We are in the studio rehearsing our latest show. A glance at the clock says it’s 1:45. No wonder we’re hungry – it’s nearly lunch! When 2 o’clock comes around and we walk into the common room a glorious aroma reaches our nostrils. It’s our freshly baked bread – from our slow cooker!
That’s right – we bake our own bread, at work, without an oven! It’s a wonderful thing to sit down to a lunch of nice warm bread with hummus and sprouts – or just Vegemite for that matter.
How do we do it?
Our Singaporean kitchen doesn’t have an oven, so for Heidi’s birthday this year we bought a slow-cooker so we could cook nice dinners at work while we are rehearsing. It was a natural step for us to try and bake something in it!
The first breads we baked were very simple to prepare. We mixed the ingredients together right before putting them in the slow-cooker, with no rising times or yeast. These breads rise using baking powder and baking soda – this means that you aren’t restricted to using traditional glutenous bread flours (like wheat and rye). We made some great loaves with green pea, barley, quinoa and blue corn flour. It is also easy to add other kinds of ingredients to the recipe. We made a really nice loaf of quinoa bread with miso paste in it and another loaf of tamarind-chipotle cornbread. Very tasty! We put our bread on at about 9:45am and it is ready to eat at 2pm for lunch.
See our basic yeast-free bread recipe below.
The Next Step?
While these breads were really good, they aren’t real bread in the sense that they don’t use yeast and long rising times. We wanted to see if we could bake a loaf of real bread in the slow-cooker. We couldn’t find any slow-cooker bread recipes so we used one for a conventional oven to see how it would turn out.
We found a suitable recipe at VeganBaking.net. It is a no-knead recipe – meaning that you don’t have to spend 20 mins kneading the bread before you let it rise (kneading bread isn’t fun at 7:30 in the morning). What you do instead is simply let the ingredients rise over 24-36 hours on their own, feeding in more flour and water in stages as you go. The final loaf has a really good flavour because the yeast has had longer to develop (think sourdough) and is really nice and chewy.
As the bread needs to stretch and rise with the yeast, you need to use a more traditional bread flour with gluten like wholewheat or spelt for this recipe. However, you can still substitute half the flour for another one of your choice – like quinoa, millet, teff or barley.
You can see this recipe below.
Why do we go to the trouble of making our own bread?
The main reason for making our own bread is that of nutrition. All you need to make bread is flour, water and yeast, yet when you look at the ingredients on a loaf of grocery store bread you will find the number of additives suprising. There are preservatives, flavour, sugar, and maybe even colour. Even the main ingredient – bleached white flour – is worth avoiding.
To make white flour they take whole wheat and remove the husk and the germ (these are the most nutritious parts). Then it is bleached and dried in an oven. What is left is just the carbohydrate – all the fiber, vitamins and minerals are gone! It gets worse when you consider the health concerns with consuming chemical bleaching agents and too many processed foods – but that’s another story.
It just doesn’t make sense to use an ingredient so devoid of nutrition when there are so many different types of flour to use. You can choose to use any number of alternative wholegrain flours (rye, barley, millet or teff) or a high protein flours (like chick pea, black bean or green pea) – you can even add nuts and seeds to make it even more nutritious. We like to change up the ingredients regularly so that we get a broader range of nutrition.
It is a highly rewarding thing, to make your own bread. Smelling the fresh bread as you cut into it for the first time is amazing – something to be proud of!
Our Basic Yeast-Free Bread
Makes 1 small loaf
1 Tbsp ground flaxseed
3 Tbsp warm water
2 cups flour*
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp yogurt (unsweetened is best if you’re making savoury bread)
3 Tbsp olive oil
A little bit of honey, optional
Enough water to make a thick dough
Any extra add-ins and flavourings you wish to add
* You can use any mix of flour you like, but I don’t think that using 100% bean flours would work. We will have to test it.
- Mix the ground flax and the warm water to form a paste. Set aside.
- Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
- Mix the yogurt, olive oil and honey (if using) together and then add the flax paste.
- Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients. Add enough water to make a very thick batter.
- Put the mixture into a greased 8″ tin. Place a ring of crushed aluminium foil or a small trivet into the slow cooker (this keeps the bread heating evenly) and put the tin on top. Cook, with the lid propped open a little, on low for about 3 hours or high for 2. Cooking times will vary depending on your slow cooker.
Our Basic Yeasted Bread
Based on a recipe from VeganBaking.net
Put half the dough into a greased 8″ tin. Place a ring of crushed aluminium foil or a small trivet into the slow cooker (this keeps the bread heating evenly) and put the tin on top. Cook, with the lid propped open a little, on low for about 3 1/2 hours or high for 2 1/2. Cooking times will vary depending on your slow cooker.
Put the other half into the fridge and keep it until you have finished the first loaf, then bake it. I like to bake both loaves one after the other on the same day and freeze one of them so that we have a back up loaf if we need it.