I bake really often, which I'm sure comes as no surprise. But the fact is, I only blog about a fraction of the stuff I bake. That's because not everything I bake at home is a brand new recipe for me (there are always the old favorites that my family requests over and over), and not every new recipe I try turns out to be pleasing enough to even bother sharing. On top of that, I do a lot of fiddling around and experimenting with recipes--often to their advantage and sometimes to their detriment--so what emerges from my oven can be unpredictable. I'm always happy as a clam when something turns out surprisingly well, and I'm positively on cloud nine if anyone expresses unbridled enthusiasm for what I've come up with.
It's not hard to please people with a gorgeous cake or a gooey cookie, but it's always a surprise to me when a wholesome loaf of bread elicits that same ardent fervor from my taste-testers. That's what happened with this yeast bread. Highlighting oats, a little flax meal, walnuts, and sweet dried cherries (from the orchards of northern Michigan, of course), this loaf has a buttery warmth that's hard to resist. This past weekend, the hubby actually said to me, "You have GOT to make this bread again. I love it." Those were pretty strong words, coming from him. He's always open to trying any new food but, ultimately, he's a man of fairly discriminating taste. Only time will tell, but I suspect I'll eventually be adding this recipe to our growing list of favorites. I think it's a keeper!
About this recipe . . .
Adapted from a King Arthur Flour oatmeal bread recipe, I tweaked this loaf to include a small amount of chopped dried cherries, chopped walnuts, and flax, and I made a few measurement alterations to some of the other ingredients while customizing some of the steps. Both walnuts and cherries, if you ask me, are among the most flavorful ingredients you can add into yeast bread; walnuts lend that buttery aspect, while cherries pack a tangy gusto that other dried fruits just can't muster. It's a great combo.
This recipe is very simple, and not too time consuming. The bread is delicious even eaten plain, but it's at its absolute best when toasted and buttered. I hope you like it as much as we did.
3 and 3/4 cups unbleached bread flour (divided use)
1 cup old fashioned oats, pulsed (on and off) in a food processor for 30 seconds
2 Tbsp. flax meal (Easy to find in health food stores, and some grocery stores. If you don't have it, or prefer not to buy it, I think you could substitute an equal amount of whole wheat flour, ground oats, or bread flour.)
3 Tbsp. light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 and 1/4 tsp. coarse kosher salt
2 and 1/4 tsp. instant yeast (I use SAF brand instant yeast; they sell it in health food stores, from King Arthur Flour, and I've seen it at Whole Foods. You don't have to proof instant yeast and it's very reliable.) 3/4 cup warm milk 1/2 cup warm water
3 Tbsp. soft unsalted butter 1/2 cup well-chopped walnuts 1/2 cup well-chopped dried cherries, loosely packed
1/4 cup melted unsalted butter, to brush on the top of the unbaked and just-baked loaf
In a large mixer bowl, by hand, whisk together 3 cups of the flour (reserving 3/4 cup), the ground oats, flax meal, sugar, salt, yeast, nuts, and cherries. Put the bowl on the mixer and, using the flat beater on the lowest speed, add in the milk, water, and butter. Mix for a minute or two to combine, until the dough looks shaggy.
Turn the mixer off, clean the dough off of the flat beater, and switch to the dough hook. Mix on the lowest speed using the hook for 2 minutes.
Dump the shaggy dough onto a well-floured surface (use your leftover 3/4 cup flour). It should be pretty moist; if it's not very moist, use less flour on your work surface.
Knead the dough by hand for about 4 minutes, until it feels relatively smooth and elastic.
Put the dough into a greased (or sprayed with vegetable spray) bowl.
Cover it with a greased/sprayed piece of plastic wrap, then cover the top of that with a dish towel. Place the bowl in a warm spot and let it rise until almost doubled (as in the photo below); this may take about 60 to 75 minutes.
Meanwhile, grease one 9"x5" standard-size loaf pan. Take the risen dough from its bowl, and deflate it on your work surface by pressing on it with your palms/knuckles. Use as little flour as you can get away with at this point (just enough to keep it from sticking; excess flour added at this point does more harm than good). Pick the dough up and gently round it, tugging downward on the sides; you want to create a bit of tension on its surface. Cover the dough again with the greased plastic wrap, and let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes.
Uncover it and form it into a loaf shape, being very careful to tightly pinch any seams closed.
Put it in the greased pan, seam side down. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Cover the pan with the greased plastic again, then cover that with the dishtowel, and let the dough proof (have its final rise) in a warm spot for about 45-60 minutes. The proofed dough should have risen above the sides of the pan, as in the photo below.
Shallowly slash/score the top of the loaf with a baker's lame, a sharp razor blade, or an extremely sharp knife; don't slash deeply (doing this helps the loaf to expand neatly without bursting haphazardly in the oven). Brush the top of the loaf liberally with half of melted unsalted butter, and reserve the rest.
