Monday, September 21, 2009

Nikki's Savory Oat-Nut Pumpkin Bread

Ok so I love bread. I mean, I love ALL bread, whole wheat and white, rye and pumpernickel, sweet breads, savory breads, muffins, croissants, you name it, I'll scarf it down :) now... MAKING bread on the other hand... just the idea is enough to break out in hives while rushing to Panera to buy a fancy loaf, to heat up in the oven and claim I baked it (yes I have done that... and no, no one believed me...) the one and ONLY time I ever attempted to make bread I was 19 and had the bright idea to make a Thanksgiving dinner, from scratch, for 10 friends with little to no assistance and in between the mayhem I suddenly remembered my bread dough that I had left rising on the counter. I went to inspect it and it was just sitting there, looking exactly as I had left it... not even an 1/8th bigger... I poked at it a bit, choked back a few tears... and sent a friend to super walmart for rolls... it was an extremely disheartening experience and was one of my first real failures in the kitchen and I don't believe I had recovered from it...

So with MUCH trepidation I began researching online. My favorite breads are rich, and dense, moist and flavorful with just a touch of sweet. I looked outside and saw the leaves on the trees beginning to turn and a bit of a chill on the breeze and decided that pumpkin should definitely be involved. The only problem: google "pumpkin bread recipe" and you will find 1,370,000 hits for different variations of sweet dessert-style pumpkin breads. This created a slight problem as I had no clue what ratios of pumpkin vs. flour i would need. So I began hunting down savory breads with other moist ingredients like sour cream, cottage cheese, applesauce, ect... After much research, and more than a little nervousness I wrote my basic recipe, assembled my ingredients and got started:
My first step was to put yeast in "warm-not-hot water". This proposed a bit of a challenge as my city's water tastes AWFUL so I used water from my brita pitcher which is cold, so I nuked it but I overnuked it (remember, "warm-not-hot"!) so I had to add more cold water, then pour off the extra, then I thought it was too cold so I stuck it back in the microwave for 5 seconds... I began to get nervous, this was already turning into an ordeal! I finally got the water to what I approximated to be "warm-not-hot" and dumped my packet of yeast in, stirred it up with a fork and then stared at it...
it didn't seem to be doing anything so I gave it another stir and stared some more... realistically only about 45 seconds passed but it seemed an eternity of nothing happened and my nervousness began to escalate to pre-panic mode... Finally I do what any sane girl does when she's freaking out about a recipe: (cue trumpets) I called Melