So it's lunchtime, and you feel like a sandwich. But you have no bread. And, you're in the middle of the woods in your van. Or you're cruising on your free yacht. In any case, you don't have a bread, or an oven. It happens more often than you'd think.
Or - maybe you'll find you like the "crumb" of this bread better than most homemade bread, (crumb is what bread nuts call the inside of the bread, as opposed to the crust). Steamed bread has a moist and springy crumb, much like a store-bought bread would be if it hadn't gone stale on the shelf.
Sure you could have brought some stale slices from the store - but nothing beats real, fresh bread you made yourself!
A stove of some sort
A pressure cooker
A "trivet" or "steamer" - that's the little rack in the middle - that will fit in the pressure-cooker
A small pot, that will fit inside the pressure cooker
A bread dough that will fit in your pot (mine is 1lb), ready for the final rise.
This is a baking technique instructable - there's plenty of info on making bread out there. If you're trying this at home and have a bread machine, you can cheat and make one on the dough cycle - that's what I did for this instructable, oh lazy me!
Step 1: Get the Dough in There
Stuff the dough into your pot. Go ahead, squash it down so it fits nice and tight. Be sure the pot is big enough, because we are going to let it rise one more time.
This dough, for the record, is a French bread dough with 75% white, 25% rye.
Step 2: Prepare Cooker for Steaming
Fill the pressure cooker with enough water to steam for 20 minutes. Usually between 1/2" to 3/4" of water in the bottom will do it.
Put the trivet in, then the bread pan. A camping pot-holder is very valuable for putting in a pot that is just barely small enough to fit through the opening.
Cover the top with the lid to keep the bread moist. There is no need to tighten it, as the bread will be rising for 30 minutes in here.
Step 3: Rise
Allow the bread to rise with the lid on (no heat!) for about 30 minutes, or however long your dough calls for the final rise.
Take a look. It will look dome-y. Time to bake! Uhh... steam.
Step 4: Steam the Bread for 20 Minutes at Pressure
The real business!
Seal your cooker lid on and crank up the heat. Once the cooker has reached full pressure, set your timer for 20 minutes, and turn it down to the minimum heat required to maintain full pressure.
"Loaf" about for 20 minutes. Um, sorry for that one. This requires almost no attention short of making sure it doesn't boil dry or drop from pressure.
If it stops hissing, run and remove it from heat immediately! It most likely has boiled dry, as this is the only risk during steaming. Pressure-cookers are aluminum and can melt! Cool it quickly by throwing it in a lake or running cold water over it.
When 20 minutes is up, remove it from heat and blow the steam by tilting the valve (or whatever your manual recommends). Please, don't burn yourself, and don't do this inside a vehicle as the volumes of steam released will cause a serious condensation problem.
Look, bread! The moist cooking and the rapid pressure drop at the end of cooking can cause a relatively large "oven spring" or increase in bread size.
Step 5: Slice and Eat!
The bread will feel kind of sticky on top at first, and might look a bit slimy. If you've ever made bagels, well, that's what it looks like.
Once it's cooled enough, it should come out of the pan and slice easy enough. Mine looks like a huge, funny bagel-muffin.
While a bit odd-looking on the outside, it looks just like any other bread inside and is just as tasty. Also, it has no crusts for those who dislike them.
I ate mine with a pressure-cooker broccoli sweet-potato stew and some oil and vinegar. Enjoy!
An amazing variety of things can be steamed in a pressure-cooker. I hope I've encouraged people to experiment with this often-ignored kitchen tool - I use mine every day!
A warning: This cooker is made of anodized aluminum, which is inert, harder than stainless, very easy to clean, and will not dissolve/leach into your food.
Many are made of ordinary, shiny metallic aluminum. These slowly dissolve into your food, particularly if it is acidic, destroying the pot and potentially your health... also things stick to them like mad. I would highly recommend getting an anodized aluminum cooker if you are thinking of purchasing a pressure cooker.
Step 6: Appears Like You Can Bake Any Kind of Bread!
Today I baked Sourdough for the first time. It was pretty good!
I cooked some in the oven and one in the pressure-cooker to see what would happen.
The oven breads were cooked at 450F for 10 min, then 425F for 15 more.
The pressure bread was cooked at pressure for 15 min.
Note the much more open crumb of the pressure bread (bottom slice). It really does allow for much better spring, though you sacrifice the crispy crust, which is, unfortunately, one of my favorite parts of the sourdough.
You can see it over there at the right of the second pic looking ugly. It tastes good though, it's the same bread without the crust.
Lost crust notwithstanding, it appears I can now bring sourdough with me in my van with nothing but a jar of starter, sack of flour and salt, and that is pretty good news to me!