When the tilt of the Earth’s axis and the numbers on the calendar suggest that we have arrived in this season, we inevitably begin thinking that it really OUGHT to be warm and lovely out, every single day, starting just exactly now. We’ve endured winter, have we not? Even for one as mild as we just experienced, a person deserves some kind of reward…right? Slowly, slowly, like the buds materializing on the fingertips of the trees, we begin feeling entitled to the joys of springtime. (I’ll leave the philosophical underpinnings of that for another time.) And with our sense of entitlement comes a deep frustration when, instead of reveling in warm nights, we are tossed about by the unreliable, unpredictable weather. As noted yesterday, consistency is not a key player in the shifting of the seasons.
And in an inconsistent time, a person needs–even more than usual–something to count on. In the interest of dependability, I bring you the easiest yeast bread I’ve yet to encounter. It is simple and quick to prepare, and it’s unfailingly delicious, soft and with a lovely chew, all the more soothing when warm and topped with a pat of butter.
By the way, if your weather is not unpredictable–if it is, let’s say, balmy and warm instead–then surely you don’t want to spend your whole day inside baking bread, do you? But you still have to eat. And you’ll still want fresh bread, won’t you? Alternately, if you’re off in some place like the northwestern United States where it’s raining, raining, raining all the time, a loaf of bread, warm from the oven and dense with oats, seems just the thing to satisfy, no? And finally, if you’re living in some climate that doesn’t fall into any of these categories, well, friend, please do tell me: who, exactly, can pass up a slice of freshly baked bread, and a cute little short one at that, all warm and golden-hued, with a dense and delightful crumb? No one*, that’s who.
So go bake yourself the most dependable and darling little loaf of bread you ever did see. And enjoy. Because whatever comes, we’ll make it through.
*Except for one who is gluten intolerant, and if that is you, I apologize, direct you to this excellent resource if perchance you’ve not yet found her and beg you to return tomorrow, when I promise to accommodate you better.
Adapted from Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks
As posted by Heidi, the recipe calls for one full cup of oats rather than 1/2 cup of oats and 1/2 cup of oat bran. But I made this amendment once when I found myself short on oats and found I like it best that way. I think it evens out the crumb–a bridge between the fine flours and the larger flakes of oats, if you will. But if you only have oats on hand, by all means, use them instead!
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 teaspoons (one packet) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon runny honey
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Pour the warm water into a medium bowl. Sprinkle the yeast on top and stir until it dissolves. Stir in the honey. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes, until the yeast blooms and swells a bit.
Meanwhile, mix the flours, oat bran, oats and salt in a large bowl. Once the yeast has bloomed, add the wet mixture to the dry. Mix well.
Generously brush an 8-cup loaf pan with melted butter. Turn the dough into the tin, brush with any remaining butter and cover with a clean, slightly damp cloth. Set the tin in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
When the bread has risen, bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan. If you’d like, turn the oven to broil at the very end for just a few moments to give the top of the bread a deeper golden color.
Remove the bread from the oven and turn it out onto a rack quickly, so that it doesn’t steam in the pan. Let it cool slightly and then serve warm, with butter and/or jam.
Yield: 1 small loaf
1. Monday: Simplest Jam Tart
2. Tuesday: Fennel and Asian Pear Salad with Parmesan
3. Wednesday: Carrot Ginger Soup
4. Thursday: Easy Oat Bread