A Bit of Whimsy
My mom used to make our bread, good old fashioned white, in a huge porcelain coated dishpan. The whole house smelled of yeast and bread baking all day. She usually ended up with about 5 loaves, a 9 x 13 pan of cinnamon rolls and at least one batch of fritters. The cinnamon rolls were my dad’s pleasure (not that we didn’t eat them of course) but the fritters were the highlight to my sisters and I. Bits of bread dough, pulled flat and fried in a cast iron skillet. We topped these warm, crispy, doughy delights with fresh butter and syrup or jam. I can’t say that I’ve ever eaten a doughnut or pastry that ever tasted that good since.
When the poet said that bread was the staff of life, I don’t think he was talking about the loaves of white and whole wheat seen on the shelves of local stores. There is very little positive to be said about even the most ‘whole grain’ breads out there except they are okay for a beloved peanut butter and jam sandwich. Even the so called whole grain breads lack in protein and flavor.
Today, I’m making bread. You say, bread for one? Well yes and no. I make a single loaf of grain, nut and fruit dense bread. Then I slice ½ inch thick slices and wrap and freeze the slices. I put one slice in a sandwich bag and then put all the bagged slices in one larger freezer bag. I can pull out a single slice, toast and spread with butter, cream cheese or peanut butter (swoon) and I have a breakfast that suits me better than another bowl of oatmeal. The recipe I use is adapted from a recipe in a 1950’s McCall’s bread book for oatmeal batter bread (anyone still remember that magazine?).
I have pretty much changed everything except the amount of oatmeal so I guess it’s my own recipe. The nuts and fruit are totally interchangeable with other fruits and nuts. I tend to throw in what I have on hand. Today it will be hazelnuts, walnuts and dried cherries. I hope you will give it a try. All the work is done in your mixer, no kneading required. Cooking is therapy for me and I love getting my hands into the food so I’m always tempted to knead this bread. However, other than working the fruit and nuts into the dough, my kitchen aid gets all the fun.
Oatmeal Nut Bread
¾ Cup Old Fashioned Oats
1 ½ Cup boiling water
¼ Cup molasses
1 ½ tsp salt
3 Tbsp butter or margarine
2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast or one packet
¼ C warm water (about 105-110 degrees)*
tiny pinch of sugar
1 Cup of nuts and/or seeds (I used ½ C walnuts and ½ cup hazelnuts, chopped)
½ Cup dried fruit (I used tart cherries)
2 Cup whole wheat flour
2 Cup unbleached white flour
Mix first five ingredients and set aside to cool.*
Mix yeast, water and sugar and set aside until a bubbly foam rises.
When the first two steps are complete, add the oats and yeast mixtures to your mixer bowl and use a dough hook. This is what’s known as batter bread and can be done by hand but I don’t have the upper body strength these days to work a wooden spoon or dough hook through dense bread dough. However, if you want a workout, this would certainly qualify.
Add the flour in ½ Cup increments, stopping and pushing down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
Add the fruits and nuts after the third Cup of flour and let it work into the dough before adding the final C. Let your dough hook do its work until the flour is all worked in and the dough. The dough will be slightly sticky. This is the point where ordinarily you would turn your dough out onto a board and knead in another cup or two of flour but it’s not necessary with this loaf.
Turn out into an oiled or buttered bowl, cover with waxed paper or plastic wrap and a kitchen towel set in a warm place to rise.
Rising time is not exact, depending on temperature of your kitchen, the weather, the altitude and the type of yeast. Mine usually takes about 45 minutes. I warm my oven to 200 degrees and set the bowl at the back of the stove in cold, rainy weather like we’re having today.
Once the dough is about double in size, ‘beat’ it down with a wooden spoon about 25 strokes. This is physically tougher than it sounds but the dough is usually too sticky to do with your hands.
Turn out into a greased 9 x 5 x 3 inch bread pan, smooth the top, cover and leave to rise again. When it is nearing the top of the pan (30-45 minutes), bake in a 425 degree oven for 45-50 minutes or until the top sounds hollow when tapped. Turn out onto a cooling rack and cool completely before slicing. Then toast a slice, make yourself a cup of tea and enjoy.