To bake my version of every day bread, here’s what you need:
3/4 cup of rolled oats or 85grams (if you don’t have oatmeal add another 1/2 cup of flour – and increase the water by about a 1/4 cup. It’s no big deal.)
1/4 cup boiling water with 1 cup regular old tap water. This gets your water the best temperature to get the yeast going.
3 cups or 400grams of unbleached bread flour or all purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
1 to 2 teaspoons of salt – I use this high mineral salt that is specifically made for baking by King Arthur flour which is a little bit larger than table salt, and I use just a teaspoon of it. If you use table salt go with the lesser amount, if you use kosher or sea salt you can add full two teaspoons.
1 tsp to 2 1/4 teaspoons of instant dry yeast – Here too, you have a decision to make. If you are impatient (as I am often) and can’t wait more than a few hours for your dough to rise, use the larger amount. (A yeast packet is 2 1/4 teaspoons, fyi. I use SAF yeast that I buy on the King Arthur website). If you want to mix all this together in the morning, then put your dough in the refrigerator until you get home in the evening, or until the next day, use the smaller amount of yeast. Most people say slow rising bread tastes better.
OPTIONAL: 1 TBLSP of brown sugar, honey or agave. Sometimes I add this sometimes I don’t. The sugar gives the yeast a bit of a boost – but if you have good yeast it’s really not necessary and doesn’t add to the flavor of the bread.
1 TLBSP of neutral oil like grapeseed or sunflower oil, or a spray oil like Spectrum. This is for the bowl you’re mixing the bread in. I do this because it makes cleaning the bowl significantly easier. Flour and water together make glue and you will hate having to clean that bowl of the bits of dough later if you don’t oil it up some in the beginning stages. I speak from experience.
And, here is what you do-
Gather your ingredients and line them up on one side of the counter. As you use them move them to the other side of the counter. Obviously, you don’t need to do this, but those of us with naturally occurring disorganized brains need to keep track or we will add the salt twice (again, experience).
Get yourself a large bowl and dump the oatmeal in the bottom of it, pour your boiling water over it and let it sit and absorb some of that water. Let that oatmeal sit for 10 – 15 minutes:
Once the oatmeal has absorbed some of the water, , dump the flour, yeast and salt into the bowl on top of the oatmeal and stir it all around. It’s going to look lumpy – but don’t worry about it.
Add 1 cup of water. And stir it up. If all the flour is incorporated and none of it is in the bottom of the bowl – you’re good. If not, add a little more water. (If you’ve weighed your flour and oatmeal, it is likely you’ll only need the cup. Weighing is more accurate and gives you the same amount of ingredient every time. Measuring by volume is less accurate – you may scoop a larger or small amount of ingredient – in which case you might need more water. Don’t worry about it – it’s not rocket science. Just make sure the dough is slightly sticky but holds together when you stir it and that everything is incorporated. )
Cover the dough with a piece of plastic wrap or a towel (dust it with flour or it will stick to the dough if the dough rises above the bowl and that will just be irritating) and let it be for a while. I just discovered this cool cover which is worth purchasing if you’re going to make bread a lot –
Once you’re dough has doubled in size (if you used the larger amount of yeast this will take about 2 hours – if you used a small amount it could take all day – you can even leave it over night if you get so caught up in your story you forget about the whole thing), use your hands or a nifty dough whisk (I’m all about the specialized purchase) to knock it down. At this point you can turn it out on a floured board or your kitchen counter and knead it some, but you don’t have to. It can stay in the bowl, just stir it around enough so it is bouncier and looks smoother. I like kneading because it’s kind of therapeutic. (This is my method: Flour your hands first, then fold the dough toward the middle, turn it, fold it again, turn it and fold it again – until it feels bouncier than you did when you turned it out.)
Oil your bowl a little more and put your dough back in to rise again – another hour or so. Then turn it out onto a floured surface, cut it in half and put it in your loaf pans – if you have them. If you don’t have loaf pans, you can cut it up and make little rolls, or you can just keep it the way it is, in a nice round. If I’m not using loaf pans I plonk the round onto a cookie sheet lined with a piece of parchment. Put a damp towel over the dough again – and again – let it sit another hour or so. I usually turn my oven on at this point – 450 degrees so the oven get’s really hot.
After about 30 minutes to an hour the dough will have filled out the loaf pans, or will have at least grown in size a bit more. Put it in the oven, and bake for about 30 minutes. Check it. If the bread is uniformly golden – top and sides – it’s done. If it still looks a little pale around the edges, give it another five minutes. Take it out, let it cool (If you can – but you might not be able to if you happen to have a brick of Kerry Gold Butter lying around).
It will be delicious.