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Slow Cooker Baking – Rosemary Bread

Today is my day off and I’ve been thinking I’d like to bake some breads. Our new neighbors have given us flowers, cookies and fresh eggs but I’ve yet to give them anything so a bread would be nice when returning their dishes. We also recently planted rosemary so I’ve been dying to make some rosemary bread.

While perusing some bread recipe ideas, I came across Crock Pot or slow cooker breads.  Initially sounding like a bad idea, the appeal grew on me as I thought about how hot it gets in the kitchen when baking in the summer.

Poking around on Google to learn more about baking in the slow cooker, I’ve learned the following:

  • It can take quite a long time at one and a half to two and half hours per loaf.
  • It requires some experimentation to come up with the right process for your slow cooker.
  • The bread comes out more dense without the burst of heat that typically causes the bread to rise in the oven before the dough begins to cook.

This last one concerns since I typically use wheat flour in my baked goods which already causes them to be a bit more dense. However, I am pretty excited about the experimentation aspect!

I recently became the owner of this beautiful red Crock-Pot slow cooker SCV401.  You can see from the inside that it likely heats from the bottom and sides. On some slow cookers, you will see a large plate at the bottom that I assume means it heats primarily from the bottom. If you’re not sure, it might be worth checking so you know what to expect. Crock-Pot’s listing of mine didn’t seem to indicate but they had chat agents available on their site so I confirmed it does heat from the bottom and sides.

 

You can find many rosemary bread recipes online that are roughly the same.  You could also adjust a garlic type bread by adding rosemary. There are a lot of options out there and I think you can try any kind of bread you want with the slow cooker.

As I mentioned, I prefer to use some whole wheat flour in my breads so I’m going to adjust some of the existing recipes for that and, of course, including my fresh rosemary. I also want to use honey as the sweetener instead of granulated sugar.

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I started off by activating the yeast.  For this I mixed a packet of yeast with 3 teaspoons of honey and 1/4 cup of warm water. I whisked those together and then let it sit for 5 minutes.

Now, put away the whisk. I’m always tempted to keep using it so that I don’t get more utensils dirty than necessary but it will just get too gunked up to be useful once you add the flour.

Since I’m using some whole wheat flour, which will be more dense and gritty, I always make sure to sift it to make it as soft as possible. Using wheat flour in baking also introduced me to the wide world of different types of flours (which I have enough to say about that I could write a whole other post). Long story short, if you have wheat bread flour it will make a huge difference in the texture of your bread and can make it taste much better.  Unfortunately, I was out so I blended some whole wheat flour with some white all purpose flour so that it wouldn’t too dense.

At this point, I also added the remaining ingredients: 3/4 cup warm water, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, a Tbsp of olive oil and 3-4 Tbsp of fresh rosemary.

Here I used a spatula to stir until I had something close to resembling a ball of dough (a wooden spoon works well too). After that it was time to get my hands dirty.  😉

For bigger baking projects, I have to knead and roll things out right on the counter but it creates a big mess so I use a cutting board when I can.  They do sell specialized mats for this purpose as well.

I floured my cutting board and turned the dough ball out onto the flour. Then I kneaded it until the dough was not too sticky and formed a nice round ball.

One of the things I really liked about the Crock-Pot baking idea is that I can just let the dough rise right in the Crock-Pot before turning it on.  I lined it with parchment paper and drizzled some olive oil in before gently placing the dough inside.

I’m still experimenting with this but it seemed like a good idea to use the “warm” setting on the Crock-Pot to create a nice warm environment for the dough to rise.  I turned it on and off while monitoring the progress so that it did not get so warm that the dough cooked.

After about an hour I turned the slow cooker to High to start cooking!

Since you can’t see the whole bread and want to avoid handling it, I read to use a thermometer to make sure that it’s cooked in the center.  You want the temperature to be about 190°F.

I was hoping my baked bread would come out more ball like than the one I had seen online but I did wind up with this disk like bread (even after a second attempt).

You can put the bread in the broiler to brown the top but considering I wanted to avoid making my kitchen hot from the oven, I decided that didn’t make much sense.  Especially since the bottom wound up browned nicely, so I just turned it over.  😀

The final product is alright with some butter or olive oil but not great.  It’s very dense so I’d need to play around with that some to see if I can find ways to lighten it up. Alternatively, this could be a really good option for a dessert type bread that can be somewhat dense anyways like banana bread of coffee cake.  I also think it could be pretty neat to try baking a monkey bread in the slow cooker.

I’m not going to include the recipe right now since I do think it needs some changes before I would recommend it.  I did include all the steps and ingredients + amounts above though for anyone who wants to give it a try!

DIY Drawer Organizer

The kitchen in our new place has just three drawers.  That seemed hard to work with until we considered our last kitchen didn’t have much more with its four small drawers.

Plus, one of our new drawers is quite large. However, that seems to mean that anything I put in there is basically swimming in it including my expandable utensil organizer that is usually fills a drawer on its own.

So I went to Pinterest for some ideas and came across this tutorial for a drawer organizer on kevinandamanda.com.  At only about $5 this is also a great bargain!

I didn’t plan mine as carefully as their project but just checked the depth I would need for my drawer and picked up a couple of the 1/4″ craft boards from Home Depot. I wasn’t yet sure exactly what would go in the drawer or how much would fit except that I wanted to keep my utensil organizer. We’re renting so it could come in handy whenever we move on from here plus that’s several less compartments I need to make.

Once I got the boards home, I started thinking about how things would fit the drawer and started measuring and marking the boards.IMG_3737.JPG

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Although I have a saw, I thought it would be easy enough to cut these by scoring them with a razor and then snapping each piece off.  It left the edges a bit rough but it was easy enough to smooth those out with the razor.

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I glued the pieces together while they sat in the drawer with paper underneath to keep ti from sticking to the drawer itself. As I worked through the different sections, I realized it was important that I have boards going the full length and width of the drawer to keep the divider from sliding around.

Here’s the final product!

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Unfortunately, you cannot get things out of the back compartment without pulling the drawer out…

The items I stashed back there aren’t used too often so I’m ok with that.  If I owned this house, I would probably invest in the full extension drawer slides mentioned on kevinandamanda.com to allow us easier access to that space.

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Bonus!

I had some leftover craft board so I also created a place to keep our foil, plastic wrap and other similar rolls.

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Here I just cut pieces to fit inside the cabinet and glued them together.  I attached them to the cabinet door using some 3M adhesive strips like these.

It’s key when making this to be sure that you have enough clearance on the sides to easily open the cabinet door.  😉

On Making Things

I love making things. But I’m not a perfectionist and if things don’t turn out 100% how I’d hoped, I usually just accept the results and happily use my new lovely creation (of course sometimes things turn out too poorly for even that 😜).

I eat the runny pie and not-so-great waffles. I ate tons of slightly inedible whole wheat recipes before landing on this one and I use the slightly wobbly shelves or table.

I’ve read a lot of DIY instructions and, obviously, it’s always best if you start out with the proper instructions. It’s a real bummer when you start a project and it turns out the guide you’re following is incorrect or incomplete.  Trying to avoid falling into the second category has led me to not share most of my projects.

But I’ve decided there’s another way.  Even if my project isn’t 100% publication ready, I’ll share it.  But I’ll also share the instructions that I think you should use and explain what I did that could have gone better.

Here are some photos of projects past, some of which I may never make again and others which are sure to reappear in the future.