A friend of mine gave me a link to a recipe to make artisan bread in 5 minutes a day. My husband and I loved the bread so much that he bought me the cookbook. I think I got the instructions for baking in the crockpot on their blog.
Yeast tip: I've found the best price for yeast is at Costco. I buy the 2 pound bag and keep it in the freezer. For convenience, I fill an empty Fleischmann's jar and keep that on hand in the refrigerator.
Another great thing about this recipe is that the flour doesn't need to be sifted. I give the flour a stir with a butter knife to loosen it up a bit and then scoop a cup out at a time, scraping of the excess with the back of the butter knife. You'll need 6 ½ cups.
When you are ready to bake your bread, prepare a piece of parchment paper by dusting it with flour. You can also sprinkle it with corn meal but I don't care for it so I don't use it. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and sprinkle the top with flour and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber scraper. Use kitchen scissors to cut the loaf. I am going to use a two-pound portion (half of the dough) for this loaf.
Makes 4, 1-pound loaves
3 cups lukewarm water (100° F)
1 1⁄2 tbsp granulated yeast (1 1⁄2 packets)
1 1⁄2 tbsp coarse kosher or sea salt
6 1⁄2 cups unsifted, unbleached, all-purpose white flour
1. MIXING: Add yeast and salt to the water in mixer with dough hook. Turn on low and add flour. Mix until combined. Dough should be wet and loose.
2. RESTING: Cover loosely and sit at room temp until it begins to collapse (approximately 2-5 hours). Refrigerate the dough in a lidded (not airtight) container and use it over the next two weeks.
Refrigerated dough is less sticky and easier to work with than room-temperature dough. We recommend refrigerating the dough at least three hours before shaping a loaf but it can be used right away. You’ll find that even one day’s storage improves the flavor and texture of your bread. This maturation continues over the two-week period. The dough can also be frozen in 1-pound portions in an airtight container and defrosted overnight in the refrigerator prior to baking day.
3. PREPARE FOR BAKING: Sprinkle a piece of parchment paper and the surface of the dough with flour, then cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit-sized) piece. Form into a ball and place on parchment paper. Make 3 to 4, 1/4-inch-deep, slashes into top. Let it rest uncovered for about 40 minutes.
4. PREHEAT: 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 450 degrees with a baking stone (or upside-down cast-iron skillet) on the middle rack. Place an empty broiler tray for holding water on bottom shelf.
5. BAKING: Slide the loaf onto the baking stone. Quickly pour about a cup of hot water into the broiler tray and close the oven door to trap the steam. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is brown and firm to the touch.
6. COOLING: Allow to cool completely, preferably on a wire rack.
BAKING IN CROCKPOT: Prepare dough in step 3, but instead of letting it rest, place the dough and parchment paper, directly into the crock-pot. Turn the temperature to high and put on the cover. Bake for 1 hour. Check for doneness (190° to 200° F). You will have a fully baked loaf of bread, but the crust is very soft. If you want a darker or crisper crust, stick the bread under the broiler, with the rack positioned in the middle of the oven, for 5 minutes or until it is the color you like.
BAKING IN A LOAF PAN: Use 2 pounds of dough. Let the dough rise in a well-greased non-stick 8 ½ x 4 ½- inch loaf pan, covered loosely with plastic wrap for 1 hour and 40 minutes. 20 minutes before baking time, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. (Do not use steam pan.) Bake the loaf for about 60 minutes. Flip the loaf out of the pan and allow to cool before cutting it.