What can I tell you about this bread that will possibly capture how good it is? Well, I can tell you how wonderful it tastes: lightly honey-sweet, flecked with yellow millet and nutty sunflower seeds. I can tell you that it has a firm, moist crumb that slices beautifully for sandwiches or toast. I can even tell you that it's one of the least temperamental yeast bread recipes I've worked with. But what I can't tell you is how unbelievably good your kitchen - your whole house - will smell while this bread is baking. The aroma alone is worth baking this bread for. Don't believe me? Try it one time . . . you'll see.
This is a good loaf bread to keep on hand as a staple. Keep a few loaves in the freezer, and defrost one at room temperature when you need fresh bread.
Butter it and drizzle some honey over the top, and you have breakfast. Serve it warm alongside soup or a salad for lunch. Chicken salad or peanut butter and banana would be right at home between two slices. The crumb is dense enough to hold together in the toaster, and this is a good way to freshen up day-old bread.
Honey Oatmeal Bread*
1 cup rolled oats
11/3 cups boiling water
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup honey
2 envelopes instant dry yeast (can use regular active dry yeast)
1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground dried ginger
51/2 cups unbleached white flour, divided
2 tablespoons raw sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons millet
Place the oats in a medium-size heat-resistant mixing bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Stir in the salt, butter, and honey; cover with a tea towel; and let sit for 1 hour.
When the hour is almost up, stir the yeast into the warm water in a small mixing bowl, add the sugar and ginger, and set in a warm, draft-free place until the yeast begins to froth. [Recipe notes: Although instant yeast does not need to be reconstituted, I wasn't sure how omitting the water in this step would affect the overall recipe, so I went ahead and reconstituted as directed. It bubbled up within minutes, overrunning the bowl. I scooped everything up, dumped it into my mixing bowl, and proceeded from there, with no ill effects at all.]
Once the yeast has bubbled, combine it in a large mixing bowl with 5 cups of the flour. Add the oatmeal mixture, the millet, and the sunflower seeds, and stir well to incorporate.
Turn dough out onto a board and dust it with the remaining 1/2 cup flour. Knead well, until the dough is smooth and elastic. [Recipe notes: I have developed the habit of kneading my yeast dough directly in the mixing bowl. I use a large stainless steel bowl, and kneading the dough right inside it, as opposed to turning it out onto a board, is simply a matter of convenience - my kitchen has very little counter space, and what it does have is mostly covered with tile (not the best surface for kneading anything on). I do have a bread board, but the in situ mixing-bowl method has worked so well for me, I almost always do it this way. Besides, it means one less thing to wash.]
Form the dough into a ball and place it in a greased bowl. Turn the dough once to grease the top. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.
Spray two 8 by 4-inch loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray or brush with melted butter. Punch down the dough and knead for a couple of turns. Divide the dough in half and form into two loaves. Place the loaves in the pans and let rise until double in size. [Recipe notes: I like to use one 8 x 4-inch pan and one 9 x 5-inch pan. We eat the big loaf fresh, and cool and freeze the smaller one.]
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake loaves for 40 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the loaf sounds hollow when thumped. Turn loaves out of pans onto a wire rack.
Makes 2 loaves
*This recipe is adapted from one in Gene Opton's excellent book, Honey.