Scratch Oatmeal-Raisin Bread

    After my first foray into inventing bread recipes, I was pleased and excited.  I had always shied away from using all whole wheat flour because I didn’t want heavy bread and many whole wheat bread recipes seemed dour and gritty.  I like my bread to be soft and flavorful.  The squash-oatmeal bread was great, so I brainstormed a variety of whole wheat bread recipes.  I wanted the whole wheat flour to stand on its own, without even vital wheat gluten, for breads which would be fun to make and eat. 

   And here is the first.  It’s Scratch Oatmeal-Raisin Bread, and it is soft and flavorful as promised.  As I created this recipe, I followed the formula I explained in Scratch Bread (12/29/09):

The Must-Haves:  Flour – all whole wheat; Liquid – buttermilk (classic, flavorful, and creamy); Leavening – yeast.  The Nice-to-Adds: Shortening – butter; Sweetener – dark brown sugar; Other – oatmeal , raisins, salt, and cinnamon.  That’s it.

    The thing about raisins in bread is that they can be a bit dry and chewy and, well, they’re awfully separate.  At this point you might be thinking I’m a little overly particular, but I am a texture-eater.  What I eat and enjoy is heavily dependent on the texture – if I like the flavor but dislike the texture, I just can’t eat it.  Strange, but true, and I am not alone in this.  So, I have carefully considered the addition of raisins.

    Many recipes call for soaking your raisins for some amount of time before incorporating them into your recipe.  Usually, this means setting your raisins in a bowl of water or tea for about half an hour.  Since my liquid is buttermilk, I decided to soak my raisins in that.  Then, I wanted the raisins to be well-incorporated into the overall texture, not function as separate objects to be bitten into or fall out of the sliced bread, so I decided to chop my raisins before soaking them.  So there we are.  Buttermilk-soaked, chopped raisins.  This was already sounding pretty yummy.

   Ingredients were decided, so I moved on to process.   I wanted to warm my ingredients to encourage the growth of the yeast when I added it later.   I also wanted my butter and sugar melted into my buttermilk for consistancy.  I decided to do it all at once and get my flavors melding, so everything would begin together in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.  This would melt the butter and sugar, allow the raisins to soak up moisture and flavor, and warm my liquid. 

    So, ½ cup of chopped raisins, 2 cups of buttermilk, ½ cup of dark brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, and ¼ cup of butter went into a saucepan and onto the stove.  I covered the pan to hold in the heat and prevent evaporation, and stirred occasionally. 

    When the butter melted, I poured the sweet, steaming mixture over 1 ½ cups of (old-fashioned, not quick) oats in a large bowl.  I stirred to mix then allowed it to cool until just warm to the touch.   I added 2 tablespoons of yeast, mixed it in, and let it set for five minutes (to give the yeast time to get to work).

    I stirred in the whole wheat flour, cup by cup.  After about three cups, it became difficult to stir, so I turned it out onto a floured surface.  I kneaded for six minutes, adding additional flour by re-flouring my surface as the dough absorbed it.   Then, I let the dough sit on my counter as I washed and oiled my bowl.  (Why dirty two?  Also, the dough becomes difficult to wash off if you let it dry on you.  Wash sooner rather than later.)  I put the dough in the bowl and rolled it to make sure the top of the dough was well-oiled, covered it with a tea towel, and put it into my slightly-warmed oven.  (If any of this seems unclear or confusing to you, take a look at “Scratch Bread,” 12/29/09.) 

    I let it rise for 50 minutes, punched it down, formed two loaves, and let those rise again for about 35 minutes.  (You don’t want a 100% rise on the loaves, or they will fall in the oven.)  Then, off to a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.  That’s it! 

    Let me tell you, you can’t even tell from the texture that this bread is all whole wheat.  It is somwhat dense, but smooth, soft, and flavorful.  I’ve enjoyed it toasted with butter and as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  It’s as tasty as a breakfast bread, but more hearty and healthful.  Enjoy!

Scratch Oatmeal-Raisin Bread

Ingredients: ½ c. chopped raisins; 2 c. buttermilk; ½ c. dk. brown sugar; 1 t. salt; 1 t. cinnamon; ¼ c. butter; 1 ½ c. oats; 2 T. yeast; 3-5 c. whole wheat flour

Add chopped raisins, buttermilk, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and butter to a medium saucepan.  Heat, covered, over medium-low heat until the butter melts, stirring occasionally. 

Pour over oats in a large bowl.  Allow to cool until warm, not hot.  Stir in yeast and allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Stir in flour, cup by cup, until difficult to stir (about 3 cups).  Turn out onto floured surface and knead for 6 minutes, incorporating more flour as needed.

Allow to rise for 50 minutes or until doubled in volume. Shape into 2 loaves, place in greased loaf pans, and allow to rise again for 35 minutes.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.  Turn out onto wire racks to cool.


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