Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Favorite Bread

My longtime favorite bread. Adapted (I think) from Laurel's Kitchen.

Favorite Bread

1 c rolled oats
2 c boiling water
1 t salt
1 pkg yeast, or 2t - 1T
1/3 c brown sugar or any sweetener-- agave, molasses, maple syrup, whatever
1/4 c oil
4 - 4.5 c flour (I usually use white whole wheat, but you can use all purpose, or bread flour, or whole wheat, or a mixture)

Mix oats, boiling water, salt, sweetener and oil in a huge bowl. Let stand until lukewarm--a temperature you could comfortably rest your hand in. This is important because if it's too hot, it will kill the yeast.

Mix in yeast and flour. When you can no longer mix with your spoon, use your hands to mix and knead. I do this in the bowl. To knead, slightly flatten the dough with the heel of your hand, fold in half, flatten again, then fold in half the other way (horizontally, then vertically, then horizontally, etc.) Do this for about five minutes until the dough feels nice and smooth.

Form it into a ball, put a clean dishtowel over the top of the bowl and set in a warm place to rise. If you're lucky enough to have a warm hearth, put it there. Or turn on the oven, heat it, then turn it off, put the bowl in, and leave the door slightly open. Make sure you can comfortably put your hand in there. It should be a cozy temperature.

Let rise for about an hour, until, when you press your finger in, the dough no longer springs back to shape. Oil a bread pan, or if you don't have one, use a baking sheet, a cast iron skillet, or whatever you have. Punch down the dough, make it into an oblong shape, tuck the ends under to make a smooth top, and put it in your pan. If you're not using a loaf pan you can make it into a ball and just set it in the middle of the pan or baking sheet. Put the towel over it and let it rise again for about half an hour till it no longer springs back.

Bake at around 400 degrees and start checking on it after about half an hour. It's done when it smells like fresh baked bread (to me, that's the best way to tell); when the top is golden brown; and when it sounds hollow when tapped (be sure to tap all around). Let the pan cool on a rack for a while and the loaf will come out more easily. The texture will be right for slicing when it's cool. If you try to slice it when it's hot, it will be very crumbly. Though it's worth it for the taste of bread straight from the oven.

May I Give This Ukranian Bread to All the People in This Big Wide World, Maria Primachenko, 1982

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