I have been on a quest for the perfect oatmeal bread. When we moved to Bainbridge Island, I finally felt like a local on the day that I casually ordered Blackbird Bakery’s toast and jam. (All of their pretty pastries out front distract the frugal customer or casual visitor from the island’s best kept secret tradition – toast and jam.)
I’ve tried so many different recipes. I’ve searched the internet and consulted the ladies at the baking circle. My mom has listened to me rant and mailed me her best guesses. I’ve hounded people who have known people who have worked at the bakery. (“All I can tell you,” one lady told me, “is that it takes two days.”) I’ve gathered clues, experimented, and really, the only shame in this process is that we’ve had to eat a lot of just o.k. toast.
And now, I have stumbled upon the most delicious accident. One morning, I misjudged the time that I had to fix breakfast and had to rush out the door, leaving an almost cooked pot of steel-cut oats on the counter. When I got home it was a gloppy mess, but I hated to waste so many oats. I wondered if there was a bread that could be made with leftover oats. There, in King Arthur’s Whole Grain Baking, was the answer to my quest! The recipe below is an adaptation from a recipe titled, “Irish Porridge Bread.” While it is not exactly like Blackbird’s, it’s delicious enough to hold us over until we can decode their secret.
Oatmeal Toasting Bread
This bread is both hearty and light. More than just a simple vehicle for jam, it could almost be a complete meal. If you omit the vital wheat gluten, it will be tasty but will crumble all over your toaster. You may find this ingredient in the bulk foods section.
Makes 1 loaf.
For the ‘porridge’-
Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a simmer. Add 1/2 cup steel-cut oats. Simmer on low, covered, for about 25 minutes.
For the bread-
1 1/2 cups leftover steel-cut oatmeal, room temperature
4 tbls. unsalted butter
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup raw rolled oats
1/4 cup oat bran
2 cups bread flour
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk (If you prefer to make your porridge with milk, omit this.)
2 tbls. vital wheat gluten
2 tsp. instant yeast
- Melt the butter and stir in the brown sugar and salt.
- Add the rolled oats, oat bran, bread flour, dry milk, wheat gluten, and yeast in a large bowl.
- Stir in the butter mixture. Add the leftover porridge.
- Knead by machine or hand for about 10 minutes. This is a very sticky dough. You may need to add more flour so that you can move from sticky to tacky, which is desirable.
- Let the dough rise for 1 hour.
- Flour a work surface. Gently flour the dough and fold over about four times. Dust with flour if the dough is sticking to your hands.
- Fold the dough in half, pinch the seam, and gently roll into a loaf shape the length of your pan. Place in greased loaf pans. Dust the top with oat bran, if you want. You want the ends of the loaf to touch the short ends of your pan (so it will rise evenly.)
- Cover with oiled plastic wrap and a towel. Let it rise for 1 hour.
- Bake at 350F for 40 minutes.
- To double the recipe and make 2 loaves, start with: 3 cups water and 1 cups uncooked oats. This will result in 3 cups of cooked oatmeal, which is your goal.
- If you’ve made fresh oatmeal, go ahead and stir in the butter and brown sugar. Cool your oatmeal down to below 120F, before proceeding with recipe.