It’s funny what we find intimidating.
For the longest time, the idea of making bread scared me. It just seemed so complicated. You had to make sure the yeast reacted. You had to make sure the water was at the precise temperature. You had to coax the dough into rising. You had to knead the bread – whatever that meant.
But then, I decided to just go for it. I opened up my cupboard, and all the ingredients were there. And they would be – bread requires little more than flour, water, and yeast. Which made me realize how basic bread was.
Bread is one of the oldest prepared foods around. It was made thousands of years ago, as early as the Neolithic Age – a period of early human technology, but still well before the age of packaged yeast, digital thermometers, and convection ovens.
And if they could make bread, I reasoned that I could as well.
whole wheat oat bread
Recipe adapted from Epicurious.
PREP TIME: 40 minutes
DOWN TIME: 2 hours 30 minutes
COOK TIME: 35 minutes
YIELD: Makes 2 loaves
WHAT TO GRAB:
2 cups low-fat milk
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, plus more for topping
1/2 cup warm water (105-115° F)
2 tablespoons active dry yeast (about three packages)
1/2 cup mild honey
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for greasing
3 cups whole-wheat flour
About 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons Kosher salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
HOW YOU DO IT:
1. Heat milk in a small saucepan over low heat until hot but not boiling. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the oats. Let stand, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until cooled to warm.
2. In a small bowl, stir together the water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of honey. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If the mixture doesn’t foam, you’ll have to discard it and start over with new yeast.) Stir the yeast mixture, melted butter, and remaining honey into the cooled oatmeal.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the whole-wheat flour, 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour, and salt. Add the oat mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto the wet dough onto a well-floured surface. Knead the dough, with floured hands, until the dough is smooth, soft, and elastic, about 10 minutes (the dough will be slightly sticky). While you’re kneading, add just enough unbleached flour to keep the dough from sticking to your surface.
4. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a large, oiled mixing bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 60 to 90 minutes.
5. Lightly butter two loaf pans. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead several times to remove air. Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a loaf. Place each loaf in a buttered pan, seam side down, tucking ends gently to fit. Cover the loaf pans loosely with a kitchen towel, and let the dough rise at a warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 60 minutes.
6. Put the oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly brush the tops of each loaf with some of the egg wash and sprinkle with oats. Bake the loaves until they are golden and they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 30 to 35 minutes. (Remove 1 loaf from pan to test for doneness. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen.)
7. Remove the bread from the pans and transfer to a rack to cool completely, about 60 minutes. Slice and serve! (I’ve found the loaves are easiest to slice when turned on their sides).