Oatmeal Sandwich Bread

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This is a moist, slightly sweet loaf, and it’s fantastic for toast and sandwiches. The dough uses a method known as autolyse, in which all the ingredients except the salt are mixed together and then allowed to rest before kneading. This rest gives the flour time to absorb the water, yielding a wetter dough and a moister bread with a better, more irregular crumb. I make this dough in a mixer, as I find you don’t need to use as much flour this way. If you prefer to make the bread by hand, knead the dough for about fifteen minutes, adding flour as needed.

Butter for the bowl and the pan

Ingredients

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 3 tablespoons unsulphured (not blackstrap) molasses
  • cups whole-wheat flour
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 ounces (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

Method

  1. Lightly butter a large bowl and a bread loaf pan about 9 by 5 by 3 inches. The dough can also be formed into a boule (round loaf) and baked on a baking sheet.
  2. Add 2 cups of warm water, yeast, and molasses to the bowl of a standing mixer. Stir, allowing the yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes, until it begins to bubble. (If it doesn’t, it may be inactive; throw it out and start over with a new package.)
  3. To autolyse, measure the flours, oats, and butter into the bowl with the yeast mixture and stir together with a wooden spoon. Cover with a towel and let stand for 30 minutes.
  4. Attach the bowl and the bread hook to the mixer, add the salt, and mix on medium speed for 6 minutes. The dough should slap around the sides without sticking to them. If the dough is sticking at any time during the mixing, add a tablespoon or two of bread flour until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. The dough should be soft and supple, slightly tacky, with a beautiful sheeting effect.
  5. For the first rise, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it a few times. Put the dough into the buttered bowl, cover with a towel, and leave it to rise for about 1 hour, or until it is doubled in size (see Sidebar).
  6. To shape the dough, scrape the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Press down on the dough, working it toward a square shape while depressing all of the bubbles. 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 and pinch the seam in the middle, sealing the seam with your fingers. Pinch the sides together and roll the shaped dough back and forth, plumping it so that it’s evenly formed and about the size of your loaf pan. Place the dough in the pan with the seam side down and press it gently into the corners of the pan.
  7. For the second rise, cover the dough with a towel and let it rest in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until the dough rises to half again its size or puffs up barely or just over the edge of the pan. While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400°F.
  8. When the dough has finished its final rise, sprinkle the top of the loaf with oats or bran, if desired.
  9. Bake for about 40 minutes, rotating halfway through. The loaf is ready when the top crust is as dark as molasses and the bottom crust is dark brown. To see if the bread is ready, give the top of the loaf a thump to see if it sounds hollow. If the hollow sound isn’t there and the bread isn’t quite dark enough, bake for another 5 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan and cool on a baking rack, preferably for a few hours, so that the crumb doesn’t collapse when you cut into it and the flavor can develop.
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