I don’t really think of myself as a baker. But there are some times in life when I just crave homemade bread. The yeasty smell that fills the house as it bakes. Its hard outer crust and pillow-y interior. Still warm and slathered with butter, it’s heaven on earth, and paired with fruit it makes an especially fabulous breakfast in bed.
Like I said, I don’t bake that often (especially not bread!). But there’s a secret I want to share with you about making bread – it’s not hard, it’s just involved. What I mean, is it (usually) takes quite a bit of time and has quite a few steps, but if you read through the whole recipe before starting and follow each step exactly, you’re pretty much guaranteed a little slice (or loaf, rather ;) ) of paradise.
Here are some tips to help you bake the perfect loaf:
- If you want less dense bread with more holes, substitute the oats and whole wheat flour in this recipe for equal parts bread flour. I love the flavor of oatmeal bread and I enjoy a chewy texture so I add the oats and whole wheat flour.
- Read the full recipe before starting. This will give you a better idea of the steps involved, as well as how long each step should take.
- The longer you leave the starter sit at room temperature, the more your bread will taste like a sourdough bread.
- Letting the dough rest right after the dry ingredients and water are added give the flour a chance to absorb the water. As a result, you’ll end up adding less flour during the kneading process and your final product will be lighter bread with more holes.
- If you use the dough hook of a stand mixer to knead your dough, watch the dough very carefully because it’s easy to over-knead. Test the dough often to see if it’s done – press a finger into the dough; if the indentation remains, it’s done kneading and ready for rising.
- After the first rising, be very careful when you deflate the dough. Do not push all of the air out, since the air bubbles in the dough are what form the lovely holes in the finished product.
- After the first rising, the dough will still be tacky, but don’t knead in more flour. Just flour your hands and add enough flour to the outside of the dough so that you can easily form the dough into a ball.
- After the second rising, only slash the top of the dough if it has risen 40 to 50%. If it has risen more, do not slash it, since this could cause it to fall during baking.
- Before baking, use a spray bottle filled with water to lightly spray water on the dough and into the oven. This creates a nice crusty loaf.
Chewy Country Oat Bread (Inspired by King Arthur Flour’s recipe for French-Style Country Bread)
Yields 1 large loaf, about 10 to 12 servings
Sponge or Spoolish (Starter):
1 c cool to lukewarm water (90F to 100F)
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 c bread flour (I used King Arthur)
1/2 c whole wheat flour
All of the starter
1 c lukewarm water (100F to 115F)
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 TB sugar
1 1/2 tsp fine salt
2 c bread flour, plus more for kneading (if needed) and dusting the loaf
1 c oats, finely ground in blender or food processor
1/2 c whole wheat flour
Cooking spray (or oil)
Parchment paper & baking sheet without sides (or a pizza peel)
Spray bottle filled with water
1. For the Starter: Mix together all ingredients (you will have a thick, pudding-like dough). Cover the mixture with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature (about 70F) for 2 to 16 hours.
The Dough Starter After Sitting at Room Temperature About 14 Hours
2. For the Dough: In a medium bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients for the dough. After the starter is done sitting at room temperature, stir it down. You can either use a wooden spoon to make the dough by hand, or use the paddle attachment on a stand mixer. Alternate mixing the water and the dry ingredients into the starter. Mix until just combined and the dough starts looking shaggy. Leave the dough in the bowl, cover it with a piece of plastic wrap that has been lightly sprayed with cooking oil, and let it rest for 15 minutes.
3. Kneading: Once the dough has rested for 15 minutes it’s time to knead it. You can either knead the dough by hand or use the dough hook on a stand mixer. You can add up to 1/2 c more bread flour as needed during the kneading process. If you knead it by hand it will take about 10 to 12 minutes; if done with a dough hook in a stand mixer it will take about 5 to 7 minutes. The dough is done kneading when you press one finger into the dough and the indentation remains; the dough will be a little tacky, even when done kneading.
4. First Rising: Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover it with plastic wrap that has been lightly sprayed with cooking spray; cover the plastic wrap with a towel. Let the dough rise at room temperature (about 70F) in a draft-free place until almost doubled in size (this will take 1 to 2 hours, depending on the weather). When the dough is almost doubled, gently deflate it but don’t knock out all the air.
5. Shaping: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle cornmeal on the parchment (or sprinkle cornmeal on a pizza peel). After deflating the dough, sprinkle it lightly with flour, flour your hands, and form the dough into a ball. Place the ball of dough on the prepared baking sheet or pizza peel, seam-side down. Dust the dough with a little more flour.
Baking Sheet Lined with Parchment and Sprinkled with Cornmeal
6. Second Rising: Once the dough is on the prepared baking sheet or pizza peel, lightly cover it with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature (about 70F) in a draft-free place until it’s puffy and about 40 to 50% larger (this will take somewhere between 30 to 90 minutes).
7. Preheating: Right after you start the second rising, place the pizza stone on a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 475F.
