This post could also be named How Not to Bake Bread. Mmm, the bread in the picture looks so promising from far away. But click on it, and you will see. A doughy middle. And what you couldn't see, but I did, were the wet sides. Yep, this bread that had so many lovely ingredients in it (cracked wheat! steel cut oats! wholesome whole wheat flour!) ended up in the trash can (but not before I sliced off the only salvageable parts of the bread, namely the crusty tops, and ate them for lunch).
This recipe accompanied an article about a soup party in Martha Stewart Living, back when Susan Spungen was still the food editor there. The bread looked so healthy and hearty and easy that I thought I'd give it a try last night. Note to self: do not attempt to bake bread when you cannot devote as much time as the dough needs to rise and bake until it's done, through and through. Perhaps most importantly, note to self continued, do not bake bread if you cannot bother to read and follow the recipe's instructions. I pretty much blame only myself for this kitchen disaster (except I also think the recipe had too much salt in it, but whatever).
I hadn't been able to tear myself out of bed in the morning when I was supposed to, and then when the second rise hadn't even really finished, I stuck the bread in the oven and tapped my feet impatiently until the bread looked done enough to take out. It had been an hour, but we all know how funny my oven can be about timing. I had to get to the office and couldn't devote myself to making sure all the steps had been completed in their own good time. Best of all, I didn't read the instructions carefully enough, and let the bread cool in the pan for hours before turning it out on the rack. So the lackluster outcome was the result of me being distracted, trying to cut corners and save time: not the smartest thing when baking bread.
Do I recommend you try this recipe? Well, the truth is, this isn't the kind of bread I dream about eating. Breads like this are sort of more on my wavelength. I guess this post is more about me being an idiot than the bread being any good. The thing is, this bread would be really nice toasted with a slice of cheese on top, or dunked into a thick soup, or spread with peanut butter. And it is pretty easy to make. So if you have some time and are looking to get rid of your steel-cut oats, give it a try! Just make sure you have enough time. And follow the instructions.
Whole-Grain Oat Bread
Makes 1 nine-inch loaf
1 cup steel cut oats
2 cups boiling water
1/3 cup bulghur wheat
3 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup warm water
1 envelope dry yeast (1 scant tablespoon)
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon coarse salt
2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
Unsalted butter, room temperature, for bowl and pan
1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1. In a medium bowl, cover steel-cut oats with the boiling water. Let stand until room temperature. Stir in bulghur wheat and honey; set aside.
2. Place the warm water in a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over water. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combined the reserved oat mixture with the yeast mixture, whole-wheat flour and salt. Add the all-purpose flour until the dough is tacky, but not sticky (I only needed 2 and a half cups). Continue kneading about five minutes more.
4. Place the dough in a buttered bowl, and cover with buttered plastic wrap directly on the surface. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 90 minutes, or refrigerate overnight (which is what I did).
5. Turn out dough onto a clean work surface; form into a loaf about 9 inches long. Lightly mist with water; sprinkle with rolled oats (I skipped this step). Place in a well-buttered loaf pan; let stand until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a serrated knife, slash top of loaf lengthwise down center. Place immediately in oven. Bake until nicely browned and cooked through, about 1 hour. Remove from pan; let cool on a wire rack.