Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Favorites:
Anne's Oatmeal Toasting Bread Recipe

Anne's Oatmeal Toasting Bread

Welcome to our delicious new series, Friday Favorites, where guest bloggers share their best bread recipes. If you bake a Friday Favorites bread at home, we hope you'll come back and share your experiences with us in the comments section of that post. Click here to find out how you can become a Friday Favorites guest blogger. Happy baking!

Our first Friday Favorites contributor is Anne Willhoit, who lives on Bainbridge Island in Washington state and shares 'recipes, explorations in the home made, and occasional rants' on her wonderful blog about eating locally and sourcing your ingredients close to home, Small Potatoes.

I've been on a quest for the perfect oatmeal bread recipe for awhile. I think that I have finally found it, and now it's the bread that I wake up with every morning.

When we moved to Bainbridge Island, I finally felt like a local the day I casually ordered Blackbird Bakery's toast and jam. All of their pretty pastries out front distract the frugal customer or visiting tourist from the island's best kept secret tradition—oatmeal toast and jam.

I've tried so many different recipes. I've searched the Internet and consulted the ladies at the baking circle. My mom has listened to me rant and even mailed me her best guesses. I've hounded friends who have known people who worked at the bakery. ("All I can tell you," one lady told me, "is that it takes two days.") I've gathered clues, experimented, and really, the only shame in this process is that we've had to eat a lot of just okay toast.

And now, I've stumbled upon the most delicious accident. One morning, I misjudged the time that I had to fix breakfast and had to rush out the door hungry, leaving an almost cooked pot of steel-cut oats on the counter. When I got home it was a gloppy mess, but I hated to waste so many oats. I wondered if there was a bread that could be made with leftover, cooked oatmeal. There, in King Arthur's Whole Grain Baking, was the answer to my quest! The recipe below is a loose adaptation from a recipe titled "Irish Porridge Bread."

While not exactly like Blackbird's, it's delicious enough to hold us over until we can decode their secret. This recipe is now our daily bread—it truly makes mornings better. Toasted with jam or under a fried egg, it really can't be beat.

Anne's Oatmeal Toasting Bread
Makes 1 two-pound loaf or 2 small one-pound loaves

This bread is both hearty and light. More than just a simple vehicle for jam, it could almost be a complete meal. If you omit the vital wheat gluten, it will be tasty but will crumble all over your toaster. [Editor's note: Gluten is the mix of proteins in flour that provides the structure and texture of bread. It does this by forming long strands as you knead the dough. Because there is a substantial quantity of oats—which do not contain gluten—in this recipe, adding some vital wheat gluten helps this bread hold its shape. Look for vital wheat gluten—also sometimes called gluten flour—in the bulk section of natural foods stores.]

To make fresh 'porridge':
Bring 1½ cups (12 oz.) water to a simmer. Add 1/2 cup (3 oz.) steel-cut oats. Simmer on low, covered, for about 25 minutes.

For the bread:
1½ cups / 5 oz leftover steel-cut oatmeal, room temperature
4 Tablespoons / 2 oz unsalted butter
1/4 cup / 2 oz light brown sugar
1¼ teaspoons / .25 oz salt
1 cup / 3.65 oz raw old-fashioned (not quick) rolled oats
1/4 cup / 1.2 oz oat bran
2 cups / 10 oz bread flour
1/4 cup / 1.2 oz nonfat dry milk (If you prefer to make your porridge with milk, omit this.)
2 Tablespoons / .5 oz vital wheat gluten
2 teaspoons / .25 oz instant yeast

1. Melt the butter and stir in the brown sugar and salt. Stir this into the leftover porridge.

2. Put the rolled oats, oat bran, bread flour, dry milk, vital wheat gluten, and yeast in a large bowl.

3. Stir in the porridge mixture.

4. Knead by machine or hand for about 10 minutes. This is a very sticky dough. You may need to add more flour so that you can move from sticky towards tacky, which is desirable.

5. Place the dough in a clean oiled bowl. Cover with a cloth, and let the dough rise for 1 hour.

6. Flour a work surface. Gently flour the dough and fold over about four times. Dust with flour if the dough is sticking to your hands. (If making multiple loaves, divide the dough now into equal pieces.)

7. Fold the dough in half, pinch the seam, and gently roll into a loaf shape the length of your pan. The dough will be stiff. If needed, pinch the seam with moistened fingers.

8. Place in greased loaf pans. You want the ends of the loaf to touch the short ends of your pan (so it will rise evenly.)

9. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and a towel. Let dough rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

10. Dust the top with oat bran, if you like.

11. Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes.

—To double the recipe and make 2 loaves, start with: 3 cups water and 1 cups uncooked oats. This will result in 3 cups of cooked oatmeal, which is your goal.

—If you've made fresh oatmeal, go ahead and stir the butter, brown sugar, and salt into it. Cool your oatmeal down to below 120°F, before proceeding with the recipe.

—This bread freezes well. Defrost overnight in the refrigerator to retain moisture.

