I love the ritual of baking bread: the blooming of the yeast, the kneading, the rise, the punching down, the second rise, the baking, and finally, the eating. I also love the warm, sweet scents that accompany this ritual. Baking bread can be challenging, and many view it as a chore, but instead, let yourself get lost in the ritual. Be patient.
This hearty bread has a beautiful crust and soft crumb. The roasted oats give this bread a nutty caramel flavor. Try adding fresh herbs, such as sage or tarragon, when kneading for a more complex flavor.
What You'll Need:
- 4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast*
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 cup warm water
- 1/3 cup walnut oil
- 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 1/2 cup white, all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 cup quick rolled oats
*A word about yeast. When I first began baking bread, I always bought yeast in packages. I often found that my yeast often did not bloom correctly, resulting in flat, stiff bread. I recommend using Fleischmann's Active Dry Yeast from the bottle. It's a little more of an investment to buy it in bottle form, but it's actually a better deal and seems to work much better than the packages.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lay the oats on a cookie sheet and spread evenly. Toast the oats in the oven for 5-7 minutes until fragrant. Remove from oven and let cool.
- Combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water in a large bowl and let stand for 5 minutes. This allows the yeast to bloom - it should look foamy, if not, throw it away and start again.
- Once the yeast has bloomed, add the walnut oil, flours and salt and gently stir with a fork to combine. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth. Knead for an additional 2 minutes, working in the oats as you knead.
- Form the dough into a ball and place it in a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm, draft free spot until the dough doubles in bulk, about 90 minutes.
- When the dough has doubled, gently punch it down and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead gently for 30 more seconds and form into a loaf. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rest for 5 minutes.
- While the dough is resting, place a sheet of parchment on a cookie sheet. After the dough has rested, place the loaf on the prepared cookie sheet and cover with a clean towel. Let rise in a warm, draft free spot until it doubles again, about 40-60 minutes (I find the best spot is on top of my preheating oven).
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and position a rack in the lower third of the oven. Once the dough has rested, remove the towel and dust the loaf with flour. Using a serrated knife, slash a long line from tip to tip about 1 inch deep.
- Place the loaf in the oven and reduce the heat down to 400 degrees. Bake until golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, about 35-40 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack and enjoy while still warm with freshly churned butter.
Yield: 1 loaf