I won’t be posting over the holiday weekend — and I’m sure many of you will have better things to do, anyway — so I thought I’d share my favourite bread recipe today. It makes great turkey sandwiches, in case you needed a bread for such a thing. Though I can’t imagine why you would.
In the last couple of years, I’ve gotten really into bread making. I’d played with it during a brief period of unemployment in the 90s, and discovered that bread is a great thing to make when you’re home a lot and don’t have much money. It’s cheap, it lets you take out your frustrations on a defenseless lump of dough, and at the end you have, well, bread, something you’d have had to buy, anyway. You may not always achieve greatness, you may not make a loaf for which the clouds part and choirs of angels sing, but unless you screw up spectacularly (an incident with tbsp/tsp abbreviations and some salt comes to mind; we’ll say no more about that), you will end up with something edible.
Once again, I find myself at home for vast stretches of time, and so have gotten back into bread making. I’d been trying to find a homemade, largely whole grain loaf that everyone in the house would eat. (Himself is not anti-whole grain, but he is anti-doorstop, which is how a lot of homemade whole grain bread turns out). After much experimentation and tweaking, I came up with this recipe, which turns out a fairly lofty bread that is still at least 3/4 whole grain. I usually do the initial mix while my tea is steeping; by the time it’s ready for the next step, I’ve had enough caffeine to be competent to deal with sharp objects like bread dough.
Honey Oat Bread (makes one 8×4 loaf)1 egg, lightly beaten 1 c water 2 tbsp olive oil (preferably not extra-virgin — you can use any neutral-tasting oil, really) 1 c rolled oats (not instant or quick-cooking) 2 c whole wheat flour 1 tsp fine kosher salt 1/4 c honey** 2 tsp instant yeast approx. 1 c white bread flour (in Canada, where the flour is harder, regular white all purpose flour will work, too)
Mix together all ingredients except the yeast and the white flour to make a sort of wet paste. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave in a warm place* for about an hour (you can leave it on the counter for up to 24 hours if you want, but an hour is fine). (This allows the whole grains to soften, which helps stop them cutting away at your gluten strands when you go to knead the dough.)
With the white flour, heavily flour your work surface. Scrape the nascent dough on to the flour and knead in the yeast, along with enough flour to make a fairly stiff but still tacky dough. (You want to work the bulk of the white flour in right at the beginning, or the kneading process will become bloody endless.) Let rest for 5 minutes. (While you’re waiting, you can wash your bowl and lightly coat it with oil.) Knead dough for approximately 15 minutes, working in a bit more white flour if necessary, until it almost passes the windowpane test (a tear or two is fine; no windowpane areas means more kneading). Shape the dough into a round thusly, and put the ball in your clean, lightly oiled bowl, flipping once or twice to get a fine coating of oil on the dough. Cover the bowl with your damp tea towel (you may need to re-dampen it) and return to a warm, draft-free place until doubled in volume — about 1 to 1.5 hrs.
Thoroughly grease an 8×4 loaf pan. Press dough down, and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into a loaf like so and place in your loaf pan, pressing it down so it fills the pan sort of evenly. Cover with a lightly greased piece of plastic wrap and let rise until it’s about 1.5 inches/3.8cm above the edge of the loaf pan, approximately 45 minutes to an hour. About half an hour into the second rise, preheat the oven to 350F/175C.
When loaf has risen, bake for about 40 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when you rap the bottom. (You may want to pull it out of the pan and let it bake panless for the last five minutes.) Allow to cool completely before slicing.
*For a warm place, I usually set the oven to its lowest setting, then turn it on for about a minute. If you have a gas oven, the pilot light should keep it warm enough without turning the thing on.
** Correction: Somehow I forgot the honey when I originally posted this recipe. It’s there now. Thanks to Ravelry’s KarenFM for pointing that out, and deepest apologies to anyone who was left wondering why their honey-less bread came out a bit weird. And had no honey in it, despite the name. *facepalm*