MOLASSES OAT BREAD

The original recipe for this bread came from my husband’s aunt. During the many years that I’ve been making it there have been adjustments to suit our tastes, and because it’s not a real recipe around here till it’s got writing all over the margins. If you’re not an experienced bread baker this is a good place to start because it’s simple, straightforward yeast dough, no fancy process required to turn out a loaf your family will devour. Make it at least once without any modifications.  After that you may decide to use all molasses or all honey, or agave (recommended if children younger than 2 will be eating any), or any combination of those including unusual honey such as buckwheat. You can play with adjusting the amount of wheat flour or try overnight fermentation in the refrigerator.  The day that I happened to make this batch was a perfect 75°, ideal for proofing, so the entire process from start to finish took less than 6 hours. This bread freezes well so make a couple extra. Weights are given as well as measures.

– Joan, 12 August 2015

MOLASSES OAT BREAD

Makes one 1½ lb. loaf

1 cup + 2 Tablespoons (250 grams) water, boiling
1 Tablespoon (25 grams) honey or agave syrup
1 Tablespoon (25 grams) molasses
1 Tablespoon (14 grams) butter
½ cup (50 grams) quick or whole oats
½ teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
heaping Tablespoon (10 grams) oat bran, optional
2 cups (264 grams) bread flour
½ cup (66 grams) whole wheat flour

Place the oats, honey, molasses, butter and salt in a large bowl and pour the boiling water over it.  Give it a stir and set aside to cool to lukewarm (or no warmer than 100°F).

Measure flours, bran and instant yeast into a large mixing bowl (instant yeast can be added with the dry ingredients, no proofing necessary). Add the cooled liquid.  If you’re mixing and kneading by hand be careful not to add much more flour as you knead or you’ll end up with tough, dry bread. This is a slightly sticky dough.  It may help to oil your hands for the kneading step. Knead till smooth and silky, at least 10-15 minutes.  If using a mixer, use the dough hook and mix slowly till all the flour is moistened, then turn speed to medium for about 7-10 minutes. In the photo at left you can see that a small area of dough stays at the bottom of the mixer.  This indicates the dough has enough water and not too much flour.

Place the dough in an oiled container large enough to hold the fully proofed dough (it will rise to at least twice its current size), cover and set it in a warm spot. In 20 minutes remove the dough and fold it by turning the top 1/4 toward the middle, then the right quarter, bottom quarter, and left quarter. Turn it over so the folds are on the bottom and return to the container for another 20 minutes.  Repeat the folds. Be gentle! These are just folds, not the punch-downs you may have heard about in the past. They serve to help develop the gluten which gives bread shape and helps hold it together, and to help redistribute the yeast. After the second set of folds put it back into the container, cover and set aside to finish rising.  You can refrigerate the covered dough at this point.  Allow the dough to warm up for about an hour when you take it out of the refrigerator for shaping.

The final rise will take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 or 3 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen.  At 75°F it will be 45 minutes to an hour. It should be at least doubled in bulk and feel light when you push it.  Turn it out onto a counter and gently shape it into a rough rectangle.  Starting at either top or bottom, roll it tightly and then pinch the end to the roll.  Pull the end flaps over to the bottom and pinch them to seal.  Don’t worry if it’s not a perfectly smooth cylinder.  If it’s very lopsided gently roll it back and forth a few times to even it out.  Place seam-side down in a greased loaf 9″x5″ loaf pan.  Now let’s make it pretty since we only eat what looks good to us!  Brush the top of the loaf with water and sprinkle a few oats on it.  Cover the loaf with a clean dishtowel and set aside again for the last proof.  This will take 45 minutes to an hour, again assuming about a 75°F room. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

When the loaf has risen to look like the photo at left and holds an indent if you poke your finger into it, it’s ready for the oven. Bake for 40-45 minutes, till the top is dark golden and the loaf sounds hollow if you tip it out of the pan and tap the bottom.  If you have an instant read thermometer it should read about 195-200° degrees when inserted into the center.

Lay loaf on it side to cool for about 20 minutes, then flip it over to finish cooling.  Cooling on its side helps avoid the caved-in appearance of bread cooled topside up.  Cool for 45 minutes to an hour before you even think of cutting into it.  Actually it should cool for almost 3 hours before cutting, but who are we kidding?  Nobody can resist the thought of butter melting into still-warm homemade bread.  But the reason for waiting will be apparent if you cut too soon.  It will be gummy and too soft until it’s had a chance to cool completely.  Better to wait and toast it then. Maybe on the second loaf.

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