Thursday, January 28, 2010

Oatmeal Maple-Honey Bread

This loaf is dedicated to Nell, who loves oatmeal bread.
And to Andy, who cooks oatmeal every morning without measuring.

I read a recipe for Oat Bread in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and a recipe for Vermont Oatmeal Maple-Honey Bread in The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. This recipe is a fusion of the two. Partially because I discovered we were low on both honey and maple syrup (the main sweeteners in either-or) and partially because I am a crazy cook and tend to (read as "love to") wing it. The results are always mind-blowing... sometimes in a good way, sometimes in a not-so-good way. It's a risk I am willing to take.

What you need:
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup wheat bran
1 1/4 cups bread flour
Additional oats, wheat bran, and a pinch of sugar for a textured and beautiful top crust.

I used exactly those ingredients, but here are some optional swaps--
instead of 1 cup of warm milk use 1 cup of warm water
instead of 2 tablespoons of canola oil use 2 tablespoons softened, unsalted butter
instead of 1 1/4 cups bread flour use 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

What you do:
  1. Start by proofing the yeast. Use the 1/4 cup warm water, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, and yeast (obviously).
  2. While the yeast proofs (10 minutes/until it is bubbling), combine the milk, honey, maple syrup, canola oil, and salt. Whisk together.
  3. Slowly add the wheat flour, oats, and wheat bran. Mix.
  4. Slowly add the bread flour, reserving 1/4 cup for kneading.
  5. Knead for 5 minutes. Adding the full amount of bread flour is based on your judgement. Add as much as the dough will hold and still be a bit tacky.
  6. Let the dough rise, covered for 1 hour or until doubled.
  7. Shape the loaf and roll it into that oat, wheat bran, sugar mixture you had set aside for the top crust. The amount you add is up to you. How rustic do you like it?
  8. Put it in a loaf pan, cover, and let it rise again 1 hour or until doubled.
  9. Preheat the oven to 375° in the last 15/20 minutes of this second rise.
  10. Bake for 45 minutes or until the bread pulls slightly away from the sides of the pan.
Eat to your health! Oatmeal bread seemed like a great follow-up bread for the Cinnamon Raisin Loaf because oats are a superfood. The smiling, white-haired Quaker man on the label of Quaker Oats promises a healthy heart and reduced cholesterol. I don't know if I totally trust him because what is his hair tucked into? His ears? How do you get a fold of hair like that when you aren't playing Martha Washington in a body of water?? From a source with a better hairstyle, research shows (according to David Grotto's book 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life!) oats can help aid weight management as part of a nutritious, fiber-rich diet and oats+other whole grain intake can even help prevent type 2 diabetes. Plus, oats are soothing for almost any digestive ailment and externally, for itching/eczema (Disclaimer: I am in no way, shape, or form suggesting you ever rub this bread on a mosquito bite).

This is superbread. Bake it and eat it in good health.

- Sarah

P.S. Here is what "cow face" kneading looks like.. I was trying to explain it in the whole wheat post. It even has a mouth (unintentional)!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

I suppose I should be honest.  I haven't always liked raisins.  Actually, I used to hate raisins and everything they touched.  Oatmeal raisin cookies? Cinnamon raisin bread? No, thanks.

This all changed when Sar accused me of being pickier than she is when it comes to food.  Until then, I'd always been applauded for my ability to eat almost anything and say, "it's not that bad."  I was shocked and appalled - sure, I didn't like PB&J sandwiches and milk (still) sort of freaks me out, but these are isolated events.   Raisins were just another member of my I'd-Rather-Not list. 

But then we counted.  Sar definitely had less I'd-Rather-Not foods than I did.  It was war.  I started eating raisins because, while I'm being honest, I'll admit that I will not ever eat a PB&J sandwich and milk will never be my drink of choice.  It was awful at first - convincing myself not to pick them out of my cookies, picking the cereals packed with raisins - but eventually I learned to like them.   The more raisins, the merrier.  

What better way to celebrate raisins than Cinnamon Raisin Bread? And what better way to follow up a completely healthy Whole Wheat Loaf than with bread that's loaded with  butter and sugar?  We're all about balance in this apartment.

