was another issue – eating. The family was growing weary of tortillas and pita flatbreads. Store-bought sourdough was getting expensive and I was getting grouchy because my bread-loving family was inhaling $3 worth of bread in one meal and the cost of those pretty loaves was adding up.
Money Saving Tip: One of my lessons in Grocery Budget Bootcamp is to evaluate what are the best items for you to make from scratch. Bread is on the top of the list in my home. We love bread and making it from scratch saves a ton!
Finally, it dawned on me that the slow cooker might be able to do the trick. Sure, there would be some adaptations needed, but if it could bake a cake, it could bake bread, right?
Armed with a freshly kneaded loaf of rosemary olive oil bread, I gave the “bread in a slow cooker” a chance in the spotlight.
Holy smokes. It turned out AMAZING! Mr. Crumbs said it was the best sandwich bread he had ever had and even preferred it over traditional oven-baked bread. Now THAT’S saying a lot!
How to Bake Homemade Bread in a Slow Cooker
A few notes worth mentioning on this method:
- It will work for any bread recipe that calls for two rises. It very well might work for one rise, and even quick breads, but I haven’t tried those yet. Those experiments are coming in the next few weeks.
- Your bread will come out fully cooked and soft, but it will not have that golden brown crunchy crust that the oven is known for. You can run the loaf under the broiler, or use a mini blow torch to achieve that same hard crust if you desire.
- This method would be AMAZING for soft dinner rolls! Here’s my favorite recipe if you want to give it a try.
- The shape of your slow cooker will make a difference. Use a machine whose capacity is twice the size of your unbaked dough. I have this slow cooker.
- Because slow cooker temperatures vary, don’t leave the house on your first attempt. You’ll need to time your slow cooker to see how long it takes your bread to reach the appropriate temperature. Once you’ve successfully made a loaf, you’ll be able to set it and forget it. Or at least run an errand or go to story time at the library.
- Handle the bread as little as possible while baking. Opening and closing the lid and testing for temperature can damage the loaf, so your first loaf may be a bit on the ugly side while you figure out the best timing of your slow cooker. Once you’ve got the details figured out, you’re good to go. Even ugly bread tastes good though!
- I hear it’s possible to bake the bread in a loaf pan… but I haven’t tried it myself and therefore can’t vouch for it. And if you have a smaller slow cooker, your loaf pan probably won’t fit anyway unless you use mini loaf pans.
Alright then – here’s the how-to!
- Grease the bottom and sides of your slow cooker well with butter and set aside. (We use this slow cooker.)
- Follow the bread recipe according to the instructions through the first rise and shaping of the dough. Place unbaked dough in the buttered slow cooker and turn it on high. The bread will complete its second rise and bake at the same time.
- Allow bread to bake for 45 minutes and check internal temperature using an instant read thermometer. Bread is done when the internal temperature reaches 180-200 degrees. This may take up to 3 hours, depending on the slow cooker. After the initial 45 minutes, check the temperature every 30 minutes until you are familiar with the timing of your slow cooker.
- The bottom and sides of the bread will become a beautiful golden brown, but the top will remain pale.
Pros to Homemade Bread in a Slow Cooker
- Doesn’t heat up your house
- Can bake bread and leave the house
- Bread is much softer than oven-baked
- Frees up oven for other items
Cons to Homemade Bread in a Slow Cooker
- Can only bake one loaf at a time
- Takes longer to bake one loaf
- Requires planning ahead since you can’t use your slow-cooker for two things at once
- Loses signature flaky crust
Lesson Learned: Just because you don’t have an oven (or don’t want to heat up your house because it’s the middle of July and a blazing 500F outside) doesn’t mean you can’t bake bread in a slow cooker! Here’s a few of our favorite recipes to get you started:
- Beer Bread
- Potato Buttermilk Bread
- Rosemary Olive Oil Bread
- Sourdough Bread
- Very Little Bother Oat Bread
- Soaked Whole Wheat Bread
- Man Bread
I’d be interested to see how a loaf of sourdough bread in a slow cooker would turn out… Hmmm…