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 a simple, straightforward yeast dough, no fancy process required to turn out a loaf your family will love. 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. If the dough spends the night in your fridge, take it out, divide and let it rest 30 minutes or so before final shaping.

No mixer? Mix everything together in a large bowl, turn it out onto a counter and knead it a few times – literally, about 1-2 minutes – to get all of the flour mixed in. Then return dough to a greased container and cover it. Fold it (see instructions below) every 30 minutes for a total of 4 folds, then cover it. It can be refrigerated overnight, or let it rise until almost doubled. Divide into loaves, shape, cover and let rise until the middle of the loaves are about 1″ above the top of the pan. 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
¾ teaspoon instant yeast
heaping tablespoon (10 grams) oat bran, optional
2 cups (260 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. Knead till all flour is mixed in, about 1-2 minutes, cover, then follow up with folds every 30 minutes for a total of 4 folds. Dough can be refrigerated overnight at this point. If using a mixer, use the dough hook and mix slowly till all the flour is moistened, then turn speed to medium for about 5 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 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 help develop the gluten which gives bread shape and helps hold it together, and 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.

The dough 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. Allow dough that has been refrigerated to warm up for 30 minutes before the final shaping. 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. 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 in 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. An instant read thermometer pushed into the center should read about 200° degrees.

Lay loaf on its 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 unless it’s had a chance to cool completely.

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