I couldn’t live without a rice cooker. The idea of simply not having one is out of the question – the fact is that a rice cooker cooks rice better than I do, and it’s less wasteful and messy. Besides, rice cookers are so useful, you can cook pasta and warm up tinned soup. I hate microwaves – they are the world’s worst for attracting cockroaches and the food tastes vile – so this is a great alternative for heating things up.
Even my crappy $14 rice cooker will make bread
But the best thing they do – apart from the ring thing – is baking bread. I love using it to bake bread because it means you can bake in the hottest weather and not melt into a puddle while it’s cooking. You don’t need a fancy expensive one either – I get mine from a chain store for $14.
You can use any bread recipe, from a simple damper (two cups self raising flour, salt and ice cold soda water to mix) or with yeast. The one above is a simple recipe from the back of a dried yeast packet.
You need two cups of plain flour, one tsp sugar and one of salt and a 7g packet of dried yeast. Mix the dry ingredients together, rub in a tablespoon of soft butter and make a well in the centre and crack in an egg. Add two tablespoons warm water and mix with the eggs, drawing in the flour and gradually adding a little warm water at a time until you have collected a kneadable dough. Dont follow a recipe exactly when it comes to the water, as different flours absorb water at different rates, and make sure the water is tepid blood heat and not really hot.
Kneading is easy, just stretch and pull and roll the dough until you see the sinews of gluten appearing. I try not to add more flour, but pour a little olive oil in my palm and knead that in, to give it more flavour. But a yeast bread can be as simple as two or three cups of flour, 7g of dried yeast and salt and sugar. I restrict myself to two cups of flour because my rice cooker bowl is rather small.
Spray cooking spray on the inside of the rice cooker bowl and put the dough in. In hot weather it will rise quickly to twice its bulk, and in cooler weather you can turn the cooker to the ‘warm’ setting for ten minutes.
When it is risen, turn the cooker to the ‘cook’ setting. On my cheap cooker I have to keep putting it back to the cook setting when it switches to warm. On a good rice cooker you can set the time to suit yourself. To brown the top of my bread I turn it over and give it some extra cooking time.
That probably sounds a bit complicated, but really it is very easy, mostly I set the rice cooker and forget it and come back to find the bread cooked. It lasts a day or two, but often less as it is very delicious. I have found the nicest way to eat it is slathered with cold butter and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.