It’s been an interesting week over here. For a number of reasons, I’ve decided to part ways with carbs. It had to be done. All of this baking and doughnut making was really starting to show. And since I know nothing of that word moderation, I tend to go all or nothing in terms of my dietary patterns. But we’ll be reunited when I go to New York next month, where I am sure to have my fill of pizza and delicious sweet things.
Of course, before I said goodbye to carbohydrates, I made bread. As I mentioned last week, I’m trying to use some of the flour I’ve accumulated over the last few months. And bread making was an obvious solution.
Aside from the pan de muerto I made in high school for Spanish class (which was very bad), I cannot recall a single bread making experience in all of my years of baking. I’ve always been impressed by people who make bread. Years ago, I had a coworker who made his own bread every week. I thought this was pretty much the coolest thing since sliced bread.
Up until about a month ago, I was really intimidated by bread making and yeasted doughs in general. There was the issue of activating the yeast with just the right temperature of water – too hot and you’ll kill the yeast, too cool and the yeast wont do a thing. Then there’s that whole concept of patience; there is a lot of down time when working with yeasted dough and I tend to like instant results. I was also without a dough hook attachment for my mixer, which I thought was an absolute necessity for successful bread making. So I finally broke down and bought the attachment (a great tool, but not 100% necessary afterall). And I figured out that the whole waiting thing isn’t so bad as long as you busy yourself; run a load of laundry, poke around in the garden, call a friend, do what you’ve gotta do.
Last month’s doughnut making extravaganza really opened my eyes to how magical yeasted dough is. I love the idea of flour and water becoming this living, breathing thing with the addition of yeast. And I really enjoyed working the dough the old fashioned way – you can literally feel it transform beneath your hands into this gorgeous, malleable entity. I realized that if I could make doughnuts, I could make bread.
And since everything on the list of ingredients was sitting in my pantry, I turned around and got to work on this oatmeal sandwich bread. This is another gem from Good to the Grain. It’s made with whole-wheat flour, rolled oats and molasses. The molasses give it a lovely sweet aroma which fills the kitchen as it bakes. The bread is hearty without being too dense and is perfect freshly sliced or toasted. It is an excellent platform for butter and preserves and fantastic in the form of a grilled cheese sandwich, which was my way of abandoning carbs with a bang.
oatmeal sandwich bread
adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce
makes 1 large loaf
butter for the bowl and the pan
1 package active dry yeast
3 tablespoons unsulphured (not blackstrap) molasses
2-1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
1 cup rolled oats
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tablespoon kosher salt
*If you prefer to make this bread by hand, knead the dough for about 15 minutes, adding flour as needed.
Lightly butter a large bowl and a bread loaf pan about 9x5x3 inches. Set aside.
Add 2 cups of warm water, yeast, and molasses to the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir, allowing the yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes, until it begins to bubble. (If it doesn’t, it may be inactive; throw it out and start over with a new package.)
Add the flours, oats, and butter to the bowl with the yeast mixture and stir until combined. Cover with a towel and let stand for 30 minutes. (This gives the flour time to absorb the water, which will yield a moist bread with a better crumb.)
Attach the bowl and the bread hook to the mixer, add the salt, and mix on medium speed for 6 minutes. The dough should slap around the sides without sticking. If the dough is sticking at any time during the mixing, add a tablespoon or two of bread flour until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be soft, supple, and slightly tacky.
For the first rise, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it a few times. Put the dough into the buttered bowl, cover it with a towel, and let it rise for about 1 hour, or until it has doubled in size. (It is ready if a dimple remains after a floured finger is gently pushed into the dough; if the dough springs back, it needs to rise longer.)
To shape the dough, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Press down on the dough, working it toward a square shape while depressing all of the bubbles. Fold the dough down from the top to the middle, then up from the bottom to the middle. Next bring the newly formed top and bottom edges together and pinch the seam in the middle, sealing the seam with your fingers. Pinch the sides together and roll the shaped dough back and forth, plumping it so that it’s evenly formed and about the size of your loaf pan. Place the dough in the pan with the seam side down and press it gently into the corners of the pan.
For the second rise, cover the dough with a towel and let it rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until the dough puffs up barely or just over the edge of the pan. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.
When the dough has finished its final rise, sprinkle the top of the loaf with oats or bran, if desired.
Bake for about 40 minutes, rotating halfway through. The loaf is ready when the top and bottom crusts are dark brown. To see if the bread is ready, give the top of the loaf a thump to see if it sounds hollow. If the hollow sound isn’t there and the bread isn’t quite dark enough, bake for another 5 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan and cool on a baking rack, preferably for a few hours, so that the crumb doesn’t collapse when cut and the flavor can develop.