Hello and Happy Spring!
It's been a pretty wet one so far around here and I'm more impatient than ever for the sun to show itself a bit more. Perhaps out of desperation, we went to go get ice cream in the rain last weekend, willing warmer weather to come with each spoonful and lick.
In the meantime and until brighter days are here to stay, I'm distracting myself in the kitchen with some new baking projects. Crew is my accomplice. He's all about scooping dry goods into bowls, stirring them up with whisks and wooden spoons, and stealing tastes of the ingredients as we go. I've learned to embrace the chaos and messiness and unpredictability that is baking with a toddler: flour plunked from the bowl and scattered onto the floor like a dusting of snow, baking powder that may or may not have made its way into the batter, and an extra handful of chocolate chips haphazardly tossed in, or more likely, taken out. And yet, no one seems to be complaining about the results around here.
With all the cookies, muffins, and even cakes we've had on repeat as of late, I wanted to look for something a little less sweet and a little more wholesome. Something for breakfast - toast, perhaps. Yes, toast!
This oatmeal bread is inspired by a recipe in one of my favorite baking cookbooks, "Good to the Grain" by Kim Boyce. She has a bakeshop in Portland that I have yet to visit, but I'm highly considering a trip down I-5 for the spring onion croissant alone. I've made some changes to the recipe, adapting things to what we always have in our pantry, and added metric measurements. It's hearty from the whole wheat flour and rolled oats, but the crumb remains soft with just the right chew. And slathered with butter and the best jam you've got? Or maybe even some flaky sea salt?! Yes, yes, and yes.
We also like it smeared with crunchy peanut butter and a drizzle of honey in our house. Almond or sunflower seed butter is nice too. Crew, in particular, favors it this way and shoves it into his mouth with reckless abandon, always (always!) asking for more before he's finished chewing.
Do you ever wake up in the morning and suddenly remember that you have something exciting to eat for breakfast and proceed to dance your way into the kitchen? No? Just me? Well, this bread is one of those somethings.
It really isn't too much trouble if you're going to be around for the better part of a morning or afternoon. You'll just tend to it from time to time while you get other things done. And the moment you smell the fresh bread smells, you'll be convinced. It was worth it.
a really good oatmeal bread // makes 1 loaf
adapted from "Good to the Grain" by Kim Boyce
The original recipe for this bread doesn't include weight measurements. Results can vary remarkably when baking depending on how you fill your measuring cups. I've included weights here, but if you're planning to use cups (especially for the flours), here's how I recommend you go about it: First, take a spoon to stir up and loosen the flour in whatever vessel it's in since it tends to get packed down. Then, to measure, spoon the flour into your measuring cup rather than dunking it in. Fill it until it heaps over the brim, then sweep across the top with the back of a knife to let the excess flour fall back into the container.
Once baked, try to resist the urge to cut into it too soon so the crumb has time to set and the flavor can develop. I know, the struggle is real. I'm a fan of finding the sweet spot - where "cool enough" and "still slightly warm" meet. Be sure to settle in for a good slice right then.
butter for the bowl and pan
3 tablespoons honey
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
325 g / 2.5 cups whole wheat flour
260 g / 2 cups all-purpose flour
110 g / 1 cup rolled oats, plus a bit more for scattering on top
2 oz / 1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tablespoon sea salt
Lightly butter a large bowl and a bread loaf pan about 9x5x3 inches. The dough can also be formed into a boule (round loaf) and baked on a baking sheet.
Measure the honey into the bowl of a standing mixer. Add 2 cups of warm water and sprinkle the yeast on top. Stir on low for 10-20 seconds, then turn off the mixer. Give it one more stir by hand with a wooden spoon, making sure the honey is dissolved and mixed throughout. Set aside, allowing the yeast to bloom for about 10 minutes, until it begins to bubble. (If it doesn't, it may be inactive; throw it out and start over with a new package.)
Measure the flours, oats, and butter into the bowl with the yeast mixture and stir together with a wooden spoon. Cover with a thin towel and let stand for 30 minutes.
Attach the bowl and a bread hook to the mixer. Add the salt and mix on medium speed for 6 minutes. The dough should come together around the hook and slap around the sides of the bowl without sticking to them. If the dough is sticking at any time during the mixing, add a tablespoon or two of all-purpose flour until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be soft, supple, and slightly sticky.
For the first rise, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it a few times. Put the dough into the buttered bowl, cover with a thin towel, and leave it to rise for about 1 hour (or until it is doubled in size).
To shape the dough, scrape the dough back onto the lightly floured work surface (and add more flour if needed). 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 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 thin towel and let it rest in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until the dough rises to half again its size or puffs up 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, if desired.
Bake for about 40 minutes, rotating halfway through. The loaf is ready when the top and bottom crusts are nicely browned. To see if the bread is ready, give the top of the loaf a thump to see if it sounds hollow. If it doesn't sound hollow, give it another few minutes or so. Once pan is cool enough to touch, remove the finished loaf and finish cooling completely on a wire rack.
Note: This is best eaten within a few days, but will keep well at room temperature wrapped up a bit and placed into a paper bag.