Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Hats off to Dr. Johnson - English Oatmeal Bread

Long before I became a baker, I studied English Literature. In fact, I even have a Bachelor's degree in the subject. I have never worked in the field, I admit. But to this day I am an avid reader of just about anything I can get my hands on, including great literature. I especially like Dickens and the Shakespearean period. Which brings me to Dr. Johnson, who was mostly a contemporary although he continued after Shakespeare as well. Among his many literary works, Dr. Johnson is known for his dictionary. He was a humorist and quite a snob, and so his definition of 'oats' reads something like this (not an exact quote): "Oats: a grain which in England is fed to cattle but in Scotland feeds the population". Needless to say, in Nova Scotia and in Old Scotland, he is not well liked especially since oats are not only tasty but also nutritious. They are also mostly gluten-free. However, if you use then for gluten-free baking, make sure they are certified. There is always the danger of cross-contamination with wheat and wheat products.

This bread actually comes from England, despite Dr. Johnson, where it is usually served as a tea bread. Covered with butter and/or honey it is delicious and the oats, which are soaked for 2 hours beforehand, disappear in the moist dough.

Here's What You'll Need: (for 2 small loaves, one large loaf, or about 1 dozen rolls)

2 cups oatmeal, plus 2 Tbs. for dusting
2 cups milk
2 1/4 tsp. dry yeast
2 Tbs. butter, softened
2 tsp. salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour or AP flour
1 egg, beaten, mixed with 1 Tbs. water

Here's What You'll Need to Do: (in a food processor)

1. Attach the plastic blade to your processor. Add the oatmeal and the water, cover, then let it sit and absorb the water for 2 hours.

2. Pulse to mix the oatmeal, then add the remaining ingredients, holding back about 1/2 cup flour. Add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until you get a soft sticky dough that 'cleans the bowl'. Continue running the processor for about 45 seconds until the dough is well kneaded.

3. Remove the dough from the bowl, then, on a lightly floured surface knead a few times. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover to let it rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

4. Remove the dough from the bowl, deflate, then form into a loaf, or into rolls. Cover and allow to rise a second time, this time for 45 minutes.

5. About 20 minutes before the end of the rise, preheat the oven to 400 F (190 C)*. Optionally, you can brush the loaf (rolls) with the egg wash and sprinkle with oats. Bake for 30-35 minutes (about 20 for rolls) until golden brown and they sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

6. Cool on a rack.

* If using 'turbo' function, reduce heat by 50 F (25 C).


  1. Wonderful. Seems very light and fluffy.
    It goes to Pinterest.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Sorry I didn't see this in time. Eiither water or milk will work just fine. The milk will make a richer and softer bread that will keep moist a little longer. Otherwise, no real difference.