The wind is blowing outside my window with a fierceness only Mother Nature herself could bring. Another blizzard has descended, matching the winds of last Wednesday and the snow of last weekend. If the nine foot snow drift that appeared outside of my bedroom window this morning is any indication, it was only proper to spend the day wrapped up in sweaters and hiding under blankets. This winter, in particular, has been one of hot cocoa and warm ovens.
How could you have it any other way?
One of the dearest ways to spend a Sunday morning for me is baking bread. After the coffee has been brewed, I slowly pull the flour out of the cupboard and the yeast off the shelf, moving at the speed of the weekend. The morning may be filled with yawns (and flour may pepper the sides of my pajama pants), but bread is an act of patience and a practice in meditation. There can be no rush, for bread grows at its own pace, feeling out the air around it and reacting accordingly. It is this nature of bread, this uncontrollable spirit, that keeps me coming back time and again.
The scent of yeast and the feel of dough beneath my fingers is irreplaceable.
Honey and oatmeal are a classic comfort food combination, perfect for giving warmth to a wintery day. When approaching this bread, I wanted to find a way to make the oats a significant portion of the bread, lending a pronounced flavor to the final loaf. To do so, I ground up the oatmeal flakes in a food processor until they resembled flour, which working surprisingly well. The bread has a hint of honey, providing a pure sweetness which complements a spread of jam and acts as a spoon for potatoes and gravy.
It may be cold outside, but it is warm in my kitchen.
Honey Oat Bread is a standard dinner table bread. The subtlety of oats and honey allow the bread to be served with both sweet and savory foods. Before baking, the bread is brushed with warm honey and sprinkled with oats. When it emerges from the oven, the top takes on a golden color. If golden were a flavor, this bread would certainly match it. The honey soaked bites and toasted oats become the icing on the cake, so to speak. The bread keeps well for several days, bringing an element of joy to your favorite dishes.
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Honey Oat Bread
Yields 1 loaf
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup (235 ml) warm milk
1/3 cup (80 ml) warm water
1/4 cup ( grams) honey
1/4 cup (60 ml) melted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups (180 grams) oat flour*
2 cups (255 grams) bread flour
In a large mixing bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer), sprinkle the yeast over the barely warm milk and water and allow to sit about 5-10 minutes until activated (looks frothy). Mix in the honey, melted butter, and salt. Gradually add oat and bread flour, mixing until the dough comes together. If the dough is too dry and will not come together, add small amounts of water until it does. Conversely, if the dough is too sticky, add flour until it becomes workable; however, do not add too much flour or the bread will become dense.
Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for 7-10 minutes, or until elastic. Alternatively, using the dough hook on a stand mixer, knead the dough for 7-10 minutes, or until elastic. Cover dough with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise until doubled in a warm place, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch down the dough before turning out onto a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into an even log and place in a lightly greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for another 40-60 minutes until doubled.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
If desired, brush the top of the loaf with warm honey and sprinkle on oat flakes. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until bread is golden and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from baking pan and allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving.
* To make oat flour, place either quick or old fashioned oats into a food processor and process for 2-3 minutes, or until it resembles whole wheat flour.
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