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Oatmeal Brown Bread

This is a special bread recipe, one that comes from a special person.

The secret, I think, is to knead by hand, with love.

Although it’s called Oatmeal Brown Bread, the “brown” part comes from molasses – it’s made with white flour and rolled oats.

It makes a heckuva big ball of dough. This baby will double in size.

… er… the dough baby that is, not the baby baby, whose chubby fingers are about to tear off a teeny bit of dough for a taste. Although I suppose eventually he’ll double in size, too, won’t he…

When it’s done rising, you could snuggle your head into it and take a nap… or cut the dough pillow in four equal pieces using a bench scraper or chef’s knife.

Theo goes in for another bite. Or maybe he’s performing a windowpane test?

Roll the four pieces into nice-shaped loaves. When the loaves have risen to nearly double their size again, it’s time to bake.

Theo demonstrates how to tell they’re ready for the oven – when you gently press with your finger into the dough, it will leave an indent (except Theo forgot the “gentle” part).

For neat, thin slices, wait until it’s completely cool. If you have god-like patience.

I recommend keeping one loaf, and sharing three. It’s good juju. Slather them with butter and marmalade, or use to sop up baked beans.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats (not quick or instant)
  • 2 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 tsp granulated sugar
  • 10 cups all purpose flour (approximate)

Preparation

  1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add milk and bring back up to a near-boil; remove from heat when steaming and small bubbles begin to form at edges. Add molasses, butter and salt; stir until molasses is dissolved and butter is melted. Add oats and let stand until only lukewarm.
  2. Meanwhile, combine yeast and sugar with 1 cup lukewarm water in your largest mixing bowl; set aside ten minutes to activate (it will become bubbly and grow).
  3. When the oatmeal mixture is cool, add to the yeast mixture, beating well with a wooden spoon to combine. Beat in the flour, a cup at a time, until it is too difficult to incorporate with the spoon, then dump it out onto a clean counter and start to knead, adding more flour as needed to create a smooth, workable ball of dough. Knead about 10 minutes total. Set dough aside to rise in a warm spot with a tea towel draped over top for about an hour, until doubled in size. Punch down, then divide into 4 equal pieces, forming each into a ball. Let rise once again, for another hour.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Dust dough balls with additional flour for a rustic look, then use a sharp serrated knife to make a few 1/2″-deep slashes. Bake 1-2 loaves at a time (refrigerating remaining dough balls in the meantime to prevent over-proofing) on the lowest rack of the oven. Bake about 45 minutes, or until well-browned and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.
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