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Homemade bread is all the rage right now, but skillets and Dutch ovens aren't the only creative bread-baking tools around -- Crock Pot bread is great for fans of soft loaves and it lets you skip the second rise of any bread recipe you use.
Slow cookers are amazingly simple appliances that create moist roasts, soups, stews and much more. Since the ceramic crock can hold an even temperature, they're also a great vessel for baking. You can make cobblers, cake and even bread in your slow cooker.
Now, if you're a fan of brown, crusty loaves, then this bread-baking method may not be for you. Breads baked in a slow cooker will not get a crusty top layer, but the bottom and sides do get nice and golden. If you love bread with a soft crust, then pull out your slow cooker and get baking.
Note: Any recipe will work for this method. You can use a no-knead, sourdough, artisan, white or wheat bread recipe -- it doesn't matter which one.
1. Follow the directions of your bread recipe, but stop after the first-rise-and-punch-down-the-dough phase. Shape the loaf into a round or long shape, or whatever shape fits best in your slow cooker. Place the bread dough on a sheet of parchment paper.
2. Put the dough and the parchment paper into the slow cooker.
3. Put the lid on and turn the slow cooker to high. Bake initially for 1 to 2.5 hours. Yes, it's a wide time span, but the baking time will vary depending on the slow cooker. It's good to check the progress after 1 hour, then every 30 minutes. Try not to lift the lid because it will cause the internal temperature to fall.
4. The bread is done when the internal temperature is between 190°F and 200°F. It's okay to use a meat thermometer as long as it can handle temperatures above 190 degrees. You will notice that the bread will collapse slightly. Don't be alarmed, this is normal.
5. Carefully remove the loaf from the slow cooker. You will notice that bread will not have a rounded, domed appearance. When baking in the oven there's a burst of high heat that helps the loaves to poof up into domes. Because the slow cooker slowly ramps up heat, you don't get that initial poof. The loaf may not look as pretty as an oven-baked one, but it's just as tasty. If you really want to have a nice, crusty brown top, place the loaf under a broiler for 3 to 5 minutes once it's done.
Tips for making slow-cooker bread
The first time you bake bread in a slow cooker, there will be some trial and error. After the initial loaf, you'll have a better understanding of how your slow cooker bakes.
Typically, bread requires a second rise once it's shaped. Because the slow cooker gradually heats up, a second rise is not needed.
Don't skip the parchment paper. It will make it much easier to lift the loaf from the crock and keep it from sticking.
An instant-read thermometer is the best way to determine if the loaf is done. After a few batches, you will figure out the exact cooking time. But, for the first loaf, you can't gauge doneness based on appearance.
This story was written by Debbie Wolfe for Chowhound.