I think oatmeal bread must be more of a staple for Americans than it is here in the south of England. I'd vaguely heard of it, but never tasted it, and everyone I mentioned it to was intrigued. Yet when you read American blogs, they make it sound like an everyday event - indeed Tanna at My Kitchen in Half Cups even called hers ordinary everyday oatmeal bread extraordinary. She's right about the extraordinary: it's not like making any other loaf I've ever cooked! And it's good, too ... although, in truth, I'm not sure it's going to get everyday status in this kitchen. But it's good enough to make again (which I'm doing right now), it makes great toast, and the last crumbs were really good in my stuffed butternut the other night.
Tanna's recipe is here, but, as usual, I've changed it a bit, partly to simplify it, but mainly because I'm too impatient to do all that waiting until things cool completely, or are rested for the full afternoon nap. Also, I began to make it before I realised I didn't have the right kind of flour, so my first batch was made with spelt flour, all five cups. Very good, although the oats somehow made the spelt taste speltier (and it's strong-tasting to start with, I think you can probably have too much of a good thing). This time, I'm using Italian 00 pasta flour and wholemeal, 50/50, in the hope that we'll get more of an oaty flavour.
Unusually, I haven't translated the American cups into weights; instead, I used an ordinary sized mug, which is very slightly larger than an American cup measure, which is 250ml.
The most amazing thing is that there's no sign of the oatmeal in the finished result, which is a close-crumbed loaf. You soak the oats, and, after a while, they look just like porridge, the lumpy sort we used to get at my convent boarding school in the 60s. But there's no sign of an oat or even a lump in the finished result - the alchemy of yeast and heat, an everyday kitchen miracle.
Oatmeal bread, 2 loaves
* In a large bowl, measure out one cup of rolled oats. Pour on two cups of boiling water. Cover and leave to cool. It doesn't much matter if it's still a bit warm when you move on to the next step, although it is supposed to be completely cold.
* Add two tablespoons of olive oil and one tablespoon of dried yeast (Tanna rightly says it doesn't much matter what sort you use - I used the sort that comes in a tin, which is more normally mixed with warm water before being added to the flour). Stir thoroughly.
* Stir in two mugs of white flour. The mix will be very dry. Cover the bowl with a plate, and leave in a warm place for half an hour or more to rest.
* Mix half a mug of warm water, a little honey, some salt, and stir this into the bowl. Then add two mugs of wholemeal flour. The mix will be very sticky. (At this point Tanna also puts in flax seeds, and I put sesame and sunflower seeds the first time, none at all in today's batch.)
* Measure out another mug of flour, either white or wholemeal, and knead it into the bread. Tanna says to knead for 15-20 minutes, but I found five was enough. I think this would be a good dough to try the technique of repeatedly giving the dough a couple of turns then leaving it for 10 minutes (if you've never done that, do try, because it's amazing how the dough seems to knead itself, given time).
* When the dough is springy, cover it (you could put it in the bowl with the plate, or you could leave it in a ball on the worktop covered with a floured teacloth). Leave it for an hour or so - more or less, this is forgiving dough - partly, I think, because there's a lot of yeast in it.
* Heat your oven to 220C
* Divide the dough in two, shape the loaves and put them into two 2lb loaf tins. Tanna says to slash them, but, first time, I did this and watched the dough collapse like a souffle, so I'm not about to make the same mistake. This time, I've put them in the tins, slashed one immediately, before leaving them to rise, and left the other whole.
* Leave to rise - hard to give a time, it depends on how warm or cool your kitchen is (and you could slow this part right down by putting the dough into the fridge, although you'd need to bring it back up to room temperature before putting into the oven).
* Bake for 35-40 minutes.
* I'm intrigued by Tanna's comment that the bread ready when it measures 200-211F on a thermometer - but I think she uses the "hollow thump" method that breadmakers all over the world find perfectly reliable.
Tanna posted this recipe as homage to her mother; for me, it's homage to the web ... I would never have tried making bread with rolled oats if I'd found it in a book - this recipe is part of the wonderful on-going interactive conversation with like-minded cooks across the world that is my daily experience of food-blogging.
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