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Feb 13, 2012

Easy Rice Cooker Banana Bread

Amy Frasca Banana Bread
By Amy Frasca
If you love baking, the lack of a conventional oven in a Japanese apartment can be frustrating. But all is not lost! Many sweet treats can be made at home in your rice cooker. This recipe for banana bread is simple and only takes about an hour and a half.
  • 1 1/2 cups enriched white flour
  • 3/4 cups white sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda*
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup mashed ripe bananas (2 to 3 medium to large bananas)
  • 1/3 cups softened butter
  • 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 egg
  • Cooking oil
* Baking soda may not be available everywhere in Japan. If you can’t find it, don’t worry; extra baking powder can be added as a substitute without a noticeable difference. I’ve found that an extra teaspoon of baking powder works well in this case.
For extra sweetness, substitute a portion of white sugar for an equal amount of packed brown sugar. Or, add 1/2 tsp. of vanilla extract along with the wet ingredients.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk until the ingredients are well mixed.
  • Next, add the bananas, butter, milk, and egg. These should be mixed until the batter has a uniform and thick, creamy consistency. If you own an electric mixer, let it do the work (low setting recommended). If not, the bananas and butter may give you some difficulty when hand-mixing it. To make things easier, make sure you let the butter soften long enough beforehand. Also, if you put the bananas into a plastic freezer bag, you can make sure they’re well-mashed without making a huge mess.
  • At this point, you can stir in any other ingredient you may want, like chopped nuts or a bit of dried fruit. Feel free to try out your own variations on the recipe!
  • Before pouring the batter into the rice cooker’s pot, remember the most important step! Coat the inside of the pot lightly with cooking oil. Paper towels help to spread it properly. Otherwise, the banana bread will stick to the inside as it cooks.
  • Now simply pour the batter evenly into the pot and start the cooker. I use the same settings as when I make rice. On my rice cooker, the bread isn’t done after just one cycle, so I let it run twice, though this could vary based on your rice cooker. With mine, I have to allow the cooker to cool down for a few minutes in between cycles, as it won’t start again right away.
  • That’s it! After it’s done, pop the bread out onto a serving tray or plate and enjoy!

DIY Rice Cooker Bread

The above is one of the most insane things I've ever seen, and not because of the hugely enthusiastic Japanese voiceover. This is a clip showing you how to make bread with a rice cooker. Why would you want to use a rice cooker? Ease? Speed? If you guessed either, you'd be wrong.

I guess that these guys never heard of no-knead bread, and find bread machines to be too easy. To make this bread, you have to do all the required kneading yourself, along with the waiting and punching. But unlike regular loaves, which get thrown in the oven and simply baked after all those steps, you have to turn this bread a number of times while it cooks in the rice cooker. So basically, it's bread with extra hassle.

I guess, at the very least, it'd come in handy for someone who has a rice cooker, but not a oven, toaster oven, or bread machine.Still, I think I'll stick with the tasty, and easier, no-knead varieties.

DIY Whole-Grain Bread

Remember the breads your mother, grandmother, aunts, neighbors, etc used to make and how they made your mouth water? This old fashion recipe will help you make bread like the ones you remember. Try this recipes for a Hearty Whole-Grain Bread, which we now know is the only kind of bread we should eat. This is a tasty bread just chock full of good-for-you ingredients!
3 1/4 cups milk
2 cups quick oats
3/4 cup water
3 tbsp butter
3/4 cup honey
1 3/4 cup medium rye flour
1 3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
4 to 4 1/2 cups bread flour
3 tsp salt
3 pkgs active dry yeast
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup bran cereal
Scald milk and pour 1 1/2 cups of it over the oats; set aside to cool until lukewarm.
To the remaining milk add water, butter, and honey; set aside until warm (120 to 130 degrees).
Mix the rye flour, whole wheat flour, and 2 cups of the bread flour together.
In a large mixer bowl, combine 3 cups of the above flour mixture, salt, and yeast. Add the warm liquid and and oat mixtures. Blend at low speed of electric mixer until moistened. Beat 3 minutes at medium speed. Stir in the sunflower seeds, wheat germ, bran cereal, remaining flour mixture and an additional 1 1/2 cups to 1 3/4 cups of the bread flour to form a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in enough of the remaining flour until the dough is smooth and elastic. This will take approximately 10 minutes. Shape the dough into a ball.
Grease a bowl and place the dough ball in the bowl, turning once so top is greased. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and a cloth dish towel. Allow to rise in a warm place for about an hour until doubled in bulk. Punch down the dough, divide into thirds and shape each third into a ball. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Shape into 3 loaves and place in greased 8-inch loaf baking pans, lightly greased. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes until bread is golden and sounds hollow when lightly tapped. Remove from the pans immediately after removing from the oven. Place on wire racks to cool.
Yield: 3 loaves

