Imagine 100% whole grain bread bought from the grocery store: bland, bitter, gross.
Now, I’d like you to completely forget that.
Instead, I’d like you to imagine a bread that’s fluffy, tender, mellow, rich, and complex.
That bread is also 100% whole grain. The difference? It’s been made by hand with a secret ingredient — cooked oatmeal. This bread is outstanding for all purposes but makes a singularly spectacular sandwich — especially when paired with homemade roasted chicken, red leaf lettuce, and tomatoes.
As I write this, there are a couple of loaves rising in the kitchen. I practically start to salivate when I think about the utter sensory bliss that this bread will bring about. I often wonder why I bother making any other recipes at all — this one is that good. It’s even better when you use fancy leftover oatmeal that’s been cooked with cinnamon and buttermilk – the cinnamon complements the bread in a savory way somehow and manages to not remind you at all of sweet cinnamon raisin bread, and the buttermilk conditions the dough to give it a special tenderness. It’s just utterly fabulous and unique – you won’t find anything like it in a bakery!
I first got trapped in this recipe’s tractor beam one day while flipping through my favorite baking book, Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book. Here’s what the author has to say about this particular bread:
“When … made with rolled oats, the bread is light and bright; it has a rich creamy flavor — very subtle, but with great warmth… You get bread good for toast, good for any kind of sandwich. We consider this one of the best basic breads for everyday eating.”
Hear, hear! They speak the truth — this bread performs as advertised! Let me know if you need convincing… you may just end up with a loaf or two on your hands.
100% whole grain oatmeal bread
From Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book
Makes two 8″x4″ loaves
If you tend to cook your oats to the point where they are very thick (like I do), you will need to add a lot more water than the recipe calls for. Absolutely do not skip the 20-minute rest after mixing the ingredients and continually re-assess the stiffness of the dough. If, when you squeeze it between your fingertips, you can feel the effort in the muscles of your hands, add a tablespoon or two of water and re-assess the dough after the water has been fully absorbed during kneading.
1 1/3 cups raw old-fashioned rolled oats (106 grams)
2/3 cup raw steel-cut oats (106 grams)
2 cups leftover oatmeal plus 2 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 cups boiling water (omit if using leftover oatmeal)
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast *
1/2 cup warm water (about 105-110 degrees)
3 tablespoons honey *
1/4 cup olive oil
5 cups finely ground whole wheat bread flour (750g)
Extra water for sprinkling
* if using the long-rise method, use 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast and 1/4 cup molasses (not honey)
Cook the oatmeal in the water until it begins to thicken (don’t wait until it’s thick enough by yummy breakfast standards); add the salt and set aside for several hours or overnight. If you use leftover oatmeal, bring it to room temperature.
Dissolve the yeast in the 1/2 cup of warm water.
Mix the honey/molasses and oil into the oatmeal and add the mixture and the yeast to the flour. Mix well. If the dough is very stiff, resist the temptation to add more water just yet — the dough will draw water from the cooked oatmeal. However, if the dough is unincorporated and is more like chunks of wet flour, add 2-4 tablespoons of water and mix thoroughly.
Cover the mixing bowl and let sit for 20 minutes. This will allow more water to be drawn from the oats and will allow for better gluten formation.
Knead the dough for about ten minutes until soft and supple. If the dough is still too stiff (i.e. when you pinch a chunk of the dough you feel it in the muscles in your hand) add a little more water gradually either by wetting your hands as you knead or by sprinkling a teaspoons or two onto the dough as your mixer kneads. Form the dough into a ball and place it smooth side up in the bowl. Cover and keep in a warm, draft-free place**. After about an hour and a half, gently poke the center of the dough about 1/2 inch deep with your wet finger. If the hole doesn’t fill in at all or the dough sighs, it is ready for the next step.
Press the dough flat and divide in two. Shape it into balls and let them rest, covered, until very much softer, 10-15 minutes. Shape gently into hearth-style or standard 8″x4″ pan loaves. If you’d like, sprinkle a greased loaf pan with rolled oats before placing the shaped loaves in them. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Let the loaves rise once more in a warm place until they test ready and bake about 45 minutes.
Mix in 2-3 tablespoons toasted chopped walnuts when you shape the loaves for a nuttier flavor and a boost of omega-3s.
If using the long-rise method, allow to rise in a cool (55-65 degrees) area for 20-24 hours, gently deflating, briefly kneading, and re-shaping into a ball every 6-8 hours. When you shape the dough into loaves, it may require a longer period of time before the dough tests ready. You may need to bake the loaves for an extra 15 minutes (or so).