8. Baking: After the second rising, only slash the dough if it has risen 40 to 50%; if the dough has risen more, do not slash it. Lightly spray a little water onto the bread and into the oven. Transfer the bread to the preheated pizza stone in the oven (if you used parchment paper, leave the bread on the parchment paper). Reduce the heat to 425F and spray a little water in the oven every few minutes for the first 15 minutes of baking. Bake the bread for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until done. The bread is done when it has a golden brown crust that’s firm to the touch, and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
Only Slash the Dough if It Has Risen Only 40-50%
9. Cooling: Let the bread cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.
Let it Cool Before Cutting…Maybe the Hardest Part ;)
David Smith says
This bread sounds really good. We have been making more of our own breads lately and we’re going to have to try this one. Thanks.
Looks like a wonderful bread.
Oats are healthful,love the crusty bread :D
Nicole, RD says
Faith, it looks amazing! I think you are more a baker than you let on ;) If I ever find the patience, I am making this!
This is a great recipe, thanks for sharing.
I can only imagine how gorgeous it would be straight from the oven.
Barbara Bakes says
A beautiful bread! I love that you added whole wheat flour.
Simply Life says
wow that bread looks amazing!
Veronica M. says
Oh, girl, I love me some homemade bread too! This has got me in the mood to bake some, despite the temp outside. I loved your tips–esp the one about letting the dough rest after adding the liquid to let the flour absorb it–I’d never read that before.
You just want to torture this poor gluten-free person with pictures of delicious bread, don’t you? :) It looks fantastic!! I can almost smell it over here in Los Angeles!
Great Tips.. thanks! I’m always looking for ways to make my bread better. This bread looks AMAZING! I’m such a carb-aholic :)
[email protected] says
thank you for these amazing tips……your bread looks divine faith! have a great weekend :)
If anyone had the least doubt about baking bread, they will put it aside after reading this post, Faith.
Your advice, photos and recipe are exactly the encouragement anyone would need.
I love fresh bread, but don’t make it as often as I should. I think it’s the time element. I am more apt to make it in the winter, I think.
Lovely recipe too.
I certainly need people like yourself to encourage me to one day try making my own bread. Your instructions and tips will be filed so that I may refer to it later.
You made a fantastic looking bread. The texture looks just right!
BTW…thanks for having come for a visit lately…it’s a pleasure making your foodie acquaintance ;o)
I will continue following your progress.
excellent tips, faith! they’ve all been pounded into my head by now, so i can vouch for the fact that they’re all useful. your bread looks awesome. :)
Great step by step images! I can smell it from here! Brava!
Oh, thanks so much for the tips, Faith. I SUCH in breadbaking…they always come out sour and rancid of something! And man, there really is nothing like homebaked bread, is there?
Thanks for the wonderful bread baking tips! Your bread is just gorgeous. I love the oats in here! ;)
5 Star Foodie says
This freshly baked homemade bread sounds amazing!
A beautiful bread! Healthy and so soft! KAF recipes are awesome…
[email protected] says
Perfect bread, Faith. I really like the idea of the oats in the loaf… may amend my favorite recipe to add oats to the wheat and rye… a grain medley!! Wonderful photos too… you really do the recipe proud and your explanation of your techniques are superb!
I like a chewy bread too, Faith, this looks delicious! And like the kind of bread you just want to keep eating and eating when it’s warm from the oven. Thanks for all the tips!
This is an excellent step-by-step primer on bread and why it’s worth the steps. Just looking at the photos is proof positive oh why people bake bread.
The bread look dense and hearty…and made with love!
I haven’t made homemade bread in a very long time! Yours looks tastey and perfect!
Your bread looks picture perfect, almost too good to slice into :)
I’m with you, there is nothing quite like waking up to a slice of homemade bread. This one looks fantastic and is definitely going on my to-try list. Awesome tips! I like your kneading one because I never quite know when to stop!
Heavenly Housewife says
I’ve never made a proper bread that has a starter. This looks absolutely lovely, and i bet it was a total joy eating. Pass the butter daaaaaahling…
Have a great weekend ahead.
There is nothing like the smell of bread baking away in the oven. This loaf looks fabulous.
That’s such a beautiful loaf of bread….looks very fresh and delicious. I hardly make bread…blame my lack of patience :P Hope to start one day. I want my whole house to smell nice and enjoy fresh bread from the oven :D
Great tips on making perfect bread. Thank you! Your bread looks amazing!
Your loaf of bread looks really good and beautiful.I like your tips too.
Love the looks of your loaf of bread and I can imagine first the smell out of the kitchen while it was baking and then eating a few slices with butter for a wonderful breakfast! Heavenly!
I loved all your tips, very useful; for me, baking bread just seems too time-consuming, unless I am “in the mood”
Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says
That loaf looks divine Faith! :) And for someone who says that they doesn’t bake much you’ve got some great tips there, most of which I had no idea! :D