Prepare the bread dough: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large mixing bowl, combine the flour and yeast. Add the milk, water, olive oil, honey, apple cider vinegar, and salt. Mix on low speed or by hand until the dough begins to leave the side of the bowl. If time allows, let the dough rest for 25 minutes to allow the liquid to absorb (this makes for the easiest kneading, as it gives the flour time to absorb the moisture from the liquid ingredients).
If using a standing mixer, switch to the dough hook. If kneading by hand, transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface. By hand (lightly oil your hands to prevent sticking) or on medium speed with the mixer, knead the dough for 6 to 8 minutes, or until it is smooth and supple. This dough should be soft, yet still firm enough to knead. If the dough is too sticky at any point, add flour 1 tablespoon at a time. If it is too dry, add water 1 tablespoon at a time. The amount of liquid or flour you need can vary based on the weather, humidity, and the flour’s mood that day.
Place the dough in the center of your work surface (if you’ve been using a mixer, lightly oil the surface first) and shape it into a tight, round ball. Place the dough in the center of a large piece of parchment paper. Using the parchment like handles, transfer the dough to a slow cooker (you can use any size of slow cooker that comfortably holds the dough). Flatten the parchment paper as much as you can against the slow cooker’s bottom and sides.
Cover the slow cooker and turn it to HIGH. Bake for 1 to 2 1/2 hours, until the loaf reaches an internal temperature of 190 to 200 degrees F when tested with an instant read thermometer. The top will feel soft but not spongy or squishy, the bottom will be hard and slightly golden, and the loaf will sound hollow when the bottom is tapped. The cook time will vary depending upon your slow cooker. If it is your first loaf, consider it a bit of a test. Once you know how long your slow cooker needs, every subsequent loaf will be similar.
Remove the loaf from the slow cooker by lifting it out with the parchment. If you’d like to darken or toast its crust, place it under the oven’s broiler for 3 to 4 minutes, watching it VERY carefully so that the bread does not burn
Remove the bread from the oven, and place it on a wire rack. Let cool completely before slicing...or tear right into it and smear it with butter. Your secret is safe with me.
If using dry active yeast, before starting the recipe, heat the 1/4 cup water called for to the temperature specified on the packet (usually it should be bathwater warm, but not hot). Dissolve the yeast in the water and let sit 5 minutes until it’s foamy and increases in size. Add to the recipe as directed.
Store leftover bread tightly wrapped in plastic at room temperature for 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
If your slow cooker is large enough to hold a loaf pan, instead of using parchment paper, you can also shape the dough into a loaf, spray the loaf pan with nonstick spray, place the dough into this loaf pan, then place the pan into the slow cooker. Cook as directed.