Just before you put the bread in the hot oven, spritz water into the middle of the oven from a spray-mist bottle (a few good squirts), and/or while the oven is warming up put a shallow pan of very hot water on the bottom shelf of the oven (bread likes to bake in a slightly steamy atmosphere).
Bake the bread for about 30-35 minutes, or until its interior registers 190-195 degrees on an instant-read thermometer (if you want to test it, tip the baked loaf out of the pan and insert the thermometer into the bottom). Don't peek in the oven until the bread's been baking for at least 15-20 minutes. If the bread seems to be browning too fast, cover it loosely with foil. When the bread is done, remove it from the pan to a cooling rack. Brush the top once more, while the bread is still hot, with the remaining melted butter.
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Jane's Sweets & Baking Journalwas born of my ever increasing desire to learn more about the baking and pastry arts, and of my love for anything and everything related to baking. Just as food is meant to be shared, so is knowledge among bakers and among those who enjoy delicious foods prepared from scratch. So, please partake, and feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I'd love to hear from you.
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JANE'S FAVORITE BAKING BOOKS
About Professional Baking: The Essentials, by Gail Sokol. This is a textbook, but not one that's intimidating. It contains lots of useful info, including interesting personal profiles of professional chefs.
All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. Another winner of the IACP award. Loads of good looking cookie recipes with lots of very appetizing photos. (Don't you love cookbooks with tons of pictures? I do.)
All-American Dessert Book, by Nancy Baggett. Wonderfully detailed, with very reliable recipes, Baggett does it again in this valuable cookbook. Definitely worth your time!
Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet. This large Gourmet Cook Book Club Selection is a feast for the eyes. I love the page layout, the photos, and the author's reassuring tone. Recipes range from the quotidian ("classic sugar cookies") to the ridiculous ("Moroccan-spiced sweet-potato tiropetes") to the absolute sublime ("duo-tone chocolate pots de creme"). Worth acquiring.
Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, by the Culinary Institute of America. This is a heavy duty textbook, not for the faint of heart. Intimidating, sure, but also kind of fascinating if you're an obsessive bake-a-holic like me.
Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan and based on the PBS series hosted by Julia Child. Yet another hefty and dazzling coffee-table-worthy cookbook. Wonderful to have around. (My copy was autographed by Julia herself!)
Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, published in 1950 and available in a facsimile edition, holds a special place in my heart. This is the book my mom primarily used, or so it seemed, when I was a kid. The photos are such period pieces, and the little notations that accompany recipes are pricelessly cute and corny. I have an ancient copy that I still use. Every girl needs a copy of this in her house, for good karma if nothing else.
Bitter Sweet -- Recipes and Tales From a Life in Chocolate, by Alice Medrich. Much more than just a cookbook with a focus on fine dark chocolate, this is also a memoir of sorts from a legendary chocolate-dessert creator. Medrich is often credited with awakening American tastes to the finest aspects of superior chocolate. Very interesting read!
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes,by Jeffrey Hamelman. An indispensable book for anyone who is seriously interested in learning to make fine yeast breads, Hamelman shares far more than just technical knowledge. Like fellow bread guru Peter Reinhart, his warmth of spirit and deep love for the tradition of bread baking shines through on every page.
Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham. Not to be confused with the character of the mom on Happy Days, the real Marion Cunningham has a long list of writing accomplishments, the most well known being that she completely revised The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. A contemporary of the late James Beard's, she is still held in high esteem.
Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose is really into the science of baking, which can be helpful in some respects and off-putting in others. Like gardeners who talk mostly about soil components without conveying their joy in the plants themselves. Maybe I'm too sensitive? Probably so, as many consider this to be an invaluable classic. Despite my reservations, I wouldn't part with my copy. One of several highly detailed books by Rose. Her latest book, Heavenly Cakes, is much more down to earth, loaded with photos, and truly beautiful.
Cake Book, by Tish Boyle. I've called it a treasure trove before and please allow me to say it again here. This book is jam packed with wonderful stuff that's well explained. I used the Sacher-torte recipe in the fall of '09 for a culinary school project and it didn't let me down. I can endorse this book without reservation. I love it.
Complete Book of Pastry Sweet & Savory, by Bernard Clayton, Jr. When this book appeared in 1981, famed food editor Craig Claiborne praised it in the NYT as "one of the most important cookbooks of this year, if not of this decade." No photos, but don't let that dissuade you.
Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox. In 2009, some great new cookbooks were published and this was one of them. Down to earth, straightforward without being condescending, this smart guide offers creative and simple twists on dozens of diverse and well-proven "cakes, cookies, and other sweets."
Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier. As the White House executive pastry chef for over two decades, Mesnier has a lot of wisdom to impart. He does so well in this book, which is designed specifically for home bakers. A good book!
