Friday, April 22, 2011

Honey Oatmeal Breads I & II

About two months ago now, I made this bread. I found the recipe via a Google search, which sometimes yields mixed results, but the reviews were all excellent so I decided to give it a go. The only adjustments I made were 1) to bake one regular-sized loaf, and two mini-loaves (because of my love for all things miniature and therefore adorable), and 2) I used a combination of white and whole-wheat flour. I think it was half-and-half, but who can remember.

It came out moist, soft but slightly chewy, and "pleasantly sweet," to quote one review. Basically, its fantastic. The recipe below reflects my adjustments. I should say that it was the TEENIEST bit squishy in the middle, and perhaps should be baked for 35 minutes rather than 30. This could just be my oven displaying one of its many quirks, so I would check it at 30 minutes and decide there.
"Original" Recipe:
• 2 cups boiling water
• 1 cup rolled oats
• 1/2 cup honey
• 2 tablespoons butter
• 2 teaspoons salt
• 1.5 packages active dry yeast
• 1/2 cup warm water
• 5 cups flour; combination all-purpose white and whole wheat flour
For after baking:
• 2 tablespoons honey
• 2 tablespoons rolled oats

1. Combine boiling water, oats, 1/2 cup honey, butter and salt. Let stand for 1 hour.
2. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
3. Pour the yeast mixture into the oat mixture. Add 2 cups of flour; mix well. Stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 20 minutes. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
4. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and form into loaves. Place the loaves into two lightly greased 9x5 inch loaf pans.* Cover the loaves with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
5. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove loaves from pans, brush tops of loaves with 2 tablespoons honey and sprinkle with oats.

*In my oven, three mini-loaves placed on the bottom rack, with the large loaf on the top rack, baked for the same amount of time.

Which brings us up to date on the honey-oatmeal-bread-situation.

Tomorrow, Brady and I will be meeting up with his folks for Easter with some of his relatives. Brady's dad is a great cook, and his mom is a great baker, though she is very modest about it, and at least as busy with other things. Still, we always seem to end up talking about what we've been cooking lately, so I figure it's high time I bring something tasty along for the holiday.

Of course, when I made it this morning, I had the itch to use only whole-wheat flour. (I just can't leave well enough alone, honestly.)

Anyway, I used my Hodgson Mills dry active yeast,  which contains 25% more yeast per packet than other brands. This makes it especially good for whole grain breads, but with other types of bread, you just end up with higher loaves, which is kind of pretty, so that's nice. In this case I was just hoping it would counteract the weight of the wheat flour to create a similar consistency as the original recipe.

Many of the reviews say that they had to add up to two cups more flour to get a workable dough, and I had a similar experience when I used part white flour. But with the wheat, four cups was all it took. The dough also did not achieve the same elasticity as the mixed flour version, though I will admit that I certainly did not work it for the full 20 minutes. I don't have a good reason for this. Mostly, this whole week (and kinda the week before) has been rushed and a bit slap-dash.

I was happy when it rose just the way that I wanted, but I am less pleased with its appearance than the first incarnation of this recipe. This can surely be blamed on my bread-braiding skills, which are still under construction, but I am also wishing I had taken the time to work the dough just a LITTLE bit more. I don't really know how this works, or exactly what it does to change the texture of the bread, but there you have it. I'll be honest. I was nervous about how it looks and how it would taste, so I decided to hedge my bets, and to bake some banana nut muffins for breakfast with Brady's folks, reserving one of the two loaves for Easter. The other loaf we are nearly halfway through already...

To me, is a totally different bread than the original. It is also delicious, but I would call it a "honey wheat bread" instead of a "honey oatmeal bread," just based on the prominence of the wheat flavor. It is also just a tad less soft and moist, but I think a slight increase in the water content - perhaps a quarter or half cup - could correct that.

Now, how the heck do I wrap two loaves of soft, sticky bread for transport on a Megabus? Hmm. I'm thinking loosely wrapped in parchment paper, in plastic food storage bags, in a paper shopping bag.Or maybe I will bring a little honey in a small container, a small baggie of oats, and dress it up upon arrival. Any advice for transportation of baked goods?

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