Sunday, September 16, 2012

A perfect slice of life

I wonder sometimes, if I should have chosen a different name for my blog.  When I started this little misadventure a couple years ago, "Eat, Drink, Study," seemed to fit.  I mean, I LOVED to eat and drink, and devoured cookbooks.  I was a full-time student and really ought to have also spent a good chunk of time studying too.  Well, I meant to study a lot, at least.

Now that I'm all done with scholastic life for the foreseeable, that nagging little part of me wonders what the hell I'm supposed to do with a food blog called "Eat, Drink, Study," when I don't actually have to study anymore.  I think about renaming it; something witty that camptures where I'm at in life and how that relates to food, and blah blah blah.  Then I go back to reading Oatmeal comics in my pajamas while recovering from an overnight shift, since I don't really think the name of this blog is a big deal.  Has anyone here NOT read The Oatmeal?  If you haven't, please go away for a bit, and take care of that.

Are you done?  Love it.  SOOOOO much.

Now, speaking of oatmeal (and tenuous segues), we need to talk about this bread:

Isn't that gorgeous?  That's the second loaf I've made in as many weeks, and I'm whole-heartedly in love with this bread.  Store-bought bread doesn't really do it for me anymore, at least since I started living alone last year.  Pre-sliced bread is usually full of awful junk, like corn syrup and preservatives.  The squirelly bread you can get is usually fine, but it's kinda expensive (5 bucks a loaf!  At least!).  I've been making Jim Lahey's No-Knead Bread for a few years now, especially since I'm on my own.  

That  fantastic; tasty, chewey, great crumb, crispy crust.  I love how EASY it is too, because the idea of making regular bread from scratch always seemed a little intimidating.  All that kneading and proofing and kneading.  Why would I bother with all of that, when I can just throw all my ingredients together and ignore them for most of a day, then end up with fantastic bread?  Because I got bored of hanging out in my jammies reading webcomics one morning, and wanted a challenge.

I started where I normally start when I want to try something new and need to be pointed in the right direction; Molly Wizenberg's Orangette.  Molly is infinitely more poetic than I am, and she raved about this bread, and it's toasting abilities.  I was convinced!  So I made my own (somewhat malformed) loaf.  I've been eating this as toast and sandwiches all week, and I'm in love with this too now.

There is some work  involved here, I'm not going to lie.  About 4 hours start to finish, including about 15 minutes kneading-time.  This is a weekend job for you people with "normal" jobs.   For me, it's something else to do in my jammies after a night-shift.

Oatmeal Sandwich Bread
adapted from Orangette

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3 tablespoons molasses (not blackstrap)
1 1/4 cups rolled oats
2 cups bread flour (I use all-purpose, and it's just fine)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
4 tablespoons melted butter, cooled
Heaped tablespoon kosher salt

Grease a large bowl and a loaf pan and set aside.

In another large bowl, combine 2 cups of warm water and molasses.  Sprinkle the yeast overtop and stir.  Let this sit for about 10 minute or until its all foamy.  Add the oats and stir to get them all wet.  Add the white flour, and whisk until smooth.  Add the whole-wheat flour and stir until it comes together to make a shaggy dough that comes away from the sides of the bowl.  Let this stand for about 30 minutes to let the dry ingredients absorb the liquid.

Scrape the dough onto a floured surface, and knead for 15 minutes, adding flour as necessary, until your dough is smooth, elastic and a wee bit sticky.  Dump the dough into the greased bowl, and roll it all around to get covered.  Cover with a tea towel and let the dough rise for 1 1/2 hour or until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down, dump it out on the counter and shape it into a square.  Fold the dough down from the top to the middle, then up from the bottom to the middle. Next, bring the newly formed top and bottom edges together.  Plop the dough into the loaf pan, seam-side-down.  Cover with a tea towel, and let rise for 45 minutes to an hour.  Half an hour before you bake, preheat the oven to 400°F.

Bake your loaf for 30-35 minutes or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.  Take the loaf out of the pan, and cool on a rack.  You may be tempted to cut a slice now, to enjoy it warm with melty butter.  DON'T DO IT!  The crumb needs to set!  

This bread keeps great at room temperature.  I followed Molly's advice, and keep it inside a grocery bag, cut side down, with the top tied.  It keeps for 4-5 days on the counter.

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