Monday, April 2, 2012

Oatmeal Bread

I set out to bake and compare two different recipes for oatmeal sandwich bread, one that called for soaking the oats in hot water, the other for toasting the oats and kneading them into the dough without soaking. This will end up being a shorter story than it could have been because the attempt at the toasted-oat version resulted in something resembling a brick more than a loaf (although it tasted pretty good.) The other recipe, which I adapted from Whole Grain Breads by Machine or Hand by Beatrice Ojakangas, however, was wonderful.

This recipe also utilizes what I call the mini-starter method, which I learned from Ojakangas’s book and now use in most of my bread baking. This involves mixing only part of the flour, and in this case the oats, with the wet ingredients and allowing the resulting batter to stand for about 30 minutes to encourage yeast growth and develop some additional flavor. While Ojakangas adds the salt to the mini-starter, however, I leave it out until I’m ready to knead in the rest of the flour. Salt does inhibit yeast growth, and I tend to have good results when I let the yeast grow uninhibited in the mini starter.

Yeah, big deal. Technical, technical, technical. But how does it taste? I’d have to say that this was one of the nicest loaves of bread I’ve ever made, and I make bread on a weekly basis. The texture was nice and soft, great for sandwiches, and the flavor was subtly grainy from the little bit of whole wheat flour and, of course, from the oats. Those oats become very well incorporated in the dough, and do not show themselves in the bread, but you can smell them and you can taste them. The flavor they brought along was enough for me, anyway, and I’ve been crazy about oats lately.

One thing I did learn from the toasted oat bread attempt was that the smell of toasted oats is absolutely wonderful and they add a delightful aroma and flavor to bread. I’m thinking I could probably toast the oats in this bread recipe before soaking them in the boiling water to add even more flavor. And speaking of flavor, how about turning this into a cinnamon raisin bread? Or adding some oats to a dinner roll or sweet roll recipe?

I’m going to need to buy more oats!

Oatmeal Sandwich Bread
Adapted from Whole Grain Breads by Machine or Hand by Beatrice Ojakangas

Adding the egg wash and sprinkling the top of the loaf with oats is optional, but looks nice and announces that there are oats in the bread. Using an egg wash gives baked goods a nice shiny, brown crust, but I usually only do it if I have some place I’m going to use the rest of the beaten in the next day or so.

1/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (try toasting them?)
1 cup boiling water
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (a ¼ -ounce envelope)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons dry milk powder
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/3 cups bread flour, divided
1 teaspoon salt
egg wash (egg beaten with a little water), optional
additional oats for sprinkling on top of the loaf, optional

1. Place the 1/3 cup oats in a large bowl or in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Pour the boiling water over the oats and let stand until the mixture has cooled to 100-115 F, 15-20 minutes. If the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast.

2. Stir the yeast into the oat mixture. Let stand for about 5 minutes or until the yeast is foamy.

3. Add the butter, honey, dry milk powder, whole wheat flour, and 1 cup of the bread flour. Mix to get a thick batter. Cover the bowl with a towel and let the batter stand for about 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, the mixture should be bubbly and puffy.

4. Stir in the salt. Using the dough hook with the stand mixer (or turning out the dough on a floured surface if kneading by hand) knead the dough, adding the remaining 1 1/3 cup bread flour a little at a time. Knead about 10 minutes adding as much flour as it takes to form a smooth, stretchy dough. Add additional flour if the dough is still sticky. If the dough is already becoming dry and stiff and you still have ¼ cup flour left or more, sprinkle in a teaspoon of water or so as needed.

5. Spray a large bowl with nonstick cooking spray or oil or butter it. Shape the kneaded dough into a smooth ball and place it in the greased bowl. Spray, oil or butter the top of the dough ball and place a piece of plastic wrap on top. Cover the bowl with a towel and let stand to rise about 1 hour or until about doubled in size.

6. Gently deflate the dough and form it into a new ball. Let stand a few minutes. Spray an 8” by 5” bread pan with cooking spray or oil or butter it. Shape the dough into a loaf and place it in the prepared pan. Cover with a towel and let stand about 1 hour, or until the dough has risen a few inches above the rim of the pan.

7. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 F. Brush the risen loaf lightly with egg wash if desired. Sprinkle oats on top of the egg wash if desired. Bake at 375 F for about 35 minutes or until golden brown and the loaf tests done (sounds hollow when tapped, has reached an internal temperature of 200 F, etc.). Remove the bread from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes 1 8-inch loaf.

Other recipes like this one: Wheat Sandwich Bread, Overnight Granola Bread, Multigrain Baguette

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