Rice Cooker Baking Experiment #1: Cheesy Jalapeno Bread
Rice cooker baking is something I’ve been wanting to try for quite a while. Those of you who aren’t familiar with Japan might not be aware of this, but apartments here generally don’t have ovens. If you think about it, it makes sense: Japanese cooking doesn’t involve a lot of baked or roasted foods, so a combination of stove top, toaster oven, and “fish grill” usually satisfies most household needs. You can buy free-standing ovens, of course. My former apartment had a little microwave that was also a toaster and an oven, which sort of boggles my American mind.
However, another alternative is to simply use a rice cooker. When you think about it, a rice cooker is simply a tool for heating and steaming food–so why not bake bread in it?
Here’s my little 3-cup Panasonic rice cooker. If you read Japanese, you can see that there’s actually a “cake” (ケーキ) option on the menu; the instruction manual includes a few recipes.
Anyway, I had some diced green chilies lying around the place, so I thought I’d try a lovely sounding recipe for jalapeno bread from Knifing Forking Spooning. She has great step-by-step instructions and pictures on her blog, so if you’re looking to make this yourself, I’d strongly suggest checking out the link above. Here was the recipe I used (slightly modified from the original):
Cheesy Jalapeno Bread (adapted from Knifing Forking Spooning)
Serving size: Makes 1 small loaf in a 3-cup rice cooker
- 2.5 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon yeast
- 1.5 teaspoons sugar (plus a pinch for the yeast)
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- 1.5 tablespoons butter
- 3/4 cup milk (adjust for desired dough consistency, see below)
- 1/4 cup water (for the yeast)
- 3/4 cup chopped jalapenos (or green chilies)
- 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
- Put the yeast into a bowl with a a pinch of sugar and 1/4 cup warm water. Let sit for 10 minutes.
- Mix together the flour, salt, and sugar in a separate bowl. to the rice cooker and mix to combine. Then add the milk, yeast, and butter. Mix until you have a dough. You may want to add the milk gradually until the dough reaches the desired consistency; you may not need the full 3/4 cup. Also, if your jalapenos or chilies are particularly wet (i.e. if they came from a jar), you may want to leave the dough a little more dry than usual, since the liquid from the jalapenos (in the next step) will make the dough much more wet. I had to adjust continually, adding more flour and milk as necessary (in very small amounts, of course).
- Add the jalapenos or chilies and knead until thoroughly mixed. Form into a ball.
- Stick the dough in the rice cooker, turn on the warming function (保温), cover with a towel, and let rise for about 1 hour until doubled in size. If the weather is warm, you may not need to turn on the rice cooker, but my dough refused to rise until I did this.
- When the dough has risen, remove it from the rice cooker (watch out for the hot sides of the pan). Punch it down and knead it again, forming it into a ball as you did the first time. Put it back in the rice cooker on warm and cover with a towel. Let rise until doubled in size once again (about another hour).
- When ready, turn the rice cooker on. If you are in Japan, your rice cooker may have a “cake” function, so check your manual to find out how to select it. I pressed “course” (コース) a couple of times until “cake” (ケーキ) was selected and then pressed “cook” (炊飯). The cake course was set for 40 minutes, which turned out to be perfect. If you don’t have a “cake” function, just cook as normal for 40 minutes but keep an eye out to make sure the rice cooker doesn’t automatically turn off. (The Internet has a variety of people writing about how to override this function, so do a little searching if you have problems. People living in Japan probably have some function like the one I’m talking about.)
- After the 40-minute cake-course timer sounds, remove the bread from the pan by flipping it upside down onto a cutting board (again, mind the hot pan). Replace the bread in the rice cooker, upside down, sprinkle the grated cheese on top, and cook for another 40 minutes.
- Remove and let cool slightly before enjoying!
I was very happy with the results. The bread had a really lovely, smooth, moist texture and was permeated by the slight taste of the green chilies (in addition to the stronger spice of the green chilies themselves when you happened to bite into them). If you use jalapenos instead of green chilies, you’ll probably get a stronger flavor.
One note: I was a little on the fence about the cheese–next time, I think I’d prefer to try baking the cheese into the bread, which might be even tastier. To do this, you’d just knead the grated cheese in with the dough. I’d probably increase the cheese to 1 cup. But you’ll have to adjust to your own taste if you decide to try this.
I’m hoping to try rosemary bread, banana bread, or perhaps even some sourdough bread in the future, so you may be seeing more rice cooker experiments here soon! Happy baking!