Friday, February 8, 2013

Homemade oatmeal bread with flax seeds

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I have been on a bread-baking tear lately. A rampage, even. I don't think a day has gone by in the past month when there has not been homemade oatmeal bread on the counter.

Why oatmeal bread? I've tried many combinations of grains for homemade bread. My former favorite homemade bread recipe combines white flour, whole wheat flour, wheat germ and cornmeal. But this version, with rolled oats, white flour and flax seeds, seems to be my family's hands-down favorite.

The trick to good bread at home is to ignore all that crap most bread recipes spout about satin-smooth dough that feels like a baby's bottom.

The best bread comes from dough that is so wet it is impossible to knead. It does not clean the bowl when you mix it in the stand mixer. You cannot punch it down and fold it. It is loose and wet, like muffin batter.

Wet dough looks like a blob on the counter but, after an hour in a heavy pot in the oven, turns into bread with a golden thick crust and a moist, flavorful interior. Let it rise a good long time. Don't worry if it seems like a shaggy mess and sticks to your fingers when you try to shape it. All will be well.

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Homemade oatmeal bread with flax seeds
This recipe turns out beautiful loaves of artisan-style bread, with a thick crust, chewy interior and sourdough-like flavor.
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1/4 teaspoon honey
  • 2 1/2 cups warm water (approximate)
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast, honey and 1/2 cup warm water. Stir with a spoon and let stand 5 minutes. The yeast will "bloom" and start to foam. As soon as you see the yeast activating, move on to the next step.Add the oatmeal, all-purpose flour, flax seeds and salt to the bowl. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and turn it to low. With the mixer running, start adding the warm water in a slow stream. Stop now and then to let the mixer distribute the water among the dry ingredients. Keep adding water until the dough comes together. It should be wet and should NOT pull away from the sides of the bowl completely - you're looking for the texture of thick muffin batter. The dough will require different amounts of water on different days - the weather affects this - so don't be afraid to use more if you need to.When all the ingredients are incorporated and the dough is clearly one single entity but still very wet, let the mixer run for 5 minutes. (This will start to develop the gluten.) After 5 minutes, stop the mixer, remove the dough hook, remove the bowl from the mixer, cover it with plastic wrap, and stick it in a warm place for 12 hours or overnight. The dough will rise a bit and get bubbly.After 12 hours or the next morning, scatter some all-purpose flour on your counter and spray a sheet of parchment paper with cooking spray. Using a spatula or dough scraper, carefully turn the dough out of the bowl onto the counter, trying to disturb its bubbly structure as little as possible. Sprinkle a little more flour on top and, using your hands, gather the ends of the dough toward the center of the pile, making a rough "ball" (in quotation marks because the dough will be very loose and will be more of a blob than a ball). With the "seam" side down, set the blob of dough onto the prepared parchment paper. Spray a piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray and loosely tent that over the dough. Leave the blob of dough on the counter for about 2 hours. It won't really rise, but it will expand a bit - that's fine.While the blob is resting, put a cast iron or heavy enameled covered Dutch oven into your oven and turn the heat to 450. Yes, you want to heat the pot with the oven.When the blob has finished resting and the oven is hot, carefully remove the pot from the oven and take off the lid. Carefully lift the parchment and plop the whole thing into the pot, paper and all. Cover the pot immediately and return it to the oven. Bake covered for 30 minutes, then remove the lid and bake the loaf uncovered another 20-25 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pot and cool on a rack or board at least 30 minutes before cutting.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 1 large loaf


Sam said...

Sounds great. a question- since whole flax seed seem to be indigestible can we substitute some ground?

Erika Kerekes said...

@Sam - sure. I like the way the whole ones look. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm gasping! XOGREG (said me of Sippity Sup. Why does Blogger hate me so?)

Erika Kerekes said...

@Greg, have you tried commenting using the Name/URL option, where you put in your name and URL manually?

Faye Levy said...

Hi Erika,
Beautiful bread, great explanation. I'm with you on the soft dough. It makes the most delicious, moist bread. The French chefs I studied with (nearly 6 years at La Varenne in Paris) always made dough that was much softer than what people expect. They didn't "knead" it, they slapped it on the counter.
Your baking method is very interesting. Is the parchment paper there to prevent the dough from sticking to the pot?

Erika Kerekes said...

@Faye - the parchment paper serves several purposes. One, it keeps the dough from sticking to my counter. Two, it makes it easy to lift the soft blob into the pot. And three, it keeps the dough from sticking to the pot. But it's definitely important to spray the parchment with cooking spray (or sometimes I flour it generously) - because otherwise it is very hard to get off the finished loaf!

Faye said...

Thanks Erika. I hope to try this before the weather gets too hot.
@ Sam - Some sites say that whole flax seeds are fine if you chew them well and that even when eaten whole have some benefits.
@ Erika I agree that they look great on the bread.

Faye said...

Just wondering how long the bread keeps at room temperature.

Erika Kerekes said...

@Faye - it depends a lot on the weather. Before cutting, the loaf keeps at least 1 day wrapped in a clean towel. Probably 2 days unless you live in a dry climate (like southern California in the winter). Once you cut it, you probably want to cover the cut surface with plastic wrap for a day, and then after that store it in a plastic bag. I generally slice and freeze if there's anything left by the third day.

Annemarie said...

So true about the wet dough. I made it so many times according "good" bread recipes but every time the bread turns out almost like an old bread. Since I made the dough very moist it turns out wonderful and fresh.
Thank you for this oatmealbread recipe, I love oatmeal and will definitely try this one.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Just curious if you've made this with whole wheat before? Would it turn out okay?

Erika Kerekes said...

@Anon sorry for the delay in answering your question. I haven't made it with 100% whole wheat flour, as I find those breads too heavy for my taste. I would start by subbing a third of the white flour with whole wheat, and then increasing it in future batches until you find the ratio you like. Hope that helps!

Kim said...

Would it be possible to use active dry yeast instead of instant yeast? How would that change the way the bread is made?

Erika Kerekes said...

Kim, it should be fine and I don't think it would change the method much at all - you might have to wait a little longer for the rise, but that's it.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if this blog is still active - but funny story!
Made this bread tonight (or am still making it) but spilled half a bag of flax seed! Husband said that's why it takes 14 hours...will let you know how it turns out... at least two hours to clean up seeds!

Erika Kerekes said...

@Anon yes, still active! And yes that's funny...that's the kind of kitchen accident that would put me off bread baking for a long time. Cleanup on aisle 12... :)

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