Japanese

Weekend Bread: Rice Cooker Edition

Your house will smell like a Japanese bakery.

April 30, 2020
Photo by James Ransom

Like you, I have a lot more time on my hands right now. When I’m not writing from whichever corner of my Brooklyn apartment I decide to cram a chair into, I’m in the kitchen trying to cook or bake my anxiety away. Or, I’m watching TV; I just finished binging the 2004 anime, Yakitate!! Japan.

The show follows Kazuma Azuma, a baker aspiring to create a national bread for Japan. Because his hands are supernaturally warm, they yield better-, quicker-fermented loaves that continually beat out his competitors’ (spoiler alert). Every episode outdoes the last, with Azuma baking increasingly outlandish recipes whose deliciousness (literally) transport his competitors and critics to another world.

In one episode, Azuma explains to the viewer how to make bread in a rice cooker. The show does occasionally offer baking techniques and tips, but this was its first and only full recipe (one that even caught the New York Times food reporter Julia Moskin’s eye, back in 2008). Because it’s cooked in a rice cooker, the bread looks nothing like the crusty sourdough loaves currently populating our feeds. It’s puffy, rounded from being cooked inside the rice cooker bowl insert.

Part curious, part skeptical—and, with nothing better to do—I decided to bring Azuma's rice cooker bread into my own, real-life kitchen.

This past weekend, I cued up the scene, got my ingredients ready, and pressed play. I kneaded everything together right in the bowl, as the show instructed. Sadly, my hands did not glow from warmth like Azuma’s, but my normal-temperatured hands seemed to suffice. After the first rise, the instructions said to drop the dough from a height of 50 centimeters, so I took out measuring tape to drop it at precisely that height (I know, a bit tedious, but I didn’t want to leave anything up to chance). It landed into the bowl with a loud thud. I assessed the damage: The dough seemed to not only survive its fall, but was properly degassed.

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Top Comment:
“I just don't get having/using a rice cooker. There are so many gadgets hanging around my kitchen; don't need another one. Bought one once and promptly gave it away. I turn out perfect rice every time with a saucepan and a kitchen timer. And I've done so many times with all different types of rice. My current go-to is jasmine rice and coconut milk. And I bake a weekly loaf of sourdough in my Zojirushi bread machine.”
— Kathleen
Comment

After one more hour of undisturbed rising, the dough was ready for its first of three one-hour cooking sessions. At the end of each round, you have to flip the bread over to help it cook evenly. My rice cooker plays a little jingle once it’s done, so each time I heard the music start, I popped the lid—releasing a cloud of milky-bread steam—and gingerly flipped the light brown loaf.

My apartment filled with the aromas of a Japanese bakery. When I opened the rice cooker, I gasped. The bread looked like a very thick, tall pancake. The five-hour anime recipe was a success! It looked similar to the one I saw on TV but not as glossy. I cut a slice off the massive pancake-monster and smeared it with butter—it tasted like a pillowy, heavenly dinner roll.

I’m now on the hunt for a new anime (would love your suggestions in the comments below!), though I still think about that rice cooker bread often. It wasn’t the prettiest or most delicious thing I’ve made, but it was a wonderful, much-needed five-hour break from our world. I think I’m going to make it again this weekend, to try and outdo my last.


Rice Cooker Bread Recipe

I made this in a 5.5-cup rice cooker but a 3-cup one will work, too! If using the latter, I'd recommend decreasing the recipe by 25 percent just to be safe.

