april 12, 2009

Somehow baking our own bread seemed like an appropriate way to celebrate Easter. Bread is surprisingly easy to make, it just takes a LOT of time. We started at around noon and didn’t have our first bite of fresh bread until 10 pm. It was well worth the wait. Some might even say it’s the best bread ever.

This recipe is adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible. The recipe called for bulgar, which we couldn’t find. Chris came up with the great idea to use steel cut oats instead. Can’t wait to make more bread!

Oat Wheat Loaf

Dough Starter
1/2 cup bread flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp instant yeast
1/2 tbs sugar
1 tbs nonfat dry milk
1 tbs honey
1 cup and 2 tbs water (room temperature)

Flour Mixture
2 cups bread flour
1/2 tbs sugar
1/4 tsp instant yeast

Oat + Finish Ingredients
1/2 cup steel cut oats
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tbs vegetable oil
1 3/4 tsp salt
1 tbs melted butter

12:30 pm – In an electric mixing bowl, combine the bread flour, whole wheat flour, yeast, sugar, dried milk, honey and water from the Dough Starter ingredients. Whisk until smooth, about 2 minutes. The mixture will be the consistency of a thick batter. Scrape the sides of the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 4 hours at room temperature.

4:30 pm – Combine the ingredients for the flour mixture (bread flour, sugar, and yeast) in a bowl. Sprinkle on top of the dough starter to cover it completely. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to sit for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature. Over time, the dough starter should bubble through the flour. Meanwhile, place the steel cut oats in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit until water is absorbed, around 1 hour.

5:30 pm – Add the steel cut oats and oil to the dough/flour mixture. Mix with a dough hook on low speed (we used #2 on a KitchenAid mixer) for about a minute. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow dough to rest for 30 minutes.

6:00 pm – Using an oiled spatula, scrape the dough into a lightly greased container it can rise in (we used a rice cooker pot). Lightly oil the top of the dough and cover it with plastic wrap. With a piece of tape, mark the side of the container where about double the height would be. Allow the dough to rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

7:30 pm – Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently press down on the dough to form a rectangle. Turn 90 degrees and round edges. Return the dough to the container. Lightly oil the surface again, cover, and mark where double the height would be. Allow the dough to rise again, about another hour.

8:30 pm – Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into a loaf (see image from the book). Place it in an oiled loaf pan. Cover with an oiled plastic wrap. Let the dough rise another hour. The center of the dough should rise above the loaf pan. Place a cast iron skillet at the bottom of the oven and set an oven rack at the lowest level. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

9:30 pm – Brush the top of the loaf with some melted butter. With a sharp knife, make a 1/2 inch deep cut through the length of the loaf. Now it’s ready to bake! In one swift motion, place the loaf at the bottom oven rack and pour 1/2 cup of water into the skillet.

9:45 pm – If you’re at all eager like we were, turn your oven light on and check out the bread, just to see how it’s progressing. I think at this point, the top of the loaf ballooned another 1 to 2 inches high.

10:15 pm – The smell of bread should now fill the kitchen, if not the whole house. If the top of the bread is golden brown, it’s ready to come out of the oven. We let the loaf sit for about 15 minutes before trying to pry it out of the loaf pan. We ran a knife around the sides and were able to tap (and pull) the loaf out. Slice and serve immediately with some butter!

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