Bread, Locks, and Crock-Pots

by Ben N on October 4, 2012

And that’s how I nearly burned down the house….again.

But let’s back up for a minute.

Once again, YouTube is getting me in trouble. I am foolish enough to try something new, just because some commenter asked about it on one of my web videos. A while back, I posted some information about baking no-knead bread in a cast-iron Dutch Oven. It’s a great recipe and proves how SIMPLE baking can be.

Of course, somebody had to ask ‘ “Yes, but could you bake it in a Crock-Pot?” Hmmmm. Sounds interesting. I bet I could!

A crock-pot really doesn’t get that hot. Actually, I had no idea how hot one gets, so I headed to my garage to get my non-contact instant-read thermometer. (Works well for engines AND cooking…) Running the crock-pot by itself didn’t get me much higher than 180 degress – which makes sense. That’s a temperature for well-done beef. If you cook at your maximum temperature, you can never really burn your food.

I did want to get the crock pot a bit hotter, as the regular bread recipe calls for an oven preheated to 475, AND preheating the dutch oven as well. I’ve always thought it’s a shame that they don’t INSULATE the crock pot. On mine, the outside is plain brushed stainless steel. Once it’s going, you can’t touch the outside of it. In fact, with my thermometer, I found out that ours actually gets hotter on the outside than the inside! It also heats up the counter a bit too.

So, why not “modify” the crock-pot? I had some cardboard handy (which is GREAT insulation!) so I set the pot on a piece. I also have some radiant barrier insulation around – sort of construction-grade aluminum-faced bubble wrap. Hmmm. The piece I had handy was already formed into the shape of a casserole dish insulator. Oh, look! A cardboard box. Let’s just use this instead.

The cardboard box I had handy was just about the right size to put the whole crock pot in. I could even throw a towel over the top for a little extra insulation. Of course I would be monitoring my experiment the entire time, so I’d be right there in case of any overheating or other problem.

I preheated the crock-pot on high, and then dropped in the dough, just as I would have with the dutch oven. On went the lid, and cover with a towel, and then I did a few other tasks while waiting.

I checked it half an hour in. The loaf looked like it was puffing up nicely and there was a good steam effect going on in the pot. Temperature was around 300 degrees. At one hour of baking, things were looking pretty good. In the regular recipe, the bread is done at an hour. Since the crock-pot is at a lower temperature, it would take longer, but I just wasn’t sure how long.

My Wife happened to be gone, and the Little Girl along with her. Which meant I was all alone when I got locked out of the house…

While baking the bread, I was also doing a number of other tasks, both in my home office, and in my detached garage. One of the times coming back to the front door, it wouldn’t unlock. But I HADN’T locked it! I got the spare key (hidden in the garage) and tried unlocking it, but to no good! Somehow, the latching mechanism INSIDE the knob managed to break! I didn’t keep a spare key handy for the back door, and the front was broken shut!

That’s when the Wife got back home, with a cranky two-year old, and milk getting warm and ice cream melting. Yipes. I quickly offered her a cooler from the garage for the groceries, and suggested taking the Little Girl out for a bike ride. It would calm down the Little Girl and keep them both out of my hair while I figured out how to break into my own home! At least with my wife back, I could use her phone. (Mine was locked inside!)

I called my Dad, who was the person who built the place. “Well, what about that old basement window?” he offered. I had almost forgotten about that. My house doesn’t have a basement. It has an 18″ crawlspace over concrete block and a poured cement floor. A basement window casing was put in as an access point for bringing in plumbing pipe when the place was rebuilt. I spent a lot of time before last winter INSULATING the plywood cover panel from the inside. But the plywood itself is screwed on from the OUTSIDE.

I went to the garage, got my cordless drill, the right bit for the screws, a knife, and a couple of pry bars. I had to cut away the caulk around the edges and pull out all the screws. With a pallet knife and pry bars, I was able to eventually yank the plywood cover. (I used the GOOD caulk…) On the other side was 4″ of rigid foam insulation and Great Stuff. (Sigh.) I sat on my butt and kicked full-force with both feet – right through all that nice insulation I did such a good job on. After pushing the pink shards away, I crawled on my belly inside.

Good thing I had left that mechanics creeper in there! I got on and crabbed my way towards the the trap-door to the laundry room. Even then, it’s not a straight shot. Right near my destination (and in my way) is the sump-pump crock, and the components of my laundry graywater system. I weasled my way around them, twisted my body in ways it wasn’t designed to go, and popped-up into the laundry room. Fortunately, no heavy objects were left on top of the trap door. I felt a bit like the Man in the Iron Mask making a tunneled escape.

Covered with cobwebs, dirt, and bits of foam, I made my way to the front door. Nope. Won’t open from the inside either. Oh well, I unlocked the back door, and then went to check on the bread.

The good news was that the bread looked great. The bad news was that a Crock-Pot, left unattended, modified with cardboard insulation, gets hot enough to melt the plastic handles on the sides of the pot. Ack! I unplugged the pot and let it cool.

In the mean-time, I had the front door to contend with. It had broken in such an unusual way. I took off the knob from the inside and completely disassembled the entire lock mechanism, and it STILL wouldn’t open. After removing the hinge pins, and much tinkering with a bent needle-nose, I managed to eventually open it. Later that evening, I made a trip to the big-box home improvement store, bought an entire new assembly, and installed it the next day.

So, CAN you bake bread in a Crock-Pot! Yes, absolutely you can! And it turned out rather well, actually. Just DON’T GET LOCKED OUT OF YOUR HOUSE while baking in a modified pot!

And this goes to my wife. “And that’s why the handles on your Crock-Pot look like that. I’m just sorry that I’m so ashamed of it that you had to find out about it on Facebook.”

Perhaps I’ll try baking some bread again in a Crock-Pot, this time WITHOUT modifications, and attending it the whole time.

Take care, and don’t YOU go burning your house down,

-Ben

{ 2 trackbacks }

Crock Pot Bread, Take 2
October 10, 2012 at 12:32 pm
Third Time’s the Charm – Crock Pot Bread Machine
October 21, 2012 at 8:58 pm

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