Is there anything quite like the smell of bread baking in your very own oven? The other night when I made this recipe, I was totally overwhelmed by the sweet, yeasty smells emanating from my kitchen. After hours of mixing, kneading, waiting for the dough to rise, and waiting some more, the promise of fresh-baked bread loomed large and Daniel and I waited with eager anticipation. It was nearing bedtime, but there was no way we’d go to sleep without first having a few slices fresh out of the oven, smeared with a pat of butter! Since I grew up watching my mom bake fresh bread each week, this smell has lots of nostalgia for me as well. I remember standing on a kitchen chair so I could see over the counter. She’d let me take a turn kneading the dough on a floured counter; my little arms tired so quickly and I was amazed at the strength in hers. Anyone else?
Let me begin by explaining that for whatever reason, I’ve always been intimidated when it comes to baking bread from scratch. (Also intimidated by pie, cinnamon rolls, and croissants. These are on my list of things to conquer soon!) Whenever I muster up the courage to try, it ends up being fine and fairly painless, but I do it so infrequently that I’m nervous about it. I have a feeling this recipe will change that! It came together so easily, and the result was more than I could have hoped for. If you follow the instructions, you really can’t go wrong. This is the perfect sandwich bread or morning toast bead; it’s subtly sweet with a hint of cinnamon that isn’t overpowering. The crumb is delicate and soft, and the crust is tender as well. It rose very nicely, coming out of the oven just the right size. This recipe makes 2 loaves, and I have to confess that Daniel and I polished off the first loaf with big slabs of butter in less than 12 hours, just the two of us. Whoops…
I can’t wait for you to try this bread because, adapted from King Arthur, because I know you’ll love it as much as I do! I’m totally hooked. A few notes:
- The original recipe called for 1.5 cups of white whole wheat flour & 4 cups of all purpose flour, but I didn’t have the white whole wheat on hand. Instead, I did about 1/2 cup spelt and the rest all purpose. It turned out fabulously. In the future I’ll experiment with different combinations of flours.
- I had to add some flour to get it to the right consistency; it was far too sticky at first for me. Maybe this was because I had more all purpose flour than the recipe called for? I ended up adding at least 1/2 cup flour in the kneading process.
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1 cup rolled oats, traditional or quick (not instant)
- ½ cup maple sugar
- 1 tablespoon honey
- ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) butter
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 1½ cups White Whole Wheat Flour (I used ½ cup spelt and 5 cups all-purpose)
- 4 cups unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- Mix the water, oats, maple syrup, honey, butter, salt, and cinnamon. Let cool to lukewarm, about 10 minutes.
- Add the yeast and flours, stirring to form a rough dough. Knead (about 10 minutes by hand, 5 to 7 minutes by machine) until the dough is smooth and satiny. Add flour as needed.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, and cover with a tea towel or greased plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise for 1 hour.
- Divide the dough in half, and shape each half into a loaf. Place the loaves in two greased 8½" x 4½" bread pans. (I only had one loaf pan, so I formed the 2nd loaf by hand and placed on a cookie sheet. It turned out fine)
- Cover the pans with lightly greased plastic wrap or tea towel and allow the loaves to rise until they've crowned about 1" over the rim of the pan, about 60 to 90 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, tenting them lightly with aluminum foil after 25 minutes, to prevent over-browning.
- Remove them from the oven when they're golden brown.
- Turn the loaves out onto a rack to cool.
- Store at room temperature, well-wrapped, for several days.