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Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chugging Along...With Some Oat Soda Bread

So...where was I? Oh yes, I'm back from Europe and my visit to the Midwest (about a month now), and I have tried to focus all of my mental, emotional and physical energy into the one thing I REALLY need to be working on: my script. Are you surprised? I wouldn't think so, considering I've been talking about my writing for the past millenia (or at least it feels that way). Writing is a wonderful art, and my first love, but I can't help but start to feel antsy. Honestly, since August of 2009, I haven't had such a huge amount of time for me to do whatever I please. By the end of summer, I'm going to see about getting a part-time job, hopefully in development or in writing. Might help to stave off the cabin fever. ANYWAY, you could hardly care about that with such pretty pictures of bread loaves distracting you. This, my friends, is my first attempt at soda bread, and even though I'm not really sure what the original version tastes like, I'm never going back. It's only oat soda bread for me from here on in. 

I've stayed away from bread making because I honestly have a sub-concious aversion to anything that needs yeast. I assume if a recipe calls for yeast, it's going to take centuries to make, and will use every pot and pan in the house. I know this is an irrational fear. And I have known for a while that soda bread is a "quick bread", meaning it doesn't use yeast as a levener, but still, I decided not to bother. Until along comes this really intriguing recipe from 101 Cookbooks that I finally couldn't pass up. It was a lazy evening, and I had a box of oats I wasn't doing anything with, so why not. And oh man, the oats. Seriously the oats are really what give this bread its wonderful flavor. It's toasty, hearty, and all around delicious. Take a fresh baked piece of this bread, slather it with soft butter...oh man...maybe I should make another loaf right now...

The one thing I will say about this bread is that processing the oats down to the point where they reach a flour-like consistency is not easy. Be patient, I took the better part of an hour processing, sifting, then processing again to get my oats to where they needed to be. I promise your patience will be rewarded. The rest of the recipe is a snap to whip up. Just that damn oat flour is a bit of a bitch, but as soon as you cross that hurdle, it's smooth sailing.

Not sure if you can tell, but there's a big chunk of crust taken out of the left half of this loaf. I couldn't wait to take pictures.
Now you can put whatever you like on top. I happened to have poppy seeds, and felt that a bit of sea salt would add a nice kick. I was right. I'd recommend adding a touch more salt to the top regardless of your seed combination, for an extra kick of flavor. And I will definitely be keeping a few more seeds around the house to play more with the crust. I might even be tempted to add a few in the dough, to be honest. Why not live a little. But first, I need to get 10 more pages down on paper. Then I can reward myself with bread.

2 cups rolled oats (or a scant 2 cups oat flour)
2 ¼ cup flour
1 ¾ tsp baking soda
1 ¼ tsp sea salt, plus extra for top
7 tbsp powdered buttermilk
1 ¾ cup water
1 tbsp honey
butter (for pan and for top of loaf)
a variety of seeds (caraway, poppy, sesame, etc.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and center rack in middle. Butter and line a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Make oat flour by pulsing oats in a food professor till it becomes a fine powder.

Sift flours, baking soda, salt and buttermilk powder into a large bowl. Make a well in the flour and pour in water. Drop the tbsp of honey in there too. Stir still ingredients just come together as a dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured counter and knead for about 30 seconds, until the dough comes together as a cohesive, slightly flattened ball without any cracks or fissures. If your dough is a bit too dry, add a splash of water just a bit at a time.

Ease the dough into the pan and brush top with melted butter (or cream) and sprinkle generously with the seeds and some extra sea salt. Bake for about 30 minutes, then move rack up a level so the top gets nice and toasty. Bake another 20 minutes, or until a hard crust forms and the bread is baked through. It will feel solid and sound hollow when you knock on it. After it’s cooled for about 10 to 15 minutes in the pan, life carefully out and allow to cool on a wire rack. 

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