Knead more bread? Check our recipe index for links to all the recipes posted on A Year in Bread.



Blogger Janet said...

I live in Utah and have baked breads for years. I find that I must never use the suggest amount of flour no matter which recipe or method I am following. I tried Susan's Farm House White recently. I was determined to follow her recipe and instructions precisely but after adding 4 of the 6 cups of flour the recipe calls for, my dough was so stiff that I could barely knead it any longer.

This is a problem I have with every bread recipe. My theory is that since the humidity in Utah is nearly non-existent, my flour must be very dry. Therefore, it absorbs a lot more fluid than for bakers in more humid climates.

Does this make sense to you? Can you suggest how much extra liquid I might add in order to get better results?


9/11/2009 1:35 PM  
Blogger Diane said...

Janet, don't feel compelled to use all the flour called for. Most bread recipes call for a range of amounts anyway. The reason is because of the uncontrollable variations in the flour dryness.
With your experience, if the breads typically are dry with the minimum amount called for in the recipe, then pull back on adding the flour at a cup shorter than the minimum amount, gradually adding tablespoons of flour until you get the consistency you seek.
It's much easier to use less flour than try to add moisture once the dough is too dry.
If I may suggest, go to your local library or bookstore and look for books by Richard Bertinet and read about his techniques. Once you try them, you'll be amazed at how much less flour you'll use and still get a good product!

9/13/2009 10:52 AM  
Blogger Janet said...

Diane - thanks for you response. I have always used less flour than called for - trouble is that then I end up with skimpy loaves. I want to see those nice high loaves like Susan's pictures of her White Farm Bread. I think I'll try adding more liquid initially to see if I get a better result. My goal is always to keep the dough as soft as possible and still knead the dough without it sticking. This seems to give me a nice loaf.

9/14/2009 9:16 AM  
Blogger Farmgirl Susan said...

Hi Janet,
Sorry for the delay getting back to you. It definitely sounds like your flour is 'drier' than many other bakers' because of your non-humid location (oh, I do envy you! :).

It's funny you brought this up right now because after I posted Anne's Oatmeal Toasting Bread recipe (which I haven't had a chance to try yet) I e-mailed her to double check that there wasn't supposed to be any liquid besides the water you cook the oats with. It sounded like the dough wouldn't be very wet, though she said it was actually sticky - which made me think about her location in Washington state. Same place Beth is - and back when we first started A Year in Bread and were sharing pizza dough recipes, we realized that Beth's flour is a lot wetter than most peoples'. She explained in her post how her pizza dough is really wet, but when other bakers around the country tried it, it wasn't very wet at all. She ended up putting up a second post about her pizza dough explaining this, which you can read here.

And while what Diane said about not feeling compelled to use all the flour called for in a bread recipe is true - I almost always start out using a cup or two less flour than what's called for when making any dough because, as Diane also pointed out, it's a lot harder to add moisture later on - in your case it makes sense that you're going to end up with a lot less finished dough than expected since you're using so much less flour.

Since you're having the same problem with every bread recipe you try, I would definitely start using more liquid than called for right from the get go. How much you'll need will depend on the recipe and you'll just need to do some experimenting. But don't be afraid to add a fair amount of extra liquid - it won't mess up the recipe, and if your dough is too sticky you can simply add more flour.

For my Farmhouse White Bread recipe. I would start out using at least an extra cup of milk - maybe even a little more - and see if you're able to use all the flour.

Also, one of the ways I get those nice tall loaves is to cram LOTS of dough into smaller pans. My sandwich loaves are typically over 2 pounds each (which is huge by many standards), and I bake them in 8-inch bread pans. Many people use 9-inch pans. I've been meaning to share some photos I took a while back comparing two loaves of baked bread - same size but one in an 8-inch pan and one in a 9-inch. They look completely different! The bigger pan gives you a shorter loaf that is more of a perfect rectangle, which some people prefer, while we like the rustic, homemade look of the taller 'mushroom' loaves. And they make really big sandwiches, which we also love. : )

I hope this helps. And I hope if you experiment with the Farmhouse White recipe you'll come back and let us know how it went. Happy baking!

9/15/2009 2:02 PM  
Blogger Jen Ace said...

Hi there,

Thanks for this series, and for the interesting discussion on this thread. I too am fascinated by those beautiful dome-shaped loaves, and I cannot for the life of me figure out the secret. As soon as my bread crests the pan it "mushrooms" over, creating a lip that is hard to force into a sandwich bag and which also means that if the bread sticks in the pan at all, I practically have to force the top off the loaf to get a knife down the inside of the pan. My bread tastes great, but I want pretty loaves! Can anyone help? Is my dough too wet - the opposite of Janet's problem?



9/23/2009 10:49 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

I just had to comment - this bread got me RAVE reviews. It's maybe the best bread I (and all my friends) have EVER eaten - and that's no exaggeration. I'm still a novice breadbaker and I found this easy. Totally recommend... it is DELICIOUS!

10/31/2009 1:11 PM  

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