Inspired by King Arthur's Oatmeal Bread on the side of their awesome Bread Flour:
I've made it vegan, though, and changed the method a little bit.
Forgive me, no pics for now. I probably make this bread recipe most often, and didn't think to put it up until a served it at soup night (best night of the week!!!) and Mirna asked.
This is a really, really easy, basic bread. Seriously, its awesome. Tender, fluffy, and great toast bread.
3 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1 cup rolled oats (optional, though you cant call it Oatmeal bread without oatmeal. I dont want to hear any existentialist arguments to the contrary!)
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/4 c lukewarm water
2 tsp instant yeast (about one packet)
3 tbsp brown sugar (or honey, though honey isn't vegan. Speaking of which, Ashley I owe you an apology. I think I have fed you food with honey in it before :( but that was before I knew it wasn't vegan! Ill be way more careful in the future!!! Me sorry!)
(makes 1 loaf)
Mix together the first four ingredients in a large bowl with a fork (flour, oats, salt, and veggie oil), making sure the oil gets mixed in well. It will end up looking kind of lumpy. Form a well in the middle by pushing this mixture out to the sides.
Stir the yeast into the warm water (not hot! Yeast is alive and if the water is hot you will kill it. You jerk. Why would you do that?) and once the yeast is dissolved, stir in the brown sugar.
Pour the yeast mixture into the well you formed in the dry ingredients (or mostly dry) and using a fork, stir the liquid vigorously, slowly incorporating a little of the flour at a time until it becomes a shaggy dough.
"Shaggy dough" might sound vague, but you'll know it when you see it. Most of the flour is incorporated, but it looks rough.
Cover this with a towel and let it sit for 10-20 minutes. This allows the flour to absorb the moisture, making it easier to knead.
At this point you have two options: knead it, let it rise to almost double, knead again, shape it into a loaf, and bake it.
Or, what I think makes it better:
Knead it for 5-10 minutes until it becomes a smooth, elastic dough. Let it rise for 10 minutes, and knead for ten seconds. Repeat this three times.
THEN proceed with the normal two step rising as described below:
Add some oil to a bowl after kneading the dough for 5-10 minutes (or until it becomes smooth and elastic) and "turn the dough in the bowl", meaning make sure it is coated in oil. This keeps it from sticking too much to the bowl as it rises. Let it rise to double (this should take 45 minutes to an hour) in a warm place.
My favorite rising trick is to turn the oven on to preheat, but only let it heat for a minute or two and turn it off again. This will make the perfect rising conditions (warm, not drafty) in your oven. But don't let it get too hot, and definitely remember to turn it off. I have ruined a few loaves this way :(
After this, the first rise, "punch it down" (meaning, knead it a little bit with your fists, getting some of the large air bubbles out) and shape it into a loaf shape. Using a serrated knife, slash the top of it so that it can rise as it likes as it bakes. Its also prettier.
Place it in a greased loaf pan (9x5 I think?) and let it rise again (this is the second rise).
It will look really fluffy when it finishes this rise and if you shake the pan it will shake and look kind of fragile.
(if you "over rise" it, then your slices of bread will kind of fall apart, but will still be edible. Just go for a little less than double the original size and you should be perfectly fine)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and cook 35-40 minutes (I usually go a little longer), on the middle rack. My mom always ignores rack placement, but its actually important. You don't want the top to brown before the middle is done. If this happens, put some tinfoil over the top of the bread.
Another cool trick: place a small container of water in the oven as it preheats and at least for the first 10-20 minutes of baking. The moisture will be absorbed into the middle of the bread, making it soft, and it will also allow for a crispier crust. This is actually a trick from making baguettes, but its hard to master at home, Im told.
To test if its ready, insert a knife into the middle and it should come out dry. Also, its usually better to cook it a little longer than I think I should so that it isn't gummy in the middle. A good baker knows good bread from the sound it makes when you thump the crust. Not too hollow, not too dense. But I am still working on cultivating that skill... alas.
Make sure to take it out of the pan to cool it or the sides will be soggy. And do allow it to cool for at least 5-10 minutes before cutting in. It still needs to "set" a little once it comes out of the oven.
Note: I keep meaning to put up a Baking: Lessons Learned post, but haven't gotten around to it. Hopefully I've covered the important points here!
Also, you can just make this in an electric mixer... Its so much easier to just pour all the ingredients in, but I am really in love with the method. Just mix till smooth with the dough attachment (on a kitchen aid) and rise as directed.
another note (im sorry! I keep thinking of things to share): the words I put in quotes are common baking lingo you will find in recipes, but I try to explain them after so that you can understand more professional recipes more easily!