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I have a confession to make: I have forsaken my blog.

Now, this really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.  I think I had a whopping one post last month (for shame!).  Blame it on work, blame it on a total lack of inspiration, or blame it on my persistent laziness whenever I actually had two seconds to breathe–whatever you want to blame it on, it doesn’t change the fact that things have gotten boring around here.

There has been one thing I’ve been dying to do: experiment with gluten-free recipes.  Wha-wha-what?!? you may be saying, since I swore off gluten-free from day one.  Funny enough, we may be one month away from having to go to a gluten-free household for health reasons, hence my sudden urge to severely frustrate myself trying to convert all my recipes.  But until the final verdict comes in, I have a month to give all of our favorites one more gluten-y hurrah.

A natural candidate for the Final March of Gluten-y Goodness is my Oatmeal Bread.  I mean, let’s make it now before I’m stuck paying $800 a pound for certified gluten-free oats. Oh, there’s also the fact that it is DELICIOUS.  Seriously, it’s all I can do to keep The Boy from consuming it by the fistful the second it comes out of the oven.

The family lore has it that the recipe comes to the family from sometime in the mid- to late-1800s from a cookbook put out by the local church in Iowa or Wisconsin or Minnesota or whateverotherrandomstateinthatmiddlepartofthecountrythatisallablurtome that our family was in at that time.  Who knows if the family lore is correct or not…the family lore also has it that our ancestors were horse traders, but all I’ve managed to find is a guy who ran away from home to avoid fighting in the Civil War, leaving his wife behind to have all her horses stolen (coincidentally, by horse traders…who were not my relatives).  Family lore has a way of getting it wrong.

But one thing that isn’t wrong is that whatever the origin of the recipe, it makes for an amazing loaf of hearty, slightly sweet, beautifully-textured-yet-melt-in-your-mouth bread.  A pair of loaves, really.  The secret (as with any good loaf of bread) is in the yeast.  Make sure it’s not past its shelf life; make sure the water is only lukewarm, not hot; make sure to feed the yeast some sugar; and make sure to let the yeast do its bidness juuuuuuuuuuuust until it looks like it’s about to spill over the lip of the coffee cup (think foam on a pint of beer), like at right.

Also, even though I am in general having a torrid affair with my KitchenAid stand mixer, I make this stuff completely by hand–yes, I even knead it by hand.  Though I have never tried using the stand mixer, I have a sneaking suspicion it would make it too perfect, and take away from the hearty texture.  Plus kneading it by hand means I can work on my Obama arms (ladies, you know what I’m talking about).

I used to think this would be one of the recipes I’d take to the grave with me, but especially now that we may be going gluten-free, I think it’s time to share the original with the masses.  Enjoy it warm with a little melted butter, toasted with some jam or honey, or completely naked–there’s really no way to go wrong!

Oatmeal Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups oats (use quick cooking if you want a smoother bread, regular or steel cut if you want more texture)
  • 2 tbsp butter (I use salted)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 2 packs rapid rise yeast
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • lukewarm water, enough to fill 1/2 of a regular coffee cup (yep, this is really the measurement!)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 5 1/2 cups sifted flour

Directions

In a large mixing bowl (preferably one the size of the Grand Canyon–seriously, the one I use is hugemongous), mix together the oats, butter, salt, and boiling water.  Let the mixture sit until cool.

Once the mixture is cooled, mix the yeast and 2 tsp sugar with the half coffee cup of lukewarm water.  Allow the yeast to do its thing (that’s a technical term) until the mixture froths up over the cup lip like beer (this happens quickly–wait until the oat mixture is cooled to prepare the yeast!).  Pour the yeast mixture and the brown sugar into the oat mixture, along with the 1/4 cup of water.  Mix well but gently with a wooden spoon.  Allow mixture to rest for 10 minutes.

Then, work 4 1/2 cup of the sifted flour into the dough with a wooden spoon.  Turn the dough out on a floured board or counter, working in the remaining 1 cup of flour.  The dough will still be a bit sticky; resist the urge to add more flour, as doing so will make the bread tough.  Form the dough into a bowl and put it back in the mixing bowl, covering with a tea towel, and allow the dough to rise in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled, approximately 1 hour.  (I like to preheat my oven to the lowest temperature and then turn it off, using the warm oven to proof the bread.)

After the first rise, turn the dough back out on a floured board or counter, working in just a tiny bit more flour (basically just enough to remove some of the stickiness and make the dough easier to work with).  Roll out two equal portions, forming loaves so that the seams are on the bottom.  Place the loaves into two well-buttered loaf pans (glass is preferable).  Spank the loaves a couple times to get the air bubbles out.  Let the loaves rise in the pans in a warm, draft-free spot for another half hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  If desired, make a cut in the top of the loaves with a sharp knife and sprinkle the loaves with additional oats (this is just for pretties and is completely optional).  Bake the loaves for 1 hour.  The loaves will be dark and will sound hollow when thumped on if they are done.  Remove the loaves from the oven and immediately rub down the tops with salted butter (if you’re classy you could use melted butter and a pastry brush, but if you roll like I do, simply grab a stick of butter out of the fridge and have at it). Allow the loaves to cool in the pans for about an hour before cutting.  

Enjoy!

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