Oatmeal Sandwich Loaf

Bread in panI found this bread on Smitten Kitchen, and it inspired me to take a chance on a homemade loaf. Since our visit to the Black Sheep Inn, with their packed lunches each day to encourage walking in the hills, I’ve had in mind that we could be making our own sandwich bread and rolls at home.

This was my first attempt.Full oatmeal breadOatmeal bread sideOver the next little while I hope to be sharing with you some pictures and stories from volunteering at Bread Matters, so it feels a bit strange to be writing about a sandwich loaf now. I’ve been reading Andrew Whitley’s book about the benefits of sourdough baking and the need to return to slower, more traditional bread baking all around. More on this later, but I’d love to be back here soon sharing early successes from integrating these principles into our weekly bread.

However, I’m practicing the art of not waiting for all the conditions to be in place before writing, so here we go.
dough risen1/2 dough punched backI follow Smitten Kitchen closely and have done for years. When I saw Deb Perelman on the street in New York earlier this year, I beamed for hours with what I can only imagine is the kind of celebrity buzz that others feel about film/music/sports stars. Her approach to cooking is inviting, witty and obsessive in a way that means you know her recipes are going to work well every time. Her notes are helpful, detailed and focused intently on supporting her readers to bring about great things in their home kitchen. I never hesitate to send a Smitten Kitchen recipe to a friend, no matter how much experience or confidence with cooking he or she may have. I know they’ll be safe in her hands.Before the riseAfter the riseAll to say, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that while I was hemming and hawing about how to make the perfect sourdough, I jumped at the opportunity to throw this oatmeal sandwich loaf together.

It has the option for a slow rise in the refrigerator, which suited our needs well that week, and it meant I could get the dough together one evening without thinking about when the time would come around for the actual baking. The only thing that did trip me up was the rise with the second loaf. This recipe makes enough for two, and I baked one at a time – day 2 and day 4 after putting the dough together. That may have been a mistake, because the dough took much more time to rise in the pan for the second loaf. However, the result was an even more flavorful bread, so no one was complaining. Next time I’ll probably do as the recipe suggests and bake both at the same time, freezing half for later. (we’re about to get a new freezer, so this may even be possible!)

Without further delay, the main point to make about this bread is that you should get going on it right now. It is delicious, perfect for a healthy, hearty sandwich and even better just sliced for a mid-afternoon snack. The flavor has depth because of the long rise, but it remains almost creamy due to the oatmeal (which gets incorporated fully into the dough). The only problem may be that it’s so moreish you’ll find yourself wanting a sandwich for dinner too.

Maybe that’s no bad thing once in awhile…

Oatmeal bread 1
Oatmeal Sandwich Loaf
Adapted, barely, from Smitten Kitchen’s Oat and Wheat Sandwich Bread, adapted from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day (2009)

I used a stand mixer, which will be reflected in the directions. If you are mixing by hand, use the same approach but adapt the time by paying attention to the look and feel of the dough at each step.

Makes: 2 sandwich bread loaves

5 cups (635 grams) whole-wheat flour (we used strong bread flour this time)
2 cups (160 grams) rolled oats
1 tablespoon coarse salt
3 tablespoons raw or brown sugar or honey (I used honey)
1 large egg
1/4 cup (55 grams grams) olive oil, plus a little more to coat bowl
1 1/4 cups water
1 1/4 cups milk
1 1/2 tablespoons (about 14 grams) instant yeast

Prepare a large mixing bowl by coating it in a little bit of olive oil. Set aside. Lightly flour a work area on your counter top.

Prepare dough (~25 minutes + rising time): Combine water, milk, honey (or sugar) in the bottom of a large stand mixer bowl, and whisk in the egg and oil. Add flour, oats and salt, and mix with the paddle attachment of the mixer at the lowest speed for 1 minute or until just combined. The dough will be quite loose, but this is fine. Let rest for 5 minutes.

Change to the dough hook attachment and mix the dough on medium-low speed for 2 minutes. You are looking for the dough to be ‘supple and sticky’, so add either a bit more flour (a small spoonful at a time) if it is too dry or a very little bit of water (small amount at a time) if it is very stiff. Mix with dough hook for another 4 minutes.

Using a dough scraper if you have one, scrape the dough onto the lightly floured worktop. Knead about five times, then form the dough into a ball (my dough was still very silky, so this was a bit of a balancing act!) and place this in the clean, oiled mixing bowl to rise. (The recipe allows for two options here: either let proof at room temperature for about an hour, or until doubled in size, and continue with the steps below OR place in the refrigerator to ferment overnight or up to 5 days and then continue. I let mine rise overnight in the refrigerator, and that is the level of rise that you see in the photos above.).

Prepare loaves (~1-4 hours, mostly passive): If you have left the dough to rise in the refrigerator, take the bowl out about 3 hours before you are ready to move onto the next step. This will allow the dough to come back to room temperature before moving onto the next steps.

Lightly flour your work surface and lightly oil your bread pans.

Turn dough onto floured work surface and divide it into two halves. Working one at a time, gently press the dough out into a rough square about 1/2 inch in height. Fold in the right and left edges of the dough (forming a rectangle), so that the dough is as wide as the long edge of your pan. Roll the dough away from you to form a log. Place the dough in the oiled pan, seam side down, and repeat with the other loaf.

Leave to rise until the dough has ‘crowned’ about 1 inch above the edges of the pan (this will be shape of your baked loaf, so use that as a guide). This will take about an hour, depending on a multitude of factors, so just pay attention to the shape and allow for longer rising time if needed.

Bake bread (~30-40 minutes): As the dough is rising, bring your oven to 350 F/ 180 C.

Place bread pans in the upper third of a pre-heated oven and bake for 30-40 minutes. Rotate pans after about 20 minutes to ensure even baking/color. Bread is finished when deep golden and a thermometer inserted into the middle reads 190 F/ 88 C.

Enjoy for sandwiches, toast or snack within two-three days. Alternatively, once completely cooled, slice and freeze in a plastic bag for a handy, homemade option throughout the week.

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