Growing up, grocery store bread was a banned product in my house. My mom baked wonderful bread every week. At the time I thought that was terribly unfair and I wanted my sandwich bread to look the same as everyone else’s at lunch time. There’s no accounting for taste in children! When I moved out on my own, I bought bread from the grocery store because I had never bothered to learn how to make it myself. But after a year or so of that, I’m trying to eliminate our need to buy grocery store bread. It all started after I found half a loaf of bread that had gotten lost on top of the fridge for at least a month. When I found it, it hadn’t molded one little bit. Gross! Food should go bad. So my occasional loaf of Cook’s Illustrated American Sandwich Bread has turned into weekly bread baking.
In all reality, I actually have to bake more bread than I ever bought, because homemade bread gets eaten much more quickly. But I’ve also discovered that I absolutely love bread baking. It’s so relaxing and fun, and the final product is so delicious, that I really look forward to it. It took me a few tries, but I’ve finally found a recipe for oatmeal bread (my favorite) that I love enough to share. No surprise, it’s from the King Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion, and it’s fantastic.
This bread is slightly sweet, from both maple sugar and honey, and I think it makes a great sandwich. John disagrees a little, because he finds it too sweet, but we can both agree that it is wonderful toasted with a bit of butter or jam. It was also lots of fun to make. There was a little more dough than my mixer could handle, so I had to knead it by hand. It took me a few minutes to get into the swing of things, but once I did I remembered that kneading bread is really kind of fun. This recipe makes two loaves of bread, so I froze one before baking it, and was able to have a nice fresh loaf of bread with dinner one night this week. I just thawed it in the fridge during the day and set it out to rise when I got home. It didn’t rise quite as well as the other one did, but it was still delicious.
Vermont Oatmeal Maple-Honey Bread
I think that oatmeal bread with oats on top is pretty, so I brushed the top of the loaf with an egg wash and sprinkled oats on top. Totally your call.
1 cup thick oat flakes (rolled oats)
1/2 cup maple sugar or brown sugar (Not sure if this is what they meant, but I made maple sugar the same way you would make brown sugar, by adding 2 tablespoons of maple syrup to a cup of sugar.)
1/2 teaspoon maple flavor (optional)
1 tablespoon honey
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
In a large mixing bowl, combine the water, oats, maple sugar, maple flavor, honey, butter, salt and cinnamon. Let cool to lukewarm.
Add the yeast and flours, stirring to form a rough dough. Knead (about 10 minutes by hand, 5 to 7 minutes by machine) until the dough is smooth and satiny. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let the dough rise for 1 hour; it should double in bulk.
Divide the dough in half and shape each half into a loaf. Place the loaves in two greased 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 bread pans. Cover the pans with lightly greased plastic wrap (or a proof cover) and allow the loaves to rise until they’ve crowned about 1 inch over the rim of the pan, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350. Bake the loaves for 35 to 40 minutes. Remove them from the oven when they’re golden brown and the interior registers 190 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.