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.
- 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.
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.
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.
9. Cooling: Let the bread cool completely on a wire rack before cutting.