Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Baking Bread - Easy Oat Loaves

Recipe from Kneadlessly Simple: fabulous, fuss-free, no-knead breads by Nancy Baggett

This recipe was very easy, and I had all the ingredients on hand in the pantry already. No need to buy special stuff! The mixing of the ingredients to make the dough for the first rise was simple. I did it in the early afternoon, and set it in the refrigerator for the 3-10 hours she recommends for the best flavor. Then, before turning in for the night (10pm), I took the bowl out of the fridge and put it in the coldest room in our house, for the 12-18 cool room rise. This room was about 66 degrees when we got up the next morning. The dough did not look as if it had risen very much though. I was beginning to get worried. But, I think the room may have just been too cool. As the day progressed and got warmer, the dough was rising noticeably. I remember thinking at one point, “It has risen more in the last hour than it did all night!”

After about 13 hours (around 11am), I prepared the dough for the second rise, the warm room rise. This was just a convenient time for me to do it. First, I prepared the 2 loaf pans by pouring just a little oil in the bottom and then using a folded paper towel to wipe the oil around the bottom and sides of the loaf pan. This method of coating and oiling the pans worked much better for me than pouring oil in the pan and tipping the pan around to spread the oil. When I did that, I ended up with way too much oil! The recipe calls for about a tablespoon of oats to be put in the pan and then spread around. But, I think a tablespoon was kind of light. And, I didn’t go all the way up the sides of the loaf pan either, but you could!

Then, I stirred the dough with a sturdy wooden spoon, but it didn’t really seem to stir. I think this step is really just to deflate the dough. But, it was a workout! That dough was stiff. Then, I cut the dough in half – or at least, I tried to cut the dough in half! I took a long serrated knife (used usually only for carving turkey in our house!), wiped oil on both sides (using the folded paper towel from oiling the pans), and cut the dough while still in the bowl. (I didn’t want to dirty the cutting board. Lazy or smart? I don’t know! Both perhaps.) Once the dough was cut into mostly equal portions, the portions went into the loaf pans. I prepped the tops of them and covered them with plastic and set them in the warmest spot in the house for the 2-3 hour warm room rise.

Our temps here have been super nice – right in the mid-70’s. Inside our house, it was slightly cooler, a few degrees or so. So, I went about my business, and checked on the loaves after 3 hours, and it seemed they had hardly risen. They did take a long time to rise. My husband joked they were “late risers”. HA! I set them there around 11:30am, and I think they were finally ready to bake at about 6pm. In the book, there is a troubleshooting section, and I checked it for “extremely slow rising”. The slow rising could be because the room was too cool, or my yeast could have been getting old. She recommended putting the yeast in an airtight container in the fridge after it was opened. I did not do that! (Oops!) But, I’ll do it now!

The loaves turned out beautifully though. Nice and browned on top, with a crunchy crust. The oats on top were pretty, and on the bottom, they were crunchy. The slash cut into the top of the loaf didn’t open up like I thought it would, but it made a nice indent. The inside of the loaf was soft and crumbly, more like a loaf you would get from the store, but still not quite the same. We cut a slice to try once they were out of the loaf pans. We couldn’t wait - they smelled so good – yeasty and fresh. We put some butter on the slice, and took a bite. It was a nice flavor, not as sweet as I had imagined with the honey being in there, but still very tasty. And, interestingly, I did not see any oats actually inside the loaf! I know they were mixed in there, but I didn’t see any.

All in all, definitely bread I will make again. The husband liked it a lot. And it really was super easy. Gonna give the second loaf to a friend as a Thank You for letting me borrow a Halloween costume! I’ll let you know what she thinks of it. She’s quite the baker herself. I could learn a thing or two from her probably!

‘Til the next adventure!

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