One thing that’s been on my bucket list for years is to make bread from scratch. I remember having a conversation with a hippy named Seamus in a dark D.C. bar more than four years ago who said that making bread, building furniture and skiing where the three things that made him feel connected to the earth. I wasn’t interested in the guy, but those comments stayed with me.
One of the reasons we moved to the California desert nearly six months ago was to have time, space and money to do things we’ve always wanted to do. Here, the rents are cheap, the skies are blue and we have zero distractions, including obligations or places to go in town. That gives us energy to create.
Last week, I received an email from our farm box supplier Abundant Harvest Organics: “Our baker is going on a well-deserved two-week vacation.”
“Noooooooo!” I thought to myself.
And then I looked at the sky. Overcast. Actual clouds in our desert skies. I took that as a sign.
So I bought some yeast and whole wheat flour and started the process while C. was napping. I halved the recipe because we have only one bread pan. And maybe I chose the right recipe on Epicurious, but the oatmeal wheat bread was easy. I kneaded it for about 10 minutes: the majority of the process was to let the bread rise.
Less than 24 hours after I pulled the loaf out of the oven, it’s nearly gone. We had it with our chicken soup last night and we spread avocado on it today with a squeeze of lemon and salt. Yum.
I think this might become a weekly ritual. Because I’m so freaking proud of myself. And because I’ve decided that fresh, warm, homemade bread — with zero preservatives — is worth my time. It’s delicious, nutritious and and I’d like to teach C. that he, too, can bake from scratch.
Oatmeal Wheat Bread
*Adapted from Epicurious.com
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick-cooking) plus additional for topping
1/4 cup warm water (105-115°F)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/4 cup mild honey
2 tablespoons of butter, melted
2 1/4 cups stone-ground whole-wheat flour (plus additional for kneading)
1/2 tablespoon salt
Vegetable oil for oiling bowl
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Heat milk in a saucepan over low heat until hot but not boiling. Remove pan from heat and stir in oats. Let stand, uncovered, until cooled to warm.
Stir together water, yeast, and 1/2 teaspoon honey in a small bowl; let stand until foamy, 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)
Stir yeast mixture, melted butter, and remaining honey into cooled oatmeal.
Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Add oat mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto a well-floured surface and knead with floured hands until dough is smooth, soft, and elastic, about 10 minutes (dough will be slightly sticky). Form dough into a ball and transfer to an oiled large bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel; let rise at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk — about 1 hour.
Lightly butter loaf pan. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead to remove air. Place it into pan seam side down, tucking ends gently to fit. Cover loaf pan loosely with a kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly brush loaf with egg wash and sprinkle with oats, then bake until bread is golden and the loaf sounds hollow when you tap on the bottom — about 35 minutes.
Transfer to a rack to cool completely.