Creating Your Own Bread Recipe

There is nothing more satisfying than the aroma of freshly baking bread coming from the oven and wafting through the house. It is like saying welcome without a word being spoken. There really is no mystery to bread baking and it is probably one of the easiest things to do, even though most people may think that baking bread is a really difficult task. Granted, it does take time, but like my Mother used to say, anything worth doing is worth doing well and is well worth the time.
If you can bake a loaf of bread, you can create your own recipe to your own taste buds and preferences. There are just a few things to remember to create a proper loaf. First of all, bread baking is actually a chemical process which involves the use of wheat gluten (flour), yeast for rising, a sweetener to feed the yeast and warm water to provide a moist environment for the yeast and to bind the other ingredients together. Therefore, there are only 4 basic ingredients to making a loaf of bread: flour, yeast, sugar and water. In addition, salt needs to be added for flavor and to keep the yeast from growing too rapidly.
The four basic ingredients plus salt are the only ingredients in your basic French bread. Other ingredients may be added to create different types of bread. For instance, if you add butter and eggs, you will have Challah or Egg Bread. Other ingredients that can be added are fruit, olives, onions, and molasses in place of sugar or honey.
Some of types of flour that are used for bread are: All-Purpose Flour or Bread Flour, Whole Wheat Flour and Rye Flour. Cornmeal can be substituted for some of the flour and oats can be used in bread also.
Yeast comes in dry granulated form and this is the easiest way to use it. It can also be purchased in cake form. The dry yeast is sold in the market in strips of 3 packages. Warehouse type stores also sell yeast in 1 lb packages. If you are going to be doing a lot of baking, the one pound package is the way to go as it is much more economical. Store your yeast in the refrigerator and this will increase its shelf life.
Sweeteners commonly used in bread are sugar, honey, molasses, and malt powder or simply allow the yeast to derive its food from the sugar commonly found in the flour itself.
Liquid provides a growing medium for the yeast and acts as a binder for the other ingredients. The liquid is usually water but can also be milk. Fresh milk needs to be scalded before being used for bread making as the enzymes in the milk will inactivate the yeast and prevent the dough from rising to its full capacity. Evaporated or dried milk can also used instead as the enzymes are already deactivated.
Butter or Oil used in some types of bread, provides moisture and allows for a longer shelf life.
Eggs enrich the dough and also help to lighten it up. Bread made with eggs is not as heavy as that made without.
You can start out by placing a given amount of warm liquid in a large mixing bowl along with the sweetener and the given amount of yeast. Generally in a batch of dough that will require six cups of flour, 1 tbsp or a single package of yeast will be sufficient. Give the yeast about 5 - 10 minutes to proof. You will know if the yeast is alive if it starts to grow and bubble. If the yeast shows no signs of life, discard it and buy some new yeast.
Two to four ounces of butter or about 2 tbsp of Olive Oil may be added to the proofed yeast. Then it is time to start adding the flour. The flour should be added in small increments and mixed in thoroughly before the next addition. You want to end up with soft dough that can be kneaded. If the dough is too stiff, you will not be able to knead it properly and it will be very heavy and not very digestible. Generally, 1 cups of liquid will be enough to absorb about 6 cups of flour.
One thing you should keep in mind when making bread is that not all flours are alike and that the weather affects the absorption rate of flour. When there is a lot of humidity in the air, more flour will be needed and when it is very dry, less flour will be needed.
Once a dough has formed (that is not sticky but is soft enough to knead) then it is time to put it on a floured surface and start kneading it. To knead the dough, you must use the heels of your hands (the firmest portion above the wrist). Start from the top and push with your heels and fold back with your fingers. Never knead with your fingers. First of all, there is not enough strength in your fingers to knead the dough properly and second of all, when you first start kneading the dough it will be soft and ooze up between your fingers, making it a very difficult and messy job. As you are kneading add flour as needed only to keep the dough from sticking. The kneading process will take about 10 minutes. When the dough is sufficiently kneaded, it will be soft and elastic. That is when you press on it, it will immediately return to its original position.
Once you are satisfied that the dough is kneaded properly, place it in a large greased bowl and cover it with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel. Place in a draft-free area and allow it to rise up until it has doubled in bulk. This will take anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours, depending on the warmth of the air surrounding it. On warm days, the dough will rise very quickly and on cool days it will take longer.
Once the dough has risen, punch it down and knead for about a minute. Allow to rest for about 5 minutes and then shape it into a loaf or two, if it is a large amount of dough. Generally speaking 6 cups of flour will make a very large loaf of bread or two smaller ones. The bread can be placed in greased loaf pans that have been sprinkled with cornmeal or can be free-formed on a flat baking sheet. Either way, make sure that the pans are greased or sprayed with a vegetable spray. The cornmeal will act as an interface allowing the bread to be released easily from the pan. It also adds a texture interest to the bread.
Allow the shaped loaf to rise (covered with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel) in a warm place until doubled in bulk. Bake in a 375 degree oven anywhere from 25- 45 minutes depending on the ingredients and the size of the loaf. If you tap the baked loaf on the bottom it should sound hollow when it is done. You can also use an instant read thermometer to test the inside of the bread. It should reach 200 F. when it has finished baking. When the bread is done remove from the oven and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle turn the pan over (loaf pan) and place the bread on a cooling rack to finish cooling. If you bake the bread on a sheet pan, you can removed it with a large spatula.
When slicing hot bread, it is easiest to do it with a hot knife. Your knife blade can be heated by running it under the hot water faucet. However, you should allow your bread to cool for some time before slicing it as hot bread when sliced, may tend to be gummy. Cooling it allows the excess moisture to escape.
Hopefully these instructions will encourage you to try and make your own bread. There is no greater satisfaction than the aroma of fresh bread baking. And when you bite into a slice of fresh bread it is pure heaven!
If you are a novice at bread baking, start out by using All-Purpose Flour as it is the easiest to handle. Once you have gained some experience you can start adding other Flours. Bread Flour is great for bread but is a little more difficult to knead. Bread can also be made in your standing mixer if it has a dough blade or in your food processor. Before using these appliances for bread though, please consult the direction booklet that came with the appliance.
After you have mastered the technique of making bread with All-Purpose Flour or Bread Flour then you can try variations with other types of flour and additional ingredients to give your bread more flavor interest.
Remember that there is a lot of satisfaction in making and baking a loaf of bread. Just the physical exercise alone that is involved in kneading the dough can release a lot of built up tension, something that most people who are in the work force experience from time to time. The pleasure of eating home baked bread straight from the oven is a wondrous experience in itself. Try it and see what happens. If your first try is not to your satisfaction, figure out what you may need to do differently and try it again. The price of the ingredients of a home-baked loaf is about 25% of what a loaf of bakery bread will cost the monetary cost of failure from time to time is rather insignificant.
Just remember that bread baking is a science and that you need to keep the ratio of liquid to dry ingredients such that an edible loaf of bread will be produced.

