The Cost of Baking Slow Cooker Bread

The last time I had a functioning kitchen — which, if we’re keeping track, was 2012 — I made my own bread nearly every weekend.

I used Mark Bittman’s No-Knead Bread recipe, which required starting the bread dough overnight and baking it the next day, but it didn’t involve kneading, so I guess that made it easier? Anyway, I made myself a lot of dense, chewy whole wheat loaves speckled with flax seed, and it was a weekend ritual.

When I moved into this apartment, I thought about getting myself a breadmaker — and then I thought about Googling whether I could make bread in my slow cooker.

As it turns out, you can. Could I do it? Let’s find out.

First, the ingredients:

— 5 lb bag of Gold Medal Whole Wheat Flour: $3.99, but I only used 3 cups out of the bag’s approximate 19 cups, so $0.63

— Three packets of Fleishmann’s Rapid Rise Instant Yeast: $1.89, but I only used a quarter of a tablespoon, so… how about $0.05

— Salt, which I already had, so… another $0.05 because why not

Total cost of one slow-cooker bread loaf: $0.73.

I used Mark Bittman’s recipe since I already knew how it worked. Usually, with this dough, you’ve got to make it the night before and let it rise overnight. According to the instructions I found on the internet, using the slow cooker would cut this process down to four hours.

Step One: mix together the ingredients.

Step Two: line your slow cooker with parchment paper or spray it down with cooking spray, and put your loaf inside.

Step Three: let the dough rise for two hours. The internet gave conflicting advice on whether we should keep our slow cookers at the warm setting while the dough rises, but I went for it, since my apartment is not particularly warm.

Here’s the dough after two hours:

Step Four: bake the dough for another two hours.

Here’s the baked loaf:

And here it is sliced:

I ate the bread with my leftover beef stew, and it tasted like bread, but it was even denser than the usual whole wheat no-knead loaves I remember making. It was extremely filling, and I ended up eating only about half the bowl of stew, which I could argue makes this bread even more economical but really means I should try to make a better loaf the next time.

So I might try a different recipe, or if I use the Bittman recipe I’ll let the dough rise overnight before baking. I’ll also leave the slow cooker off the warm setting for the first two hours, because I think the dough began slowly cooking right away instead of rising.

I might even try a white flour dough after I finish up this bag of wheat flour. If I wanted to be really experimental.

But the most important thing is that I can make bread with an appliance I already own, and I can check “breadmaker” off my list of potential apartment purchases.

This story is part of The Billfold’s DIY Month.

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