5 tries to make bread

Oat bread with a touch of whole wheat.

This is how I know I’m stubborn: I found a recipe for oat bread in one of my bread machine cookbooks. I tried it. It failed. It didn’t mix properly and a mess of flour was left in the bottom of the pan after it was done baking. I tried again. The same thing happened. I was mad.

Soon after, I picked up Ratio, the book by Michael Ruhlman that I wrote about last week. He says the ratio for bread is 5 parts flour to 3 parts liquid, or water. I checked the recipe in my bread machine cookbook. It uses volume measures, but a rough conversion would put its ratio at something closer to 5:4. Ah ha! I thought.

I reduced the liquid so it had the proper ratio. I also opened the lid on the machine while the dough was being mixed. All the flour was incorporated! I could taste success. But my self-congratulation was premature.

When the machine finished its baking cycle, I opened the lid and found a lump of baked dough. The bread never rose, and it was dense. Very, very, very dense. Too dense to eat. I was mad.

It took a day or so, and then I remembered something else Ruhlman said: Yeast will make dough rise, but the time it takes varies with the amount of yeast, type of flour, atmospheric conditions and other factors. This dough was heavy because it contained oat flour. Maybe it needed longer to rise?

But that’s impossible to adjust in a bread machine, or at least in my bread machine, because the rise time is fixed. I would have to make the dough by hand.

I did, and I was rewarded. After a couple of hours, it had risen into a nice, puffy loaf. I punched it down and shaped it.

Then G. and I went to our dance lesson. It was great. We stayed and hung out with our teacher. We got home at 11 p.m. G. had to work the next day, and we both needed to go to bed. I put the dough in the refrigerator to be baked the next day. I figured that would be fine since you can buy frozen bread dough, thaw it and bake it. I was wrong.

The next morning, I pulled out a shriveled, flat pancake of dough. Now, I was really mad.

Bread sitting in the Dutch oven in which it was baked.

I made another batch of dough immediately. I let it rise for a few hours. I punched it down, shaped it and let it rise again, this time for about an hour and a half.

Then I baked it in a Dutch oven, following Ruhlman’s suggestion. He said it would give it a crispy crust.

He was right! When I pulled it out of the oven, I had a tiny boule with a perfect crust. It looked like it came from a boulangerie. And it was edible! Still very dense, but definitely bread, not baked dough. And there’s a lot of fiber in there. That’s a good thing, right?

5-Try Oat Wheat Bread

6 ounces bread flour

1 ounce whole wheat flour (I meant to use whole wheat bread flour, but I grabbed the wrong container.)

1 ounce oat flour

2 ounces rolled oats

6 ounces water

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar (I used evaporated cane juice.)

1 teaspoon yeast

Mix all the ingredients into a dough. Knead it at least 10 minutes. This is fun. This is exercise. Knead it a little more. Put the dough in a bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and let it rise until it has doubled in size. For me, this took about 2 1/2 hours.

Punch it down and knead it a little more. Put it back in the bowl to rest for about 15 minutes. Now, shape it. I made a boule, but you could also make a baguette or some other shape. If you are going to use a Dutch oven, oil the bottom and place the dough inside now. Put the lid on and let the dough rise again. This time, I let it go about 1 1/2 hours.

Bake at 450 degrees with the lid on for 30 minutes. Then, remove the top and continue baking for about another 15 minutes at 350. The bread is done when it’s internal temperature is about 200 degrees. I checked it with a meat thermometer, but there might be a better way.

Let it cool a bit. Eat some. Tell yourself that you are an awesome baker.

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