Friday, January 22, 2010
A while back, you may recall, I informed you of my latest obsession (really, it's only one of many concurrent obsessions, most all of which are foodstuffs), oatmeal with brown sugar, apples, and dried cranberries. This oddly healthy (well, the food itself anyway) preoccupation has manifested itself in yet another form, and that form lends itself quite nicely to lunchtime treatments, or may be parceled out for convenient dinner-sized portions, and, heck, even works well at breakfast. May I please introduce you to the evolution of an obsession, Oatmeal-Apple bread. (I used a period, because, in fact, it's really more of a statement than a question. You're here. I'm writing about Oatmeal-Apple bread. If you don't want to make the acquaintance, I'm sure you'll make that perfectly clear by clicking away from this page.)
Oatmeal-Apple Bread in the Style of My Favorite Winter Breakfast:
1 cup old fashioned oatmeal (not instant)
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/3 cups warm milk (105 degrees to 115 degrees) (I used 1% milk)
1 tablespoon yeast (1 entire packet plus 3/4 teaspoons from another packet if you're using the packet variety rather than the bulk variety)
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup to 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
(plus additional flour as needed for kneading)
1 medium apple of your choosing (Medium is approximately 6-ounces. I've used Rhode Island Greening and Granny Smith, both tart varieties), peeled, cored, and chopped into 1/4-inch cubes
1/2 cup dried cranberries (such as Craisins)
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk
Lightly grease a large mixing bowl with butter and set it aside.
In another large mixing bowl, combine the oatmeal, butter, sugar, and salt, give them a good stir, then pour the warm milk over them, stirring well. Before adding the yeast, be sure that the milk is not hotter than 115 degrees Fahrenheit, as it will kill your yeast if it is, and there will be no rise to your bread - which is completely counterproductive to what we're doing here, in fact. Sprinkle the yeast over the milk mixture and let it stand for 5 minutes, during which time, it will bubble and begin to emit that quite unique smell of yeast fermenting (like a barroom in need of cleaning on a Sunday morning, only more pleasant).
After the yeast has fermented for 5 minutes, stir the mixture again, and gradually add the 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour. Once that flour has been mixed in, add 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour, adding more flour if necessary, tablespoon by tablespoon, to make the dough stop clinging to the bowl and start clinging to itself.
Now, at this point, you have a choice as to whether you add the apples and dried cranberries before kneading, or after kneading (on a lightly floured surface for 5 to 6 minutes until the dough is silken).
In my opinion, it is easier to add the fruit before kneading, as it will find a home within the dough quite readily during the mixing portion of this exercise, and you will have just a few straggling bits of fruit trying to escape during the subsequent kneading process. However, when you go this route, the apples will be pulverized to some degree by the kneading, so you won't have the chunks of apples in the finished bread that Method Number Two will yield.
And Method Number Two is this: after transferring the dough to a lightly floured surface, knead it for 5 to 6 minutes, until the dough is silken. Then, create an indent in the middle of the dough, and working with small amounts of fruit, add a bit of fruit to the indent, fold the dough over itself, create another indent, place more fruit within, and repeat until all of the fruit has been added to the dough. This becomes slightly more challenging the more fruit you add, but do not fret about the apple bits that dive out of the dough onto the floor; you can sweep those up, and the bread will be so full of apple chunks, it's quite unlikely you'll miss the few that escape.
Transfer the dough to the lightly greased mixing bowl, turning the ball of dough around in the bowl to also lightly coat it. We're doing this to prevent a crust forming on the dough while it rises.
Cover the mixing bowl with a clean kitchen towel or a lightly greased piece of plastic wrap (greased side facing toward the dough, of course), then place the covered bowl in a warm, draft-free area - 70 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal - until it is doubled in bulk, 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours.
Once the dough has doubled in bulk, punch it down, and turn it out onto a lightly floured counter to form it into a ball. Place the ball o' dough on a piece of parchment paper on a 9 by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet, cover it once more with that clean kitchen towel or the greased plastic wrap, and set it aside to rise for another hour.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Just before the bread is to go into the oven, mix together the egg yolk and milk to create a wash for the bread. If you don't have egg and milk, you could use melted unsalted butter, though the egg wash results in a nicer crust. Brush the egg wash all over the top of the bread, then bake the bread on the middle rack until it is lightly browned, and when you tap on the top of the bread, it sounds hollow. For me, this has consistently (like, over the course of baking 7 loaves of this bread) been 28 minutes.
Remove the bread from the oven, allow it to cool slightly on the baking sheet, then transfer it to a cooling rack before serving it forth. This bread works well as a sandwich bread, a side at dinner, or as French toast once stale.
Estimated cost for one loaf of bread: $4.46. The oatmeal will run you around 41-cents for one cup. The butter is 9-cents for 1 tablespoon of Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value brand butter that costs $2.79 for 1-pound. The brown sugar costs 8-cents total. The milk will cost around 33-cents, while the yeast will cost around 99-cents if you're using those packets from the grocery and not buying in bulk from a baker's supply like King Arthur Flour. The all-purpose flour costs around 60-cents, while the whole wheat flour costs around 18-cents. The apple should cost around 56-cents, at $1.50 per pound, which is what the apples at my local farmers market cost these days, and the dried cranberries should cost 94-cents from a 12-ounce bag costing $4.99. The egg wash costs 26-cents for the egg, and around 2-cents for the milk.
Dinner tonight: Very likely pumpkin turkey lasagna with a sage bechamel sauce. I'm working on this recipe for a possible second book, so I may not share it here anytime soon (unless there is no second book. In that case, I'll share it as soon as I know there is no second book!), but it is pretty darned tasty. Estimated cost for two: $4.24. The noodles cost $2.49 for 18, we're using 9, so that's around $1.25. The olive oil will cost 36-cents, the shallot around 25-cents, and the turkey is $5.99/pound (I'm using a pound). The pumpkin will be of the canned variety, and that costs 99-cents. The thyme will cost around 10-cents, the milk for the bechamel will be around $1.25. The butter for the bechamel will be 54-cents, and the flour will be around 4-cents. The sage is from my garden, but let's say it would be half of a purchased package that costs $1.99 at the grocery store, so that's $1.00, and the nutmeg will cost around 6-cents. The cheese for topping will cost around $1.00, as I think I'll be using grated Pecorino Romano (it's what I have in the house, so why not use it, right?). That comes to $12.77 for 6 servings, or $2.12 per serving. So lunch tomorrow will cost each of us $2.12 as well. Sweet!