Bread of the Month: Sowing it simply with oats

OatBread01Of the vast array of grains available to cook and bake with on the market, I continue to return again and again to a favorite — oats. The old standby, the stick-to-your-ribs standard, that reminds one of childhood and the comforting warmth a bowl can bring. So humble, yet versatile. They give a human and a horse something to stand on, and do so deliciously.

One can move the oats beyond the bowl into an array of delicious snacks and bread. At the beginning of a new year, with a multitude of fancy treats behind me, post-holiday, I sought something very simple and hearty as an oatmeal bread. A good, basic yeast bread that would deliver the oat comfort and baking satisfaction I needed.rolledOats01

I found a great-looking bread recipe in “The New York Times Cook Book” (1961) that seemed to have what I was looking for — nothing fancy; no extravagant ingredients needed. And two cups of rolled oats!

Of the oats, there was only one destination. For a number of years now, my parents and I have been huge fans of Bob’s Red Mill, a longtime Oregon company that is a great source of grains and other goodies. I’ve sampled many of Bob’s staggering variety of goods (buckwheat, steel cut oats, barley, wheat flakes, etc., etc.), but my favorite has become his Extra Thick Rolled Oats. Like the oatmeal you always knew and loved, but more of it all…extra texture, extra flavor, extra, extra, good! This would be the oat for my bread.

roundDough01What better way to spend a Sunday morning or afternoon than bread-baking? Set aside that time and reward yourself with the experience. Get the pans ready — this recipe would make three loaves! And with only one package of yeast. Scalded milk, melted shortening, brown sugar. A whir of my steadfast Kitchen Aid got the dough started, and I could have let the machine continue, but this new year to me meant I was supposed to make things happen. I had newfound muscles, so I had at it on the kneading board. Ten minutes later, the dough was on its first rise. It was a stiff dough…ever the doubtful Virgo, I wondered if there would be liftoff.raisedDough01

After two hours in my dark oven, warmed slightly, the dough had doubled as it was meant to do. What a wonder that sometimes things just work out. Believe.

I shaped the toothy dough into three loaves and gave them their time to ascend, as well. Though it was not suggested in the recipe. I gave the loaves a sprinkling of oats on top as an extra grainy flourish.

3Loaves01I did not wait long after the baked loaves had been extracted from the oven before I dug in. What’s better than a day of bread baking? Hot bread eaten directly post-bake…with a little butter. The bread was moist and tender, nuttily flavored by the oats; it crumbled apart a little, steamy and breathing, and butter dripped through its grainy pores onto my eager hand. How can anyone say heaven is very far away?finishedOatBread01

Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Bread
(From The New York Times Cook Book by Craig Claiborne, 1961)
Makes 3 loaves

2 cups milk
2 tablespoons shortening
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 package yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 cups regular rolled oats (not quick cooking)
5 to 6 cups sifted flour

Scald the milk and stir in the shortening, brown sugar and salt. Stir until dissolved and cool to lukewarm.

In a large mixing bowl, soften the yeast in the water. Stir in the lukewarm milk mixture, add the oats and sufficient flour to make a soft dough.

Turn the dough out on a slightly floured board. Knead until smooth and elastic, or about ten minutes; the dough will spring bak when pressed with a finger.

Place the dough in a warm greased bowl, grease the surface, cover and let rise in a warm place (80 degrees) until doubled in bulk, or about two hours; the dough will retain a finger imprint when pressed.

Turn the dough out on a lightly floured board, divide into thirds and shape into loaves. Place the loaves, sealed edges down, in greased 9 x 5 1/2-inch bread pans. Brush the tops with melted shortening, cover and let rise until almost doubled in bulk, about one hour.

Bake in a preheated hot oven (400 degrees) about forty-five minutes.

Remove from pans and cool the baked loaves on racks.

Blogger’s Note: I baked my bread at 375 degrees at the baking time suggested.

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