Friday, April 30, 2010

He'd Been Known to Bake Bread: Grandpa Joe (Honey Oat Sandwich Bread)

The last few days have been bittersweet, as a very important member of our family passed away on the 26th. My father-in-law, known to us lovingly as Grandpa Joe, left us quietly on Monday morning. A smart, interesting, funny guy who loved a good laugh, he was also distinctive in appearance--large in frame, with a nice face and a snowy white mustache and beard. Meeting him for the first time 20 years ago, I inevitably thought of Santa Claus. He did a lot of smiling that day, and I recall feeling that he was very warm and welcoming to me.

A long-time high school biology teacher and then a counselor, Grandpa Joe never lost his willingness to share knowledge. Just for fun, he enjoyed posing little trivia questions to family members out of the blue. I remember how he'd focus his gaze on me and say very pointedly, "Jane, this one's for you . . ." then he'd let loose with an arcane query on a topic about which I may or may not have had the slightest inkling. If I managed to respond correctly, he'd acknowledge that with a grin and comment, "Not bad, Jane. Not bad."

Oh sure, he'd had a few grouchy moments over the last couple of years as his energy diminished. But now those moments just seem like isolated stitches in the broad colorful fabric of who he was. This is my favorite line excerpted from his obituary, which was written by my husband:  "He loved singing, a good meal, was known to bake bread, and had a wonderful sense of humor." Yeah, the man even liked baking bread. He greatly appreciated well prepared food, loved watching cooking shows, and he read cookbooks. How many fathers-in-law do those things?

And the guy did love to sing. Last Saturday evening, from his hospice bed, he gifted us in a quavering voice with the melody from a couple of old tunes. When asked about his favorite music, he exclaimed over the obvious pre-eminence of Frank Sinatra. What wasn't to love about a man like that?  J.R.R. Tolkien said, "If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." Well, the world will be a little less merry now without Grandpa Joe in it and, somehow, we'll have to pick up the slack.

When I made this loaf of fresh bread the other day, I was thinking of him. I believe he would have liked it.

Love you, Grandpa Joe. See you again someday.

About this recipe . . .

Besides honey and oats, this yeast bread also includes whole wheat- and white flour. It's a dense, moist loaf with a slight and pleasant sweetness. Very easy to make, and probably very difficult to screw up, this a good uncomplicated recipe from the excellent book, King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking. I've made at least half a dozen items from this book with fine results each time.

The only change I made to the recipe was to omit nuts from the dough, and I reworded the instructions, throwing in my own two cents here and there. I hope you like this hearty loaf of bread. It's tasty toasted and buttered, but also awfully good untoasted and topped with a little peanut butter. Really satisfying.

Honey Oat Sandwich Bread

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Lightly grease a standard size loaf pan (9" x 5") and a medium size bowl. 
1 and 1/4 cups boiling water
1 cup old-fashioned oats (I only had quick oats on hand so I used those instead)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces (okay if it's cold)
1 and 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup honey (I used clover honey)
1 cup traditional whole wheat flour
1 and 2/3 cups unbleached All-Purpose flour
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk (if yours isn't fine and powdery, crush it before adding it in)
2 tsp. instant yeast

In the bowl of your mixer, stir together the water, oats, salt, butter, and honey. Let this cool.

In an ungreased bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, white flour, dry milk, and yeast. Pour this into the mixer bowl with the water-oat-honey mixture.

Put the mixer bowl onto the mixer. Using the dough hook, knead until a smooth dough forms (I mixed mine on the lowest speed for about 4 minutes; you may also choose to do this by hand, if you prefer).

Put the dough into the lightly greased medium-size bowl and cover it (I used a clear plastic food-safe box turned upside down to help create a warm moist environment) for about 1 hour, until doubled in bulk.

Once doubled, oil your hands, and thenn deflate the dough gently. (You won't need to do this on a floured surface, believe it or not.)

Shape it into a 9" log, and nestle it into the greased loaf pan.

Cover it with greased plastic wrap, and put it again in a nice proofing environment--someplace kind of warm and not too dry. Let it rise again for at least an hour or more, until it's crowned about 1.5" above the sides of the pan. About half an hour into the rising time, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Uncover the risen bread carefully, put it in the oven on the middle rack, and bake it for approximately 40 to 45 minutes. Put a foil tent over the loaf about 20 minutes into baking to prevent overbrowning. Test the bread for doneness by poking it with an instant read thermometer; when the middle of the loaf reads 190 degrees, the loaf is done.

Remove the bread from the oven, and take it out of the pan after 1 minute; put it on a rack to cool. If you like, brush melted butter lightly on the top of the loaf when you remove it from the pan; this will help the top crust stay nice and soft. Cool it on the rack completely before trying to slice it.

P.S. Did I forget to mention that Grandpa Joe used to keep honey bees? I would give anything to have a picture of him in his bee-keeper suit.

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, please click on the purple COMMENTS below!)


Helen said...

Oh Jane I hope you are all ok. What a great way to remember your father in law though with a fabulous heartwarming recipe

Jane said...

Thanks so much, Helen. Yes, we are all doing fine. Lots of good memories!

Rambling Tart said...

Beautiful, beautiful tribute, Jane. :-) I love the picture you chose of him. He does look like Santa Claus. :-) I don't know you, but I'm sending you a hug anyways. :-)

symphonious sweets said...

What a great story. I feel like I know a little about your grandpa Joe.
This bread sounds absolutely wonderful!

Susi said...

