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we interrupt these house project posts to document a very phenomenal and unexpected occurrence:  i have managed to create a loaf of bread that actually resembles and tastes like a real loaf of bread.

that means, big enough to hold an entire slice of cheese, dense enough to not crumble like a dried out sandcastle, but chewy enough to not taste like cardboard.

i first started to make sandwich bread regularly when we were going through our January Grocery Challenge – bread from the grocery store is expensive, so making ours at home meant one less thing we had to worry about using our $10/week allowance on.

but let me tell you:  the bread did not look like this.  it still tasted ok and smelled great coming out of the oven, but in all honesty it was a crumbly mess.  i googled the problems i was having and came up with a few potential solutions

turns out i was short changing myself on a very critical step of the kneading process.  so the third time was a charm.

glory hallelujah.  it is a miracle.

i used the following recipe and having made it now three times, i’ve added in a few of my own tweaks and comments. bread does seem intimidating at first, but it’s really not!!!  make this bread and feel accomplished.

the recipe actually makes two loaves, so while one is in use in the pantry, the other waits its turn in the fridge.  almost to the day, we go through about a loaf a week, so every other saturday is baking day.  not too bad.

Honey Oatmeal Bread

adapted from this recipe

Ingredients:

4-1/2 tsp active dry yeast

1/2 c honey

4 T butter

2-1/4 c water

1 T salt

3-1/2 c whole wheat white flour*

1/2 c wheat bran*

2-3/4 c bread flour*

1 c oats

1 egg

* i mix all of these together in one bowl and then add them in the increments called for in the recipe – much easier that way.  you could also switch up these flours however you’d like, as the original recipe called for 2-3/4 c all-purpose flour and 4 c whole wheat flour

Instructions:

In a small saucepan, heat butter and honey until melted.  Remove from heat and add water;  the mixture should be warm (110-120 degrees).  Stir in the yeast and let sit until bubbly, about 10 minutes.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine salt, yeast mixture, and 3 cups of flour mixture (a little at a time so it doesn’t go everywhere).  Mixer should be set to low.  Mix until dry ingredients and wet ingredients are just blended.

Increase mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl.  Gradually beat in the egg and 1 cup of flour mixture.  Beat for another two minutes.

Slowly mix in oats and 2 cups of flour mixture over a period of a few minutes.

With the mixer on low to medium-low, knead the dough for 10-15 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic and has completely pulled away from the sides and bottom of the bowl (this was where i was messing up.  the original recipe doesn’t give a kneading time so i wasn’t letting the bread knead for nearly enough time.  set your timer.  when the motor on your mixer starts to smell a little, that’s probably the right amount of time!).  You’ll probably have to add a little more flour in along the way, but no more than 2/3 to 1 cup.

Remove from mixer, place in a large greased bowl and cover with a hand towel.  Let rise in a warm and nondrafty place (our house is notoriously cool and drafty, so sometimes i’ll start the oven on low and then turn it off and stick the dough in to rise.  “warm” means somewhere in the 75-80 degree ballpark) until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Punch the dough down.  Flour a section of the counter, turn out the dough and cover with the bowl to rise just a little more:  15 minutes.  Divide in half and shape into two loaves.  Place in two greased loaf plans and let rise in a warm nondrafty place for another hour.

During this last rise time, preheat the oven to 350F and if you have a pizza or bread stone, preheat this in the oven for about 45 minutes on the middle rack.  After the last rise, place the two loaf pans directly onto the pizza stone and bake for 35 minutes or until golden on top and hollow-sounding when you flick the top.

Let cool completely before slicing.

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