Oatmeal Bread – part 1

I have always liked bread, and fondly remember the oatmeal bread my Grandmother Lovely used to make when I was little. She used to bake it with two separate loaves end to end in one pan. My favorite slice was one of the ones where the two separate loaves had touched. It was like the heal, but soft and wonderful in my mouth. As a result, when my wife bought a bread machine after trying a few different recipes I decided to try to make oatmeal bread. I doubt I’ll ever duplicate the bread Grandma Lovely used to make, but my memories of it are probably not that accurate anyway as my memories of it go back at least 60 years to 1956 or so.

The bread machine does a great job, and the loaf in this post is number 63 that I have made using it. Most of the loaves were mixed and baked in the machine, but this one was baked in the kitchen oven. I’ve begun baking the loaves in the oven for two reasons. The pan in the machine makes bread that is a bad fit in my toaster, and the paddle in the machine makes a hole in the bottom of the loaf. Neither reason is all that compelling, but I decided that if I’m going to bake a loaf of bread I should work to get results that make me totally happy.

In order to make bread come out consistently you need to be consistent in measuring the ingredients. Measuring by volume is not as accurate as weighing since the way you fill the measuring cups can vary how much is in them. That’s why I measure the ingredients by weight.

When you are making bread in a bread machine the instructions have you add the ingredients in a specific order. Here are the ingredients, in the order they are added, for the oatmeal bread in this post:

  • Honey 69 grams
  • Water 358 grams
  • Quick Oats 85 grams
  • Bread Flour 467 grams
  • Sugar 23 grams
  • Salt 7 grams
  • Bread Machine Yeast 5 grams

I add all the ingredients into the bread machine pan while it is on the scale. I press the tare button after each ingredient so the scale goes to zero and I don’t need to calculate the new total for each new addition to the pan.

My bread machine instructions say to add the water first, but I add the honey first. That way if I put a little too much in by mistake it’s easy to adjust it. If the honey was under water it would be hard to do it accurately. If I add too much water on top of the honey it’s easy to just pour it off.

My scale measures up to 18 pounds and is accurate to 1 gram. That is perfect for most of the ingredients, but not all of them. The sugar, salt, and yeast are only a few grams each. I have measured them with the rest of the ingredients by weight in the bread machine pan, but I have decided to weigh them separately in the interest of better consistency from batch to batch. I now use a smaller scale the measures up to 300 grams and is accurate to a tenth of a gram.

I use small plastic cups that single serving yogurt came in for weighing the three small quantity ingredients.

My bread machine takes 3 hours to mix and bake a standard loaf. It also has a dough cycle that takes 1.5 hours to make dough that you can then bake in a regular oven.

The yeast needs to be kept separate from the salt when the ingredients are placed into the bread machine. In the photo the yeast is in the center on top of the flour. The sugar and the salt are at the edge of the pan.

The bread machine pan has a small paddle in the bottom that turns to mix and then knead the bread. When the machine first starts the paddle doesn’t reach the edges of the pan and only the middle gets stirred.

As the mixing continues after a couple minutes the dough in the center attaches the loose material toward the edges and all of it begins to be mixed and kneaded.

When the kneading is done the dough begins to rise in the pan.

This shows the completed dough at the end of the 1.5 hour dough cycle. This recipe is too big to fit in the machine if it is made in the 3 hour cycle to make the complete loaf. The dough expands more when it bakes. If it overflows the pan when baking in the bread machine it’s a mess to clean up.

Here is the dough, dumped out onto the floured counter, ready
to be punched down and formed into a loaf to go into the bread pan.

The shaped loaf, ready to go into the pan

Here is the shaped loaf in the pan.

Before the bread is ready to go into the oven and be baked it needs to rise a second time in the pan. For this proofing step I put the dough into my microwave oven along with a container of boiling water to add some warmth and humidity to encourage the yeast to grow.

About 45 minutes later the dough has risen about double in volume and is ready to go into the oven, which is preheated to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

After 45 minutes in the oven the loaf is done.

The loaf out of the pan and cooling. I won’t cut it until it’s cooled completely. It will be easier to slice neatly when it’s cool. The warm bread is wonderful to eat, but it also tends to dry out faster than if you wait until it’s cooled to cut it.

I resisted temptation and waited to slice it until the next morning. See the picture at the top of the post.