December 15, 2012

Oatmeal Bread

A couple years back Sarah and I were part of Companion Bakeshop's bread CSA before they got their new location on the West Side of Santa Cruz and Sarah started going to the farmer's market on a regular basis.  Back then I would drive down to a small commercial kitchen near the Seven Bridges Homebrew Co-op and pick up a bag full of bread, granola, crackers, and a hot breakfast cereal blend.

The regular consumables were of course delicious and usually didn't last very long.  But Sarah typically has a grab-bag breakfast and I eat microwaved oatmeal so cooking up a big pot of hot mash just doesn't happen in our house.  The breakfast blend wasn't eaten.  In fact I think I still have two bags of the stuff sitting in my freezer.

I had to find something to do with it all, we got a half pound of this stuff every week and it started piling up fast.  We thought we might be able to give it away to our friends but they all had the same CSA and had just as much of it as we did.  I tried grinding it up into flour to put into pancakes but so much of the blend was millet and red quinoa that the pancakes came out too crunchy.  And grinding it all in my little Krups coffee mill was just a huge pain in the neck.

What I finally set on was to make bread out of it.  One loaf uses up about half a bag and since it's cooked before going in the final product is not at all crunchy.

Cooked Oatmeal Bread

Cooked Oatmeal Bread

1 1/2 Cups Thick Cooked Oatmeal or Cereal Grain Blend
2 Tbs. Butter
2 Tbs. Honey
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
2 1/4 tsp. dry yeast
3/4 Cups Warm Water
5 Cups All Purpose Flour

For 1 1/2 cups cooked oatmeal use 3/4 cups rolled oats and 3/4 cups water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook, stirring constantly, until well thickened.  Stir in butter, honey, and salt while still hot.  Allow to cool until just warm to the touch.

When oatmeal is cool add the dry yeast, warm water, and about 4 1/2 cups flour.  Either using your hands, a large wooden spoon, or a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment gently mix the flour into the oatmeal batter until a rough dough forms.  If using a stand mixer, add the remaining flour and incorporate it gently before setting the mixer to mid speed for about seven minutes.

If mixing by hand use the remaining flour to dust a wide work surface (I use my kitchen table) and turn the dough out to be kneaded.  Knead in the usual way for about seven to ten minutes until well smoothed.  Use as much extra flour as is needed to prevent sticking.

Turn the kneaded dough (machine or hand) into a well oiled bowl, cover with a towel, and set in a warm place to rise for about 1 1/2 hours.  

Deflate the dough gently before forming the dough into a blunt, squat, cigar shape and transferring into a prepared bread pan.  I prefer to line my baking pans with parchment as this allows for easy removal of the bread after baking.  Cover with a small sheet of plastic wrap or parchment before covering again with a towel and allowing an additional 1 to 1 1/2 hours rising time.

About 30 minutes to an hour before baking heat the oven to 450F.  Set a cast iron skillet on the bottom of the oven and set a rack at about half height.  When the dough has risen, slash the surface (allows for extra expansion and a lighter crumb) and slide onto the center rack.  Before closing the oven throw a handful of ice cubes into the hot iron skillet and immediate close the oven door.  

Allow to bake at 450F for five minutes then reduce the temperature to 350F and continue baking another 30 - 45 minutes.  

The bread is done when the surface is well browned and a hollow sound is heard when the bottom of the loaf is tapped with your knuckle.

If find this to be the best with butter.

Have fun.

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