Makes 1 loaf

  • 5 grams (1 1/2 scant teaspoons) active dry yeast
  • 180 grams (3/4 cup) warm water
  • 350 grams (2 1/2 cups) bread flour
  • 21 grams (1 1/2 tablespoons) butter
  • 21 grams (1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons) sugar
  • 35 grams (2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) milk
  • 6.5 grams (1 teaspoon) salt
  1. In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix together warm water and yeast. Let bloom for 5 minutes.
  2. Take the rice cooker bowl out of the rice cooker. In it, mix the bread flour, sugar, salt, milk, and yeast mixture with your hands. After it comes together, knead in the bowl until no extra flour remains, about 3 minutes.
  3. Hold the dough ball in one hand, while you press butter into its center. Fold the dough around the butter until it’s enclosed. Knead it in the rice cooker bowl until the dough no longer is sticky and forms a round, another 3 to 5 minutes.
  4. Wipe the inside of the rice cooker bowl clean, and place the dough back in. Cover, and let rise in a warm area for 1 hour.
  5. Once risen, lift out the dough ball and drop it from a height of 50 centimeters (around 20 inches) to degas. Cover and let rest in a warm area for another hour.
  6. Place the bowl back into the rice cooker and cook for 1 hour by using the time-setting mode.
  7. After the first “bake,” flip the round and cook for another hour in the rice cooker. Flip and repeat for 1 more hour (for a total of 3 1-hour sessions).
  8. Unmold the bread and let cool for 5 minutes. Enjoy while warm.

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    Kathleen
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    Claudia T
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    mdelgatty
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Food writer, recipe developer, おにぎり fangirl.

38 Comments

Kathleen May 16, 2020
I just don't get having/using a rice cooker. There are so many gadgets hanging around my kitchen; don't need another one. Bought one once and promptly gave it away. I turn out perfect rice every time with a saucepan and a kitchen timer. And I've done so many times with all different types of rice. My current go-to is jasmine rice and coconut milk. And I bake a weekly loaf of sourdough in my Zojirushi bread machine.
 
Madeline O. May 20, 2020
Like many kitchen appliances, not everything is meant for everyone.
A rice cooker provides an easy, almost fool-proof way to prepare rice with just the push of a button. No watching, no worry.
In addition, with a small bit of effort, a rice cooker can prepare a great many other foods, at the push of a button.
Many people do not have the time or luxury to spend in a kitchen preparing food.
My neighbors recently had a baby. I gave them a rice cooker, along with "The Pot," a book about some of the many ways to use it. The wife called me a couple days ago to thank me for it, saying it not only makes cooking easier for her, she's a bit better cook!

Just because YOU don't "get" other people liking or using something not in YOUR sphere of interest, doesn't mean they have little to no value.
FYI, I like to bake bread in MY Zojirushi Rice Cooker...
Different strokes for different folks...
 
Claudia T. May 16, 2020
The anime looks fun and I'm looking forward to trying this!
Is the picture at the top a picture of the bread in the recipe? It definitely looks like a normal baked boule, not a soft steamed pancake as described. Really hope you update this with pictures of the actual recipe!!
 
Fiona May 16, 2020
could you update the recipe with the rice cooker temp? Is it just on rice setting? *there is a comment below about Rice setting burning to black in 15 mins....... My rice cooker has multiple settings: rice, congee, soup & keep warm. Thank you!
 
Annette M. May 15, 2020
What about a 10 cup rice cooker?
 
mdelgatty May 15, 2020
I have a mini Instant Pot on order, and if it ever arrives, this may be the first thing I make in it!
 
barbara May 15, 2020
Do you still put water in the bottom of the rice cooker while cooking the bread?
 
June Y. May 15, 2020
Can I use instant yeast, and just add it directly to the flour and sugar, then add the warm water?
 
Lefthandedjimi May 15, 2020
In theory,a crock pot will work the same on low...if not entirely cooked,higher setting for slightly less time...say 50mins per turn...
 
Joan D. May 15, 2020
How about an InstantPot? is that similar to a one button rice cooker and so not a good idea?
 
jeannette May 15, 2020
Can you substitute crock pot for rice cooker?
 
cosull03 May 6, 2020
My Hero Academia is top anime right now. For a classic, go Inuyasha!
 
mdelgatty May 15, 2020
Oooh - my grandee Jamie is a big fan, and I've been meaning to check it out - tnx for the reminder!
 
