Friday, October 17, 2008
My bread-baking adventures are being conducted in a rather willy-nilly fashion, I have to say. I do want to learn more - much more - about baking yeast breads, but I'm starting to think that there will be nothing resembling logic in my approach. I bought some bread flour because I want to make a sponge starter, and Joy of Cooking calls for bread flour for this endeavor. Conveniently, bread flour was on sale for $3.99 per 5-pound bag at my last market visit. I could have instead gone to the discount grocery store for the 99-cent 5-pound bag of flour, which would be the truly parsimonious thing to do, but I really want to avoid bleach and bromate (which, according to Wikipedia, is a known carcinogen and is banned in most of the world, but not here in the US. Perplexing and more.) in my baking, so I kicked in the extra three dollars. Not only that, but I bought a second bag of bread flour. Cripers, I'm dedicated. I'm making a yeast bread a week, here, people. And I need to stock up on unbleached, unbromated goodness while I can.
So my bag of flour sat on my kitchen counter awaiting some use, ideally a few cups for a sponge starter, as that seemed like the next logical step after having made two quick-start breads and harboring a desire for more complex flavor. But then my bag of flour spoke to me. It said, "This tender, high-rising bread makes wonderful sandwiches and great toast." It really said this. On the back of the bag. And below this claim of sandwiches from on high, and sublime toast (and yes, I am prone to using superlatives for bread at the least prodding), was a recipe for Oatmeal Bread. Now, I searched the King Arthur's Flour website for this exact recipe to spare you my adaptation of it, but it was not to be. But let me tell you, my random pursuit of bread-baking happiness will require many visits to their site. And my pursuit is random because of their site. You have got to see all of the recipes they have for bread; pan de mie, crescia al formaggio, Ukranian wedding bread - these people - well, right, they are flour people - but still, there's a lot of bread to be baked, and from what I can tell, it's all there on their site. Except for this particular recipe that is printed on the back of the bag. Which is why I now am sitting at my computer with an open bag of bread flour in front of me so that I may share with you.
Adapted from King Arthur's Flour - unbleached, unbromated - bread flour packaging:
3 cups bread flour
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons honey or brown sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups whole milk
3/4 cups raisins
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk
additional oatmeal for dusting the top of the loaf
Warm the milk to lukewarm (105 to 115-degrees). Place in non-reactive bowl (I used a stainless mixing bowl) and sprinkle contents of yeast packet on top of milk. Allow yeast to dissolve, approximately 5 minutes.
Combine flour and salt in a bowl, mixing well. Once yeast has dissolved, add flour mixture, oatmeal, raisins, butter, honey (or brown sugar), and raisins to the yeast mixture, and mix on medium speed until a shaggy dough is formed. Knead dough either in the mixer for about 5 minutes, or by hand for about 10, adding flour as necessary if the dough is too sticky. I normally do the initial mix in the mixer and then knead by hand. It's therapeutic. Try it. In either case, you will be chasing raisins that have escaped and tucking them back into the dough. When dough is smooth, place it in a lightly buttered bowl that will accommodate its rising and nearly doubling in size. Cover with a buttered piece of plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm spot for 1 hour.
Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface. I used waxed paper with a little bit of butter rubbed over the surface. Shape the dough into a log, tucking one-third of the dough into the middle before tucking the other third over (as though you were folding a business letter), and tuck the ends under to fit the loaf pan. Place the dough in a lightly buttered 9x5-inch loaf pan, cover with the greased plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until the dough has risen 1 to 2 inches over the sides of the pan.
Preheat the oven to 350. Mix the egg yolk and milk together to make a glaze. Brush over the top of the bread (you won't need to use all of it to cover the top). You're doing this in order to create a nicely browned top for the bread. Sprinkle oatmeal over the top. Bake the bread for 35-45 minutes until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the middle reads 190 degrees.
Makes 1 large, heavenly loaf with a fine crumb that tastes like you should go into baking professionally.
Dinner tonight: Cider braised pork shoulder with caramelized onions, mashed potatoes from the neighbor's farm stand, and collard greens, also from a neighbor's farm stand - different neighbor, however. Pork shoulder was on sale at my local Whole Foods this week, and mad props to Lisa for sending me their five-dollars-off-a-purchase-of-25-dollars coupon because JR is thrilled to not have to eat chicken or butternut squash for once this season. Estimated cost for two: $10.90. The pork is at least 7 servings, so JR will also be blissed out for most of next week with pork sandwiches on - wait for it - yes, oatmeal bread - for lunch. If I were to take out the overall cost of the pork and use some fancy accrual or depreciation accounting method (yeah, I have no idea what I'm talking about either), the actual cost of tonight's meal is really $6.90, and those other five servings of pork will cost $4.00. Sweet! I like fancy accounting methods.