21 April 2008

Depressing Day? Freshly Baked Bread to the Rescue!

I have been feeling a little worn out lately. I think it is from a combination of not seeing J enough recently (stupid big projects at work), some minor medical worries (more on this later) and allergies. My allergies are absolutely killing me right now. According to Pollen.com Ohio is pretty awful right now, and don't I know it! My throat is killing me, and my eyes are itchy and watery. Of course I am too stubborn to stay inside and avoid the evil tree pollen floating around me... So what is better than an overload on carbohydrates to soothe your soul? Not much if you are anything like me!

I pulled out my current go-to recipe for homemade bread - printed conveniently on the back of the King Arthur Bread Flour bag - Oatmeal Bread. If you want a bread that is perfect for breakfast, this is your recipe! The bread has a pleasantly yeasty flavor and is very chewy from the oatmeal. It is awesome toasted, slathered with butter and dipped in the soft yolk of an over-easy egg.

Of course, there would be no homemade bread without my mom. Some of my favorite childhood memories involve kneading bread under my mom's mild supervision. I would stand on a stool so I could reach her kneading area more easily and make a mess of the kitchen. The dough would stick to my fingers in clumpy little pieces. I would sneak nibbles of the dough when my mom wasn't looking, as often as possible. I loved the anticipation of a freshly baked loaf. My mom would give me a stick of butter to carefully run over the top of the warm bread to create a glossy crust. I am so lucky that when I think of food and my childhood, homemade bread usually comes to mind first. I took it for granted as a child, and now I treasure the loaves of bread that my mom occasionally leaves for me in my kitchen while I am at work during the day. Without those childhood experiences, I doubt I would be confident enough in my own kitchen to bake homemade bread.

King Arthur Flour Oatmeal Bread

3 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour (I subbed 1 cup of whole wheat flour)
1 cup rolled oats (old fashioned oats)
2 T butter (I melt mine)
1 1/2 t salt
3 T brown sugar or honey
2 t instant yeast OR 1 packet active dry yeast*
1 1/4 cups lukewarm milk
3/4 cup raisins or currants (optional)

* If you use active dry yeast, dissolve it in the warm milk before combining with the remaining ingredients. (I dissolve the yeast in the warm milk along with the sugar or honey)

Manual Method: In a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all of the ingredients, mixing to form a shaggy dough. Knead dough, by hand (10 minutes) or by machine (5 minutes) till it is smooth. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow it to rest for 1 hour; it'll become quite puffy, though it may now double in bulk. Shape as directed below.

Shaping: Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled surface and shape it into a log. Place the log in a lightly greased 9x5-inch loaf pan, cover the pan, and allow the dough to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, till it's crested 1 to 2 inches over the rim of the pan.

Baking: Bake the bread in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190 degrees F. If the bread appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil for the final 10 minutes of baking. Yield 1 loaf.

My Notes: I reserve about 1/2 cup of flour and use it to flour my surface while I am kneading the bread. As you knead the bread, it will absorb the last 1/2 cup of flour. I also just shape the loaf of bread in the pan - I don't bother greasing a surface to shape the dough. My bread takes a little longer to bake - maybe more like 50 minutes. If you knock on the top of the bread, it sounds hollow when it is cooked through.

3 comments:

Karen said...

Hi Josie,
Thanks so much for posting your kind comment on my blog today. I feel like I'm baring my soul this week with these memories! I love thinking about my grandfather, as he was one of the people who loved everyone and was loved by everyone.I was only 16 when he died, but my memories of him are incredibly vivid.

Kitchen Queen Victoria said...

Josie,

Thanks for posting this recipe. I adore oatmeal bread (esp. toasted for breakfast) and the recipe I made last just seemed a bit dry. I will give this one a try next. :)

~Vicci

LisaRene said...

Bread is the best! Very nice recipe, I'm certain it was delicious :)