Grand Central Baking Book, by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. Readers are welcomed into these pages with a tone of warmth and familiarity. The photos alone will have you scribbling a grocery list. Try the berry kuchen recipe--simple and scrumptious.
Hershey's Chocolate Treasury, published in 1984 by Hershey Foods and chock full of old reliables. The recipe for Black Magic cake is one I've used again and again--invaluable!
How to Bake, by Nick Malgieri. The writing style is matter of fact and fairly informal. That's one of my favorite things about Malgieri's books.
Magical Art of Cake Decorating, by Carole Collier. Sometimes at a used book sale you find an old gem like this. Published in '84, I found it very encouraging when I first began decorating cakes. The recipes are rock solid reliable.
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, by Maida Heatter. Famed baker (apparently her "Palm Beach Brownies" are known far and wide), whose work has centered on wondrous chocolate desserts, Heatter received a James Beard award for this book, one of many she's published over several active decades.
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart. Beautiful photos, but I must admit I've come to have reservations about the reliability of some of the recipes. Is it just me? Though I love flipping through the book for ideas, I'm a bit on the fence with this one when it comes to actual usage.
Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes by Martha Stewart. Talk about a stunning and inspiring book! Chances are you may never decide to actually make one of the cakes from this glorious volume, but it's enough just to page through the gorgeous pictures and interesting recipes. Expensive? For sure, but worth it.
Passion for Baking, A by Marcy Goldman. If you're curious about how professional bakers manage to make things come out nicely every time, you'll appreciate this book. Goldman, in her highly approachable style, divulges many of their simple--but enormously helpful--tricks and techniques, and shows readers how to implement them throughout the wondrous array of down-to-earth recipes that pack this great book. Loads of enticing photos, too! I love this book!
Perfect Cakes, by Nick Malgieri. Can't say enough about Malgieri's books. Absolutely worth using, versus just reading! The white and dark chocolate cheesecake is to die for; I've made it a few times, along with many other recipes from this book, and it is superb.
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday, by Peter Reinhart. This book is a revelation for anyone who approaches yeast recipes like a vampire approaches the dawn. Talk about down to earth, encouraging, and flexible! This guy knows how to talk to rookie breadmakers. Well worth reading, and using, this volume will find a comfy place in your cookbook collection--a worthwhile purchase, undoubtedly!
Professional Cake Decorating, by Toba Garrett. I get the impression that this book is perceived as the most thorough and comprehensive text available for serious students of cake decorating. This is the text that we used for my culinary school Beginning Cake Decorarting class (which means I finally own my own copy!).
Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, by Sarabeth Levine. Almost too pretty to use, but use it anyway! This big book is so appealing, and the photos so remarkably enticing, you'll want to pick it up like a sandwich and bite right into it. Fine recipes for updated classics, well explained, from the famous Manhattan bakery. Worth buying. (You'll love it!)
Secrets of Baking, by Sherry Yard. A must have, bakers! This cookbook's forte is the way it's organized; master recipes are presented with full explanations of how they can be used, and related recipes follow, section by section. An exceptional manual to refer to. Get your own copy!
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. Huntsman is the professional pastry chef behind this beautiful book, filled with many tempting recipes, all designed specifically and scaled perfectly for three layers. I've made the Devil's food cake thus far, and it was exceptional--it rose well, was very moist, and had great depth of flavor. I'll be using this book more in the future, without a doubt. Love the photos also!
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. . . to never endorse a product of any kind on Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal that I do not believe in. I've never done so thus far, and I vow never to do so. If I tell you I think something is great, or that I think it is worth spending real money on, then I mean it, rest assured. I promise. And, if I ever talk about a product that I've been given to review or try out, I will disclose that in the post.
I'm a mom with two great sons (both now in college), and a really nice husband. I left a long editorial career in reference publishing a few years ago and I've had nary a regret. I recently finished (after four part-time years!) a Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate program in the Culinary Studies Institute at a local community college. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and I am so glad I did it. These days, I do a lot of freelance editorial work, something that I really enjoy.
"Jane's Sweets" was the name of a very small baking enterprise that I started in late 2007. It bloomed a bit, for a little while, with encouragement from my husband, my aunt, and my first cake decorating teacher, Cindy. Because my Aunt Lydia was my most ardent female supporter in this baking endeavor (she was a lifelong independent business owner herself), this blog is dedicated to her memory. If heaven is real, then I know she's there with my mom, baking up a storm. Like Lydia said one day, just before her 80th birthday, while she and my mom and I were baking in my mom's kitchen, "It's been a fun ride. I'd do it all over again!"
If my house were on fire, I'd grab my family, then I'd grab my KitchenAid mixer.
Copyright 2009-2016, on original content and photos, Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for permission if you'd like to reuse any of my photos or my content. Please consider informing me if you link to my blog--I'd love to know. --Thanks for visiting!