I used the recipe from Sweet Cheeks in the Kitchen - a great blog that came up while I was scanning TasteSpotting for a good recipe.  It's delicious bread and easy, to boot.  Next time I'll roll mine a bit thinner and maybe add some extra cinnamon-sugary goodness to amp up the swirls.  Maybe add some extra raisins, just to prove that I can handle it.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Basic Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf

So, we haven't posted since the day we thought-up and began this marvelous bread blog. However, our enthusiasm for bread is still full fledged. Right now, I am in the process of re-creating a basic whole wheat sandwich loaf (adapted from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion) that I made for the first time on Lil's birthday** and a couple of times since. It's the best. And it's super easy. And, although I have mis-measured oil and altered other aspects of the recipe accidentally, it has turned out superb every time.

Here's all you need:
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1/2 cup raw, unsalted nuts and/or seeds to your liking, chopped (optional, but delicious and highly recommended)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon of sugar (for proofing the yeast if you are using active dry)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons molasses (or honey or maple syrup)
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 3/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

Sidenote on Active Dry vs. Instant Yeast
I use active dry yeast for this recipe because that is what we have around. You can substitute active dry yeast for instant yeast (and vice versa) without changing any of the proportions of the recipe. From what I have read, active dry is a bit of a slower rise as compared to instant. For example, if you can expect instant yeast to double your dough in an hour you should have patience (maybe 20 minutes more) with your active dry. As a preschool teacher, I prefer waiting for dough over a snotty 3-year-old; however, I exercise my patience daily and love my kids unconditionally. Ultimately, the type of yeast you use is up to you.

Here's what you do:
  1. Start by proofing your yeast. Feed it a couple tablespoons of your pre-measured warm water and a 1/4 teaspoon of sugar.
  2. While the yeast is in it's warm sugar water bath, commit to using nuts and/or seeds if you haven't already. You've got to be nutty to leave them out. I used 1/4 cup walnuts and 1/4 cup sunflower seeds in Lil's birthday loaf but since I cannot bring nuts into school I have been doing 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds. While the yeast is farting in it's bath you can chop up the nuts/seeds. Use a knife and a cutting board. It's therapeutic.
  3. Reserve a 1/2 cup of bread flour and combine all the other ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Don't forget the yeast, which should be flatulent by now.
  4. Mix it up. Not too much.
  5. Let it be. 20 minutes. You can listen to the Beatles on repeat while you blog or "maybe whiten your teeth" (K. Shanley suggestion). The flour will absorb some liquid but your dough will be sticky icky sticky.
  6. It's time to knead! Feel free to use up to half a cup of flour (I use bread but all purpose would do the trick) to coat the surface you are kneading on and your hands. As I mentioned, this dough is super sticky (and it's supposed to be, so do not fear). Some Kneading Tips: Kneading is folding -- NOT ripping. I learned a technique in a ceramics class that called "cow face." I love cows. And I love dough. Use the heel of your hands to press the dough away from you, fold it toward you, and repeat. Do NOT over do it. Knead for 10 minutes maximum.
  7. Place the kneaded dough in a greased bowl. Let it be. For 1 hour. Play the Beatles again if need be.
  8. Move the dough to a greased loaf pan, punch it down, and let it rise for about an hour or until it is 2 inches above the rim of the pan. Preheat oven to 350° about halfway into your second rise. And finally,
  9. Put it in the oven at 350° for 25 minutes. Then cover it with an aluminum foil tent, teepee, or wigwam for 20 minutes. Total of 45 minutes baking time.
  10. Let cool. Take it out of the loaf pan, sometimes my loaves need a bit of convincing to leave the pan. Coax the bread out and..
  11. Enjoy!
I don't know what it's like to be a mother (yet), but the feeling I get when taking a loaf of handmade bread out of the oven can't be that far off.

- Sarah

**Note: Lily didn't get a birthday cake this year. She had this sandwich loaf instead and she loved it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Rustic White Bread (An Inspirational Tale)

Today, we made our first loaf of no-knead bread. It was a simple recipe with only 5 main ingredients (bread flour, water, salt, yeast, and a whole lot of time). The whole process took a full 24 hours, but the result was so mind-blowing that we decided to make a blog.

Here is the inspirational loaf:

And here we are, cyberspace!

You must be thinking, "Wow, that bread must really have been life-changing" ...and you're right. We made new life plans as we took the bread out of the oven. If financial data sales and teaching don't work out, we know we'll have a fall-back as bread bakers.

This blog will track the rises and falls (bread jokes! already!) of baking in our tiny New York City kitchen.

- Sarah & Lily of The Upper Yeast Side