Friday, October 3, 2008

Bored? Bake Bread!

Bored Bread

Definition: Bored bread is any loaf of bread that you bake when you are bored and have nothing in particular to do that day.

Mixing the ingredients, kneading the dough, showing patience while waiting for it to rise and then waiting, with baited breath, while it bakes, gets rid of the boredom for a good part of the day.

In this case, my dad, who used to have more vacation than he knew what to do with, decided one Christmas vacation, to learn how to bake bread. So, with nothing to go on except his memories of watching his grandmother make bread, he got a recipe and started the process.

Over the years, he has become comfortable with his ability to get the job done and now, if there is a rainy day or two in a row, he drags out the big bowl and gets “with it”.

This summer, such conditions presented themselves so when he decided to bake bread, he scavenged around for a recipe that used what he had at hand and started.

My dad is a sourdough fan. At any given time, you can find a jar of ugly stuff in the refrigerator that is his sourdough stash. Although he is not a pure sourdough baker, he does know how to use the starter, with a little help from some yeast, to create sourdough flavored bread. When he has used sourdough starter as the only leavening agent, it takes much longer to rise so he always gives it a boost with a dose of yeast. This is heresy in the sourdough culture but it’s the end product he cares about.

Dad's "ugly stuff"

To maximize the sourdough flavor, dad uses a diluted mixture of the sourdough starter and warm milk to substitute for the liquid required to make the bread.

It just so happened that on the back of his ever-present bread flour bag, a recipe was printed and all you needed was some oatmeal and bread flour to make a great loaf of bread.

This recipe, modified by dad’s sourdough starter liquid, turned into a beautiful loaf of some of the best bread known to man.

Even if you have never baked a loaf in your life, maybe now is the time to get started. You will love it once you know you can do it.

Oh, by the way, maybe I’ll do a blog on some of the things he has learned NOT to do when baking bread. He’s learned a lot on the way to here so there is much to offer.

Try this, you’ll love it.

Sourdough Oatmeal Bread

3 cups of Unbleached Bread Flour
1 cup of Oats—any kind
2 tablespoons of soft butter
1 ½ teaspoons of salt
3 tablespoons of honey
2 teaspoons of instant yeast or 1 packet of active dry yeast*
1 ¼ cups of sourdough liquid**

*If you use active dry yeast, dissolve it in 2 tablespoons of warm milk before combining it with the other ingredients.

** To make the sourdough liquid, take ¾ cup of your sourdough starter and combine it with ½ cup of warm milk. If you choose to make it without the sourdough starter, just use 1 ¼ cups of warm milk.

In a LARGE mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients, mixing to form a shaggy dough. Knead dough, by hand for 10 minutes until it is smooth. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl,( what he does is take the blob of dough out of the big bowl, washes the bowl with warm water, greases it and then returns the dough ball right back to where it started—no need for two bowls) cover with a dish towel and allow it to rest for 1 hour; it will become quite puffy although it might not double in bulk. Note: to create the desired consistency, you may need to add a little flour or warm milk to get that shaggy consistency. If there is too much liquid, the dough will be sticky. If there is too much flour, it will be too stiff. Getting close is good enough. Don’t worry about perfection, it’s rarely achieved!

When the dough has risen (thrill #1!), transfer the dough to a lightly oiled or flour dusted surface and shape into a log. Place the log in a lightly greased (he uses butter) 9 x 5 inch pan and cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise for 1 to 1 ½ hours until it is crested 1 to 2 inches over the rim of the bread pan. (thrill #2!)

With your oven preheated to 350 degrees F, gently remove the plastic wrap and place the bread in the oven to bake for 35 to 40 minutes. If you peek at the bread after about 30 minutes, and it appears to be browning on the top too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil for the final 10 minutes.

This makes 1 awesome loaf to brag about. (thrill #3)

Thrill #4 is when it cools down enough so you can cut it, slather it with butter and honey and slurp it down. What fun on a boring day.

When the bread comes out of the oven and has cooled just a little, rub the top with a stick of butter, that keeps it nice and soft. If you like your crust crunchier, don't do anything to it.


RecipeGirl said...

mMMM. that looks great! I'm thinking about being bored today!

Prudy said...

I'm not bored-but I still want that bread! It looks fantastic. I need to get a starter going. It's been ages.