This bread (like each of the other loaf breads I regularly make) represents the end point of an evolution that began when I started making sandwiches every day for my first son, when he entered kindergarten nearly 14 years ago. This bread is what every decent sandwich bread should be . . . . it slices perfectly, it has a fragrant, tender crust, and it’s just a bit chewy. And it tastes good, just as it is, with nothing on it. (Just ask the other food52 members who came to our first potluck last month.) Like most sandwich breads, it makes excellent toast. It’s great for putting on the table with dinner, too, especially when feeding ravenous teenagers. Enjoy!! —AntoniaJames
Test Kitchen Notes
This makes a sweet, yeasty, extraordinarily fragrant loaf of bread. The dough would make a perfect Pullman (sandwich) loaf, and yet is more flavorful than any we've tasted. We shaped ours into a round and it produced a plump, old-fashioned country boule. The crumb is dense but delicate, the perfect bed for shavings of salted butter. Note: We only used about 1/4 cup of flour when kneading the dough. - A&M —The Editors
- Serves one good-sized loaf
1 teaspoon of sugar
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast, or 1 ½ teaspoons of “rapid-rise” or instant yeast
7/8 cup buttermilk (lowfat is fine)
½ cup rolled oats (old fashioned or quick)
2 tablespoons melted butter
3 tablespoons honey
1 ½ teaspoon salt
3 – 3 ¼ cup bread flour (You may need just a bit more for kneading.)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
Olive oil for brushing the dough before baking
- Proof the yeast by putting it in a small measuring cup with 3 tablespoons of water that is warm (no hotter than 115 degrees Fahrenheit), with a pinch of sugar. Set it aside for at least ten minutes.
- (Please see the note below about kneading. You don't have to mix and knead this dough by hand, if you don't care to do so.) Mix together the buttermilk, oats, melted butter, salt, honey, 1 cup of flour and the baking soda. Beat well until combined.
- Beat in another half cup of flour, then add the yeast and water mixture along with another half cup of flour, and beat some more, until combined. The dough should start to feel a bit stretchy.
- Stir in another half cup of flour as best you can and then dump the contents of the bowl onto a lightly floured work surface.
- Set the remaining ¾ cup of flour close to your work area. Knead, adding flour a bit at a time as necessary, using a bench scraper to lift from your work surface any dough that is sticking.
- Knead for about ten or twelve minutes, adding only as much flour as you need to keep the dough from sticking hard to your hands. You don’t need to add the entire amount stated in the ingredients list. Remember, this dough has oatmeal in it, which will continue to soak up the liquids in the bread during the rise. (I put a small pile of flour – no more than a few tablespoons – off to the side, and use my bench scraper to pull over a teaspoon or two at a time, as needed.)
- Let the dough rest for a few minutes while you prepare the bowl and your rising area, if necessary. (See note below about the latter.)
- Wash in hot water the same bowl that you used for mixing the dough. Dry it and drizzle in the bottom a teaspoon or two of good, fruity olive oil. You can also use butter to coat the bowl, if you prefer.
- If proofing in your microwave or in your oven, prepare as suggested in Step 17.
- Gently form the dough into a ball, put into the bowl topside down, and then flip it over to coat with the oil.
- Cover the bowl with a piece of parchment and a tea towel. Allow to rise until doubled, for about an hour to an hour and a half.
- Punch down gently, knead a few times, and set aside on the parchment you used to cover the bowl.
- Allow to rise a second time about 45 minutes or until nearly doubled in size. (If you want to use this bread for sandwiches, you may find it beneficial not to let it rise quite as much. A loaf that’s a bit more dense is easier to slice, and holds up better when constructing sandwiches.) See notes below about shaping, and about using a clay pot for loaf bread.
- Brush with olive oil, slash the dough a few times with a sharp knife, and bake at 350 Fahrenheit (for regular ovens) for about 55 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when the bottom is gently tapped.
- Allow to cool on a rack for about an hour before slicing.
- A Note about Rising: If your house is drafty and/or cold (like mine, most of the year) and you don’t have all day or overnight to allow your dough to rise, put a small cup of water in your microwave, and turn it on high for two minutes. It should feel ever so slightly warm. (You don’t want it too hot, because a quick rise can make the bread coarse.) Remove the cup and put your covered bowl of dough, or your shaped loaf on the parchment in the case of the second rise, in there and shut the door. Instruct all members of your household, in no uncertain terms, that if they need to use the microwave, they may do so only if they remove the dough, gently, and replace it, with the door shut, when done. Or, you can warm up your regular oven to no more than 100 degrees (turning it off immediately so it doesn’t get any hotter), leave the door open for a minute or so, then put your dough in there.
- A Note about Clay Pots: This recipe works well either as a free-standing oval on a pizza stone, or in a loaf pan. If using a standard metal pan, lightly oil it before putting the dough into it for the second rise. If you are using a clay pot, please remember that (i) it benefits from soaking in water before using; and (b) you can’t put it, while cold, into a hot oven. So fill up the clay pot about ¾ with water and put it into the oven; about twenty minutes before the time you expect to put the bread in the oven, turn it on (325 degrees Fahrenheit for a convection oven, or 350 for a regular oven). When the dough has completed its second rise, remove the hot pan from the oven, discard the hot water – I use it for cleaning the oily bowl– and then place the dough in the clay pot, using the parchment on which the dough rose. You can oil clay pots, but they don’t absorb as much water during the soak. The absorbed water creates steam in the oven, which improves the crust.
- A Note about Browning: Check the loaf after about 25 minutes. Convection ovens tend to make the crust a bit dark – especially those with milk and butter in them -- so if the crust looks done after 25 or 30 minutes, cover it very lightly with a piece of foil.
- A Note about Kneading: This dough does not necessarily have to be kneaded by hand, if you have another method that you prefer, and are able to make adjustments accordingly. I happen to like stirring and kneading, because I rely on my hands to tell me when the correct amount of flour has been added. Plus, there's nothing quite like the satisfaction of using your own hands to turn a shaggy, floury mass of not-quite combined ingredients into the most glorious, smooth, shiny and supple ball of dough. I do some of my best thinking while kneading, too.