Honey oat bread is sure to become a family favorite. Learn how to make your own wild yeast starter with the recipe provided or take the easy way out with packaged yeast. Either way, you’ll be singing the praises of this hearty artisan bread. The recipe was contributed by Charlotte and John Hamburger, owners of Back Alley Bakery in Hastings, Nebraska.
The Authors Say: At the bakery , we use wild starter, but you can also use packaged yeast, and it will work just as well. This barely sweet but robust bread is perfect with salads, or on its own spread with butter and honey.” — Charlotte and John Hamburger
Honey Oat Bread
1-1/4-ounce package active dry yeast or 1 cup Wild Yeast Starter (recipe below)
2 cups warm water (100 F–115 F), divided use, plus more for cake pan
2 cups rolled oats, divided use
1-1/2 cups hard red-wheat flour
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1-1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
3-1/2 to 4 cups unbleached, unbromated, white all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
Cornmeal, for dusting
Grease a large bowl with the butter and set aside.
Mix the yeast into 1 cup of the warm water and let the mixture stand for 10 minutes. Make sure the water is between 100 F and 115 F. If the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast and your bread will fail to rise. If you are using the Wild Yeast Starter instead of packaged yeast, scoop out 1 cup of starter and place it in a medium bowl.
In a separate large bowl, slowly combine the remaining 1 cup of warm water with 1-1/2 cups of the rolled oats and the wheat flour, honey, molasses, and salt. Add the yeast mixture. Once combined, slowly stir in about 3 cups of the all-purpose flour. Add the remaining 1 cup of flour little by little, until the dough becomes too dry to stir. You may not use all of the flour.
Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead with the remaining all-purpose flour, adding more flour if you used it all previously, until the dough is glistening and elastic. Don’t overdo the flour — hydration is good. Transfer the dough into the prepared, buttered bowl; cover with plastic wrap; and set in a warm place for 2 hours or so, until the dough has doubled in size. A spot on the countertop where the sun shines is the perfect place.
Dust a baking sheet with the cornmeal and set aside.
Once the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in half. If the dough is sticky, use a little flour just until it no longer sticks. Shape each half into an oval loaf. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with a lightweight towel and let the loaves rise in a warm place (75 F to 80 F) until the dough nearly doubles in size again. This should take about an additional 2 hours.
You can bake the loaves on 1 of 3 surfaces. If you have a baking tile or clay cloche, use it according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. If not, a pizza stone is a great substitute. Place the tile, cloche, or pizza stone on the middle rack in the oven. Fill a cake pan 1/3 of the way with water and place it on the rack below the tile, cloche, or pizza stone.
Preheat the oven to 450 F. You want the baking surface to warm up before placing the bread on it. The water in the cake pan will create a steam bath for the bread, resulting in a crust that will snap.
While the oven is warming, lightly wet the top of the honey oat bread with a spray bottle of water or pastry brush, and sprinkle the loaves liberally with the remaining 1/2 cup of rolled oats. Wet again. Using a sharp knife or razor blade, make 3 cuts about 1/4 inch deep, at an angle, across the top of the bread. Place the loaves in the oven on the hot tile, cloche, or pizza stone. Bake for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven heat to 350 F and bake for another 17 to 20 minutes, until the loaf sounds hollow when the bottom is slapped. Cool before serving.
Yield: 2 loaves
Wild Yeast Starter
2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
2 cups water, divided
Mix 1 cup each of the flour and water together and cover with a clean cloth or fine-mesh strainer. Set near an open window. Watch your bowl for signs of activity. Within 3 days, you should see bubbling, indicating that you have captured some wild yeast. When this happens, dump out 1/2 of the mixture and stir into the remaining mixture another 1/2 cup of the water and 1/2 cup of the flour. Let sit 1 more day, and then repeat the dumping and adding. When the mixture is bubbling nicely after 1 more day, it is ready to produce bread for you.
Use 1 cup of this yeast starter to replace the active dry yeast and 1 cup of the water in the bread recipe.
Honey Oat Bread Recipe Source: “New Prairie Kitchen: Stories and Seasonal Recipes from Chefs, Farmers, and Artisans of the Great Plains” by Summer Miller (Agate Midway). Reprinted with express written permission.