What can I say about this bread other than the fact that I’ve been making it several times a week for the past two months or so and have no plans to slow down? In mid-March, when we were all scrambling to adapt to a new way of life, I found that I was cooking even more than usual and bread was disappearing in my house faster than I could buy it.
So, after a friend started obsessively making Julia Child’s white sandwich loaf, which is excellent, by the way, I tried my hand at it as well. After a few loaves, I wanted something as simple — a good, no-frills sandwich loaf — but with a little more nutritional value, so I found this much-beloved recipe, originally printed on the back of a bag of bread flour from the great bakers at King Arthur Flour. Years ago, as a food editor, I visited their flagship location in Vermont and fell in love with their team, their product and their community-driven spirit. Aside from their no-fail recipes, they also offer helpful video tutorials, which you might want to refer to for shaping your loaf.
Flour and yeast are not easy to come by these days, but if you have them and want to try baking this simple bread, it’s an economical way to satisfy hungry eaters. I had my fling with sourdough starter, and it does make flavorful pancakes and other baked goods, but when it comes to a quick, daily loaf, this might just be The One. The texture is springy and holds up to slicing and serious sandwich building; it also makes excellent toast. Friends and neighbors are always happy to receive warm bread, so I usually double the recipe and sometimes start in on a second double batch as soon as the first one is in the oven.
Oatmeal sandwich bread
Makes 1 (9- by 5-inch) loaf
3 cups/361 grams unbleached bread flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 cup/99 grams rolled oats (old-fashioned oats) or muesli
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 teaspoons fine salt
1 to 2 tablespoons honey or brown sugar (optional)
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/4 cups lukewarm milk (or buttermilk or half water, half milk)
Optional add-ins: 1 cup dried cranberries, raisins, blueberries, chopped nuts, sunflower seeds, etc.
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, weigh the flour and oats — this is the most accurate method — and add the remaining ingredients. (Alternatively, you can stir the flour and gently spoon it into a measuring cup, sweeping off any excess before adding to the bowl.) Knead, using the dough hook, 7 to 8 minutes, until dough is springy to the touch but still a bit soft. Alternatively, combine ingredients in a large bowl until shaggy and knead by hand on a clean surface. The dough might feel sticky, but instead of adding more flour to the work surface, use a bit of vegetable oil. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place. If your kitchen is cool (below 65 degrees), heat oven to 150 degrees, turn off oven and place bowl in oven to rise 1 hour, until dough is puffy but not necessarily doubled in bulk. Lightly grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.
2. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled surface. If adding in additional flavors, add them in here. Flatten dough to a roughly 6-by-8-inch rectangle. Fold the top down to the center — like folding a letter in thirds — and press down on dough with heel of hands to “seal” the dough. Pull in the top right corner and top left corner to the center and press down to seal. Repeat two more times to form a 9- or 10-inch log; tuck in the ends and place log, seam side down, in prepared loaf pan. Tent with lightly-greased plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Allow dough to rise 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until dough crests about 1 inch above the rim of the pan.
3. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat oven to 350 degrees and place oven rack in center. If you want to add a topping, beat egg white with 1 teaspoon water and brush all over the top of loaf — there will be some left over — and sprinkle with oats or seeds. Bake bread 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped or a thermometer inserted in center registers 190 degrees. Remove bread from the pan and allow to cool completely on a rack before slicing. Store, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days or freeze to enjoy later.
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