BMB (Bake More Bread): Oatmeal Loaf

One lucky side effect of my new year’s resolution to bake bread at home may be that it will also help me stay in better shape, too. That’s some workout — kneading dough by hand, or is that just that I’m in such BAD shape now that I’m getting winded by 15 minutes of hand kneading a one pound lump of dough….hmmmm, will think on that some more.

So, the actual resolution was to bake bread twice a month. The Anadama loaves have been completely dispatched, so as I prepared my weekly shopping list yesterday I started to put sandwich bread on the list and then thought, But why? Why not just bake one? Why not, indeed. This loaf will fill January’s quota for bread-baking, but Loaf #3 is already proofing, and the sourdough starter is on Day Five of its journey to becoming a fully blossomed baking leavener, so you know something has to be made with that the day after tomorrow. And we’re still in the first week of the year!

I still don’t have any bread flour (put THAT on the shopping list) so last night I started a dough for Oatmeal Bread using the last of our all-purpose flour instead of the bread flour the recipe specified. And speaking of sourdough starter, as you probably know sourdough is a living thing that has to be fed. And during its infancy it has to be fed and “changed” (excess fermented dough removed) daily. Instead of throwing out the 120g of fermented dough I removed from the sourdough yesterday, I added that to the Oatmeal Bread dough for good measure (in addition to yeast, not to substitute for it). Again, the dough did a slow rise overnight in a fridge-temperature environment (read: the unheated, uninsulated three-seasons room), and I proofed and baked in the morning. Unfortunately, too late for T. to try a slice before he had to catch his train (Sorry, Honey…).

With the substitutions I had made (especially the flour substitution), the final dough was quite stiff even after 4 minutes on the dough hook and 15 minutes of kneading by hand. I probably could have added back all the liquid I took out to compensate for the runny sourdough cast-off (and then some). After baking, we got a nice firm, dense loaf with a thick dark crust. The texture and color of the crust might be a function of the pan I use, which is a stoneware loaf pan. I ate the first slice with nothing more than a few slices of avocado dusted with sea salt and a few twists of black pepper. Scrumptious breakfast! It does have a noticeable tang which I attribute to the sourdough bit.

The bread is much denser than we prefer for a sandwich bread, but it would be perfect to accompany a soup or stew, or in thick slabs as toast, which is how we will probably finish this off. With gobs of unsalted butter and raspberry jam. Or almond butter. Or spinach dip. Or French toast?….

Hope you’re all baking bread out there, too. The Bake More Bread (BMB) posts will all be in the Breadbasket section of the recipe files (woo hoo, we’re up to 3 breads now!)… Next bread up: Coriander-spiked Banana Braid

(Heavily adapted from the King Arthur Flour recipe)
Makes one 1-lb. loaf

1¼ tsp or 1 packet active dry yeast
10oz (296ml) milk, just warm to the touch
12¾oz (362g) all-purpose flour
3½oz (100g) rolled oats (old-fashioned oats)
1½ tsp salt
1oz (28g) unsalted butter
3 TBL (38g) raw sugar
** I used 9 oz of milk and 120g sourdough starter cast-off only because it was there, but if I dare to use cast-off starter again I would keep the full amount of 10oz milk next time

Sprinkle yeast over milk and stir to dissolve.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine flour, oats and salt and stir well to mix. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add butter and sugar, then pour in yeast mixture.

Attach dough hook to mixer, and start on lowest setting to incorporate flour. When threat of flying flour has passed, increase speed to medium high or high, and allow to knead until dough starts to smooth out.

Turn out onto floured table and knead for 10-15 minutes or until dough is elastic and smooth. Bring ends of dough to center to form a ball. Lightly oil a deep bowl and place dough in center. Cover bowl with lightly oiled plastic film and let rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in size. Alternatively, if you want fresh baked bread for breakfast, place bowl in fridge for slower rise, and allow to come back to room temperature in the morning after punching down.

Preheat oven to 350F/180C.

When bread has doubled, punch down then let rest about 15 minutes under a damp cloth or the oiled plastic film. Roll dough into a log and bring ends of log to center and place in loaf pan. Cover pan with oiled plastic film and allow to proof until a firm press on the dough’s surface does not spring back quickly, about 30-45 minutes depending on your room temperature. The recipe directions said to watch for the dough to rise 1″ above the pan rim, but this dough passed the “touch test” before it was 1″ over the rim so I put it in the oven when it passed the touch test. I did not want to “over-proof” the dough which simply means the dough has lost its rising power and will collapse when exposed to heat.

Brush with egg wash and sprinkle with rolled oats — it looks pretty.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow, or (and this was new to me) until an instant read thermometer registers 190F. I tried this with my analog instant read thermometer, but it’s not very reliable so I still went with the tried-and-true bottom-thumping method to gauge when to remove the loaf. Cool loaf on rack before slicing. (I can never wait that long, but maybe you’re more patient!)