Melissa B. May 6, 2020
Another charming food themed anime is Sweetness and Lightning! Lovingly animated Japanese home cooking and long minutes dedicated to just people blissfully eating good food together.
 
ImaG May 5, 2020
Hi! My Zojirushi rice cooker has 4 settings: white, sushi, porridge and brown – which one to use with this recipe? I'm guessing "brown." Thanks!
 
GigiR May 3, 2020
Food theme series: Tokyo Diner
(Midnight stories) In the more recent series, the recipe is often given for the dish that is part of the episode. Its simple Japanese food. Charming and heartfelt themes.
 
Kevin J. May 16, 2020
That show is great. By the way, it’s Midnight Diner in English, Shinya Shokudo in Japanese.
 
Kit B. May 3, 2020
If you want to stick with the food theme for anime, have you seen Shokugeki no Soma (or "Food Wars")? We're watching it right now and it's a constant source of delight and inspiration. :D
 
Sandi Z. May 3, 2020
What can you use in place of a rice cooker? I try not to purchase single use appliances due to very limited counter space.
 
Coral L. May 3, 2020
Hi Sandi! This no-knead bread is similar in difficulty/effort, and comes together in an oven: https://food52.com/recipes/69714-alexandra-stafford-s-no-knead-peasant-bread

A rice cooker is much like other multi-purpose cooking appliances (IP, slow cooker, etc.), though a rice cooker has a nonstick-coated bowl. This recipe could work in one of those options as well, though it may be difficult to cleanly unmold the bread when done.
 
Sandi Z. May 3, 2020
Thank you. Perfect for a family of two!
 
Lefthandedjimi May 15, 2020
Anything a rice cooker can do...a crock pot can do better on the low setting,if not,higher setting and decrease the time slightly🙂
 
Jennifer G. May 1, 2020
Would this work in an induction rice cooker, too?
As for anime... My Hero Academia FTW
 
Coral L. May 3, 2020
Hi Jennifer! I don’t see why not — in fact, I think an induction machine may even provide better browning/more uniform cooking. Definitely check for progress after each 60-minute session, but you may not need to flip!
 
cosull03 May 6, 2020
Hero Academia>>>>
 
Shilpa May 1, 2020
I try to make this today with same quantity. I hope it would come out as delicious as it showed :)
 
Madeline O. May 1, 2020
What a WONDERFUL project!
For those without yeast, who have Sourdough Starter,
100 g. active starter (halfway between feedings)
250 g. flour
150 g. water
Rest of the recipe is unchanged.
Your first proof may take longer 2 hours may not be a surprise.
 
Melissa B. April 30, 2020
My rice cooker doesn't have a timer setting, just an on button (it turns off automatically when the rice is fine). Could I still make this recipe? I'm a little desperate for alternative baking methods since our electric oven fried its circuit board...
 
Coral L. May 3, 2020
Hi Melissa! Yes, just shut the rice cooker off manually after 60 minutes, flip, and repeat twice.
 
Melissa B. May 6, 2020
Update: DO NOT ATTEMPT with a single button rice cooker... I think it might work if you just leave it on off/warm and don't hit "cook"... it burned pitch black in the first 15 minutes and the rice cooker doesn't turn on anymore. 😭😭 On the upside, the top half that's not burned is a really lovely texture, so it seems like a great recipe.
 
Radesh May 17, 2020
I have a similar type of Rice Cooker. Warm and Cook option only. When I started I set it to cook and it switched to warm in 6 mins. I thought I should remain in the cook position and felt clever when I used a tape to keep it in the position. Big Mistake! In about 3 mins I could smell the dough burning. This attempt is ruined. Next time I am going to leave it at the warm setting. Do you have any advice for folks with older rice cookers?
 
Radesh May 17, 2020
Wish I had read this before my attempt. Burnt bottom here