Jane,so sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to you and your family! Grandpa Joe sounded like a heck of a guy :o) What a fitting and loving tribute.

Marie said...

Wonderful tribute to your grandfather and a beautiful loaf of bread! xxoo

Stella said...

Hey Jane, this is a very loving and sweet post. I hope everyone adjusts well to Grandpa Joe's passing, especially your husband. Losing an older parent is a very natural, yet somehow still an odd & very sad time. May peace be with Grandpa Joe & all of you.
My Warmest, Stella

annie said...


What a lovely tribute to your father-in-law. In the past, I have salivated when looking at your recipes, but I have never commented(shame on me), but today I just had to. It is very ironic that I,too, have lost a loved one the same day you lost yours. My grandmother passed away at the age of 99, and although it was expected, it was still very difficult. Still we are lucky to have our loved ones as long as we have, and must cherish the remaining ones. Condolences to you and yours on your huge loss.

Heather said...

What a beautiful tribute to Grandpa Joe...

Jane said...

Dear Tart,
Thanks for that nice hug. Very sweet of you!

Hi Symphonious Sweets,
I'm glad you felt that. It's hard to know what to say in the short context of a blog post without going overboard in a situation like this. Many thanks to you!

Dear Susi,
Thanks so much. He was indeed a heck of a guy.
Jane :)

Many thanks! The loaf was a pretty color, wasn't it? I'm always relieved when any yeast bread I made turns out normal looking! ;)
Thanks again,

Dear Stella,
You are so right. It is a strange mixture of sadness, relief, and natural acceptance. I loved your note. Thanks so much!
Jane :)

Dear Annie,
What a kind and caring comment you left. I'm so pleased that you decided to do so! It is a coincidence indeed that you lost your grandma the same day. It's still hard, isn't it, to lose someone you have loved for years even if they're very elderly. We are so lucky to have good memories. My sincere sympathy to you and your family as well.
Very warmly,
Jane :)

Jane said...

Hi Heather,
Thank you so much! I realized after I finished this post that it made me feel better to talk about him here. I wasn't sure if I should (after all, this is just a baking blog), but I'm glad that I did it.
Many thanks,

tasteofbeirut said...


What a warm tribute to your father in law; he sounds like a wonderful man, judging by his photo a jolly one too! Love that quote that you used too; it applies to him to a t.
great post and very good bread, perfect for the occasion~

Katrina said...

This looks so yummy! And your instructions are so easy to follow :)

Anne said...

What a beautiful tribute to your father in law. I love the pictures. Our thoughts are with your family!

Mags said...

What a lovely and touching post. My condolences to you and your family. And how wonderful to have this bread recipe as one of your memories of him.

HanaĆ¢ said...

I'm very sorry for your and your husband's loss, Jane. What a great way to honor Grandpa Joe!!! And he really does look like Santa Claus :o)

The loaf looks wonderful! My fav way to eat a sandwich these days? Toasted bread, no butter, just a slice of good sharp cheddar cheese and big dollop of honey. Sweet and salty. Love it (I stole the idea from my mom) :o)

I hope you have lots more happy memories of Grandpa Joe. Sending you a big hug from MN.

Poires au Chocolat said...

What a lovely tribute. I particularly like that Tolkein quote - it's a very good point. I hope you and your family are okay, losing a loved one is so hard.

Also, thank you so much for your lovely comment on my post today - it really cheered my day up.

Anonymous said...

Truly..truly ....truly inspiring. I want to say how I am sorry for your loss...and I am so glad you found the unbelievable beauty in his life. I absolutely loved your work and will be sharing your link with my FB readers. I just truly loved this. Perfectly said. Thank you for sharing.

Pei-Lin@Dodol and Mochi said...

I'm sorry to learn about that ... I know he's still happy and smiling at all his loved ones and this loaf of fresh bread!! You're SO right! It's hard to find fathers-in-law who COOK & BAKE SERIOUSLY nowadays ... Not to even mention ladies ... It's hard to find young ladies who bother to enter the kitchen except when they're hungry ... This is just sad ...

Thanks for sharing this wholesome bread with us all. I'd devour my slices with butter and honey! Yumm!

Anonymous said...

Jane, wherever Grandpa Joe is, I'm sure he's very happy. This post is very heartwarming. It has really struck me and now I'm inspired to make this recipe. I gotta go to the store to buy a bee honey jar and bake this bread as my tribute to Grandpa Joe (even though we didn't know each other).

HanaĆ¢ said...

Jane, wanted to let you know that I finally got to making this Oatmeal bread a couple days ago. I LOVE it! I made a couple tweaks and plan to tweak it more to up the nutrition. Will post it soon. I can let you know when the post is up, if you're interested.

recette tiramisu speculoos said...

thank's a lot for this great post

Bakin' in Bermuda said...

I tried your recipe today and it never looked as smooth as yours does while rising and it barely even rose! I would like to give it another try just in case it was my yeast. One quick question... should the recipe read 1/4 cup of honey? Many thanks!

Jane said...

Dear Bakin' in Bermuda,
I'm so sorry to hear that your bread didn't rise! I agree with your suggestion that it was very likely your yeast that caused the problem. And, in answer to your question, yes, the honey should be 1/4 cup (thanks for bringing that typo to my attention! I appreciate it).
Keep on baking, no matter what!
:) Jane

Bakin' in Bermuda said...

Thanks, Jane! Really appreciate your comments!

Anonymous said...

I liked this bread and thought it was slightly sweet but mostly a normal bread. Good recipe!