I have a little gem of a cookbook called Beard on Bread, a collection of bread recipes put together by James Beard at a time when making bread at home was making an upswing in popularity. It’s utterly charming in its simplicity. Beard has a fantastically direct and unpretentious approach to bread. “If you can read and have an oven and a work space, there is no reason why you can’t make a decent loaf of bread,” he says.
I love that so much.
There’s also an impressive variety of bread in the small book, ranging from basic yeast breads to batter breads to griddle breads and fried cakes. There are a lot of old-school classics and some that I had never heard of. It’s hard for me to resist new bread recipes, especially when they pack a lot of tradition or are from an unfamiliar cuisine.
Anyway I found myself one morning needing bread for that day’s lunch, so I browsed through and picked this one. Maryetta’s Oatmeal Bread. I really love oatmeal breads. They’re so hearty - and so perfect for peanut butter toast, let’s be honest. I’ve had a few variations turn out a little on the crumbly side, but this bread did not have that problem at all. It is dense, yes, but very soft. It has a wonderful flavor from the molasses. It makes a massive amount (3 9x5 loaves!) but since I only have 2 large loaf tins, I shaped the last third of dough into rolls. It was delicious warm with butter, it was delicious cooled with ham and cheese, and it is delicious toasted. It uses a lot of oats, not too much oil, and took only a few hours start to finish with an end product that was approved all around.
I adapted the recipe for a stand mixer. Your arms will thank me.
maryetta’s oatmeal bread
adapted from Beard on Bread
4 cups (32 oz) boiling water
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
7-8 cups all purpose flour
2 packages (4 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
2 Tbsp salt
4 Tbsp (2 oz) vegetable oil
1/2 cup molasses
In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the boiling water and oats, mix, and let cool until just warm.
Stir in 2 cups of the flour and the yeast; let rise, uncovered*, until doubled in bulk.
Stir down the dough. Add the salt, oil, molasses, and 2 more cups of flour and knead on low until combined. Add 2 more cups of flour and knead on medium low, adding more flour as necessary (maybe 1/2 cup at a time) until the dough is smooth and elastic but firm. I found I needed about 7 cups. My kitchen aid had a tough time with that amount of dough, so I kneaded the dough in two batches. You are more than welcome to hand knead it …!
Divide the dough into three parts and shape each into a loaf. Place in oiled 9x5 loaf pans and let rise again, uncovered*, until doubled in bulk.
Preheat the oven to 350. Bake loaves 40-50 minutes, or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped or registers 185. Let cool on wire racks.
*Beard says it is “essential” to leave the dough uncovered but he doesn’t give any reason for it. I forgot for my first rise and couldn’t detect a problem. It is a little of a mystery to me.