Get a Bread Machine and Make Your Own Bread!

Bread machines are ideal for those who want homemade bread without the option of having a big oven. They are also called "bread makers" and work as an alternative to traditional ovens. They also knead, mix, and in some cases, preheat the dough before baking. They are made up of a pan with a center paddle closed in a small window or a dome-shaped oven.
The bread of your choice
Almost all kinds of bread machines have a timer and settings for different kinds of bread like whole wheat, rye, and white that come in different sizes, and most can accommodate the standard 1.5-pound loaf. Here are the types of bread machines you can conveniently use in your home:
o Standard bread machine: Ingredients are added manually but there are models that have lap timers to alert you on when you can add the next ingredients. Even if they have less features compared to automatic ones, they offer more precision and control.
o Automatic bread machine: This can be set to add the ingredients on particular times and is capable of mixing at preset speeds. Some models can be programmed for specific recipes, like pastries and simple cakes, and they come with two or more bread pans.
The time and the pan
When shopping for bread machines, check the pan type. Pick a bread machine that has a non-stick pan so you can easily clean and maintain it. You can also choose a pan made of thick-cast aluminium for thicker and browner crusts, or a thin pan for lighter crusts.
Mind the time
The bread machine should be able to bake in 3 hours or less. Remember that some breads may take longer to bake, but they should not be longer than 4 hours. Furthermore, consider the preheating and mixing cycles when checking the baking times.

Cheap Bread Machine

Bread is able to smell and taste really good even when baked in a cheap bread machine. A cheap bread machine is fine to use as long as it works the way you want it to work and performs up to your needs. You do not have to purchase an expensive bread machine to have bread results that taste like it came straight from a deli or bakery. The key is to get a machine that offers the best quality for the money that you will be spending.
There are a few cheap bread machines that will produce a high quality bread loaf. The cheaper ones offer different features and functions but you are sure to find one that meets your cooking habits. Think about what you will want from the bread machine before buying it. Decide if the machine will be able to produce the bread just how you want it. Figure out if you want a machine that can produce small loaves or large ones. A few low cost bread machines are highly rated and can offer great quality bread for the money.
The Toastmaster TBR15 bread machine is one that can be purchased for $40. It comes in a basic and simple design. Its exterior is a white plastic shell with a window for viewing. The controllers are easy to use. The TBR15 is able to make a loaf that is 1.5 pounds, which is a feasible sized loaf for a small family. This bread machine has 8 baking cycles. It also has an audible alert that lets you know when to add any other ingredients you may need, like nuts or fruits.
Sunbeam makes a 5891 bread machine that is around $40. It has 12 baking cycles that includes a jam cycle. The Sunbeam 5891 is a little bit larger than the Toastmaster TBR15, and can make 1.5 pound loaves and 2 pound loaves. It takes one hour for a loaf to bake from start to finish. The Sunbeam 5891 is made up of a white plastic exterior (similar to the Toastmaster TBR15), but it has a style that is a little more attractive than the Toastmaster. Both the Toastmaster TBR15 and the Sunbeam 5891 are the same in how they produce, but the Sunbeam would be the best choice if you wanted more baking cycles and a prettier style.
For just a few dollars more, Oster makes a 5838 ExpressBake bread machine. This is a little nicer than the two mentioned above. The Oster ExpressBake has rounded corners and comes in an oval shape, giving it its sleek appearance. The Oster has 8 baking cycles that include three crust options. In one hour, you can have a delicious loaf from start to finish. It makes a loaf up to 2 pounds. The delay timer is 13 hours with a 60 minute function that keeps the bread warm after it has baked.