There is something so perfectly simple about making bread. Yeast, water, flour. Bring those three ingredients together and magic happens. Adding water will make yeast bloom and come alive. Add flour and maybe a bit of salt to the mix, nature takes over and before long your dough will ferment and grow and rise with little help from you.
There is no question why bread is called the staff of life or why the Parisians started a revolution for it. It’s nourishing, filling, versatile. Visit any country and you’ll find a beautifully creative interpretation of bread: Injera in Ethiopia, Chapatis in Northern India, Black Bread in Russia. There is no doubt that bread is good for the soul.
For all its simplicity, however, bread can be complicated and temperamental to make. Too much or too little yeast can change things dramatically. Cold room temperatures can cause arduously long and possibly failed risings. Sticky dough, dry dough, wet dough; all these things can potentially ruin a great bread. Making bread requires intention and focus. It also requires you follow to the recipe, which is why I asked the beautiful Kim Boyce permission to bake and reprint her recipe for Oatmeal Sandwich Bread. Which she graciously granted.
Kim’s recipe calls for using a stand mixer. In lieu of having a stand mixer she suggest using your hands. After some consultation and gentle encouragement on her end (and the fact I don’t have a stand mixer and the dough hook on a food processor not being appropriate for this recipe) I decided to brave kneading by hand. Why I was afraid I’ll never know. OK, actually I think I do know. I have many childhood memories of my Mom making filhos, also known as malasdas or Portuguese doughnuts, by hand. Let’s just say there were much kneading and much grumpiness in the kitchen. But damn were those filhos good. She always made them with a bit of lemon zest and a dusting of powdered sugar. Maybe it’s time I asked her for the recipe…
But kneading by hand is NOT as scary as I had imagined. There’s something instinctual and meditative about it. As your fingers and knuckles and palms gently press and roll your dough it’s as if you’re connecting with women throughout history. Thoughts quiet down and it is just you and your dough carrying on thousands of years of tradition. I absolutely loved it and will, from now on, always knead by hand.
P.S. I wanted to make a few more pictures for you, but I didn’t for two reasons. The first, I didn’t want to mess with and move, much less uncover, a rising bread. The second, I’ve been pretty sick with a fever all weekend and just couldn’t manage any more than these.
Reprinted with permission from Kim Boyce
I did make one or two mistakes with this bread. I didn’t realize this was a two-bowl operation, one bowl for mixing, the second, buttered for rising. I ended up making the whole recipe in one buttered bowl. Turned out just fine, but I’ll list the recipe as Kim intended.
What you’ll need~
Butter for the bowl and pan
1 package active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 stick butter, melted and cooled slightly
1-tablespoon kosher salt
- Lightly butter a large bowl and a bread loaf pan about 9x5x3.
- Add 2 cups of warm water, yeast, and molasses to the bowl of a stand mixer. Stir yeast, allowing it to bloom for about 5 minutes, until it begins to bubble. If it doesn’t bubble the yeast may be inactive. (My yeast didn’t bubble much, but it didn’t seem to affect the dough)
- To autolyse, measure the flours, oats, and butter into the bowl with the yeast mixture and stir together with a wooden spoon/ Cover with a towel and let stand for 30 minutes.
- If using a stand mixer, attach the bowl and the bread hook to the mixer, add the salt, and mix on medium for 6 minutes. The dough should slap around the sides without sticking to them. If the dough is sticking at any time during the mixing, add a tablespoon or two of flour until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be soft and supple, slightly tacky, with a beautiful sheeting effect. If kneading by hand, knead the dough for about 15 minutes adding flour as needed. I found I had to keep my hands somewhat moist with water to prevent the dough from sticking too much to my hands.
- For the first rise, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it a few times. Put the dough into the buttered bowl, cover with a towel, and leave it to rise for about 1 hour, or until it is doubled in size.
- To shape the dough, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Press down on the dough, working it toward a square shape while depressing all of the bubbles. Fold the dough down from the top to the middle, then up for the bottom to the middle. Next, bring the newly formed top and bottom edges together and pinch the seam in the middle, sealing the seam with your fingers. Pinch the sides together and roll the shaped dough back and forth, plumping it so that it’s evenly formed and about the size of your loaf pan. Place the dough in the pan with the seam side down and press it gently into the corners of the pan.
- For the second rise, cover the dough with a towel and let rest in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until the dough rises to half again its size or puffs up barely or just over the edge of the pan. While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
- When the dough has finished its final rise, sprinkle the top of the loaf with oats or bran, if desired.
- Bake for about 40 minutes rotating halfway through. The loaf is ready when the top crust is as dark as molasses and the bottom crust is dark brown. To see if the bread is ready, give the top of the loaf a thump to see if it sounds hollow. If the hollow sound isn’t there and the bread isn’t quite dark enough, bake for another 5 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan and cook on a baking rack, preferably for a few hours, so that the crumb doesn’t collapse when you cut into it and the flavor has time to develop.