Homemade bread is a very popular thing to bake right now. I have the ingredients and desire to eat it, but not the time to cook. This is a perfect way to introduce children to the process of making bread. Our family loves this loaf on the side with a big bowl of soup.
Rustic Crockpot Bread
3 1/2 cups bread flour-room temperature
2 1/4 tsp of instant yeast/1 envelope-room temperature
1 tsp of sugar
1 1/2 tsp of salt
1 1/2 cups of warm water
herbs and seeds to garnish
In a small bowl combine the yeast, sugar, and 3 TBSP of warm water. Stir well and let sit for five minutes. When the mixture is thick and foamy it is ready (your yeast is alive/active) and will cause your bread to rise. If this does not happen the yeast is no good.
In a large bowl combine, the flour, yeast mixture, and salt. Slowly pour in the water and stir until well blended. Grease a second large bowl. Knead and form the dough into a ball, place it into the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a wet towel. Let sit on the counter overnight, 8-18 hours.
Set your 6 quart slow cooker onto high temperature.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Flour your hands. Lightly flatten, fold/tuck, and form into a ball. Shape into a round or loaf.
Place your dough onto a square of parchment paper. Make a shallow slit on the top of the loaf and fill with a mixture of dried herbs and seeds (flax, sesame, ajwan, fennel, dill, caraway, thyme, oregano, kala jeera, basil, chia etc.). Lift the paper by the corners and put your bread into the slow cooker. Press the paper against the sides of the cooker.
Place a double layer of paper towel under the lid to prevent condensation from dripping on the loaf. Bake for 1 hour. Check the loaf temperature. You may need to do this every 30 minutes for up to 2.5 hours depending on your crockpot. Record the time you needed to remove the loaf for future reference.
Bread is done when an internal temperature of 190-200 degrees Fahrenheit has been reached. The top should feel soft but not spongy. Lift the bread by the parchment. The bottom should be hard, sound hollow when tapped with a finger, and be golden brown.
If you wish to have a harder/rustic crust on your bread set the loaf on the middle rack of your oven. Broil for 3-5 minutes. Check often to avoid scorching the top too much.
Cool completely before slicing
Foeniculum is a member of the parsley family. It can grow 5-6 feet in height. You will find fennel growing wild or cultivated as a perennial all over the world. When crushed the plant material produces a strong licorice scent. The long carrot shaped root produces a large, white, fleshy “bulb” similar to celery. This stem narrows to produce a handful of finely grooved (sometimes hollow) stalks that are blue green in color transitioning to a brighter shade at the tips. These parts are often used as a more flavorful substitute for celery in soups or stews. The leaves are few in nature but finely pinnate and feathery like a fern. They can grow at the end of long stalks or clustered at the base of the bulb. Fresh or dried they make a nice addition to salads and egg dishes when finely chopped. The flowers form a compound umbel full of lots of yellow pollen. The fruit becomes a hard, green seed that is highly aromatic and used in all kinds of sweet or savory recipes.
Fennel contains several volatile oils which make it a fantastic stimulant for the appetite and digestion. Historically the whole plant has been used to treat colic, gas, indigestion, heartburn, bloating, nausea, vomiting, constipation, and hiccups. As a bitter it aids the digestive system to process fats and assimilate the various components found in food. It stabilizes blood sugar and decongests the liver (jaundice). This plant clears mucous and stagnation. It supports lungs dealing with asthma or bronchitis. Fennel addresses all manner of “menstrual complaints'”. Herbalists have prescribed fennel as a diuretic and to treat kidney stones. An infusion is helpful for laryngitis or hoarseness. A tea is useful for nursing mothers hoping to increase their flow of breastmilk. A decoction can be used as an eyewash for irritation and strain. An oil rub can be applied to sore muscles or to treat rheumatism. As a mouthwash it is very affective for bad breath. Fennel is a gentle herb that works well in formulas for babies and children.
Contraindications: large/therapeutic doses in pregnancy.