if you know it by heart, it must be good

Okay, it's still the same sultry Thursday that I've made pink lemonade and spent an hour or so finding new good music and generally getting very little accomplished. But, I am also baking bread on request. This is the bread I bake every week during the school year for the peanut butter and honey sandwiches Sara has for lunch. The same lunch she has packed every day since at least fourth grade (going on 9 years now). The pb& h ritual did not always include homemade bread, but it has for at least four years. Homemade bread sliced by hand yields some visually interesting sandwiches, but that's part of the joy of it all.

This is an adapted King Arthur Flour recipe. I make my bread in a Cuisinart convection bread maker. You can usually pick up the same one at Costco for around $100. I use the dough setting preferring bread baked in the oven over bread baked in the bread machine. The texture and crumb are very different in the bread machine (and not in a good way for my taste). The dough cycle takes one hour and forty minutes to complete. Spray your loaf pan with cooking spray, pour the dough in, cover it with a tea towel (or plastic wrap if you spray the top of the loaf first so it doesn't stick), start the oven to 350 and by the time the oven is hot your bread has probably risen enough to bake. Simple. The whole process (mixing to finished baking) takes about three hours. It does make your house smell wonderful and your family very happy, so that's worth the work.

Honey Oatmeal Bread

1 3/4 C hot tap water
3 T honey
2 1/4 tsp bread machine yeast
1 C oatmeal (old-fashioned or I use Trader Joe's Oven Toasted)
1/4 C vegetable oil (I use Smart Balance)
2 tsp salt
3 C unbleached bread flour
1 C white whole wheat flour (regular whole wheat is also fine)
1/4-1/3 C dry nonfat milk (I use Baker's Special Dry Milk from King Arthur Flour)
1/4-1/3 C golden flax seeds, optional

Add all ingredients to bread machine as listed. I seem to have the best results if I let the yeast feed on the honey in the hot water for a few minutes then I add the oatmeal and let it sit a couple of minutes more to moisten the oats before adding everything else. The dry milk makes the bread rise higher and gives it a better crumb. I give a range for the dry milk because 1/3 C can be fun to use, but the bread can rise ridiculously high so you might go with a little less. We've added the flax seeds for additional Omega 3's because there is no way I'll ever like salmon enough to get my Omega 3's from food sources. This recipe makes a nice full loaf. I generally get out my oversize muffin pan, grease 4 muffin cups in the pan and pinch off about 1/3 C of the dough rolling it into a ball to put in the muffin cups to make 4 rolls. Then my loaf is a more normal sandwich size.

Run the bread machine on the dough cycle. Let it mix for a few minutes and then check to see if it's too sticky and add a little more flour before it's done mixing. The dough will be a little sticky, but should not be shiny and wet to the touch. When the cycle is complete (mix, knead and rise for one hour and forty minutes in my machine) pour the dough into the loaf pan (and muffin tin if desired). Cover the pan/pans with a tea towel in a non-drafty area (absolutely not a problem in July). Heat your oven to 350 degrees. When the oven is hot or after 20 minutes or so the dough should have risen above the rim of the pan/pans and be ready for baking. Rolls bake in 18-20 minutes in the muffin tin. Bread bakes in 40 minutes, but check it at 20 minutes and loosely tent with foil if the top is browning too quickly. Loosen bread from sides of pan with knife if necessary. Invert onto cooling rack and let cool at least a bit before slicing. It will fall and get all smooshed if you cut more than the ends off while it's hot. Worth the wait. Also makes good toast. In the summer you need to refrigerate it after a day or two since there are no preservatives and the kitchen humidity encourages bread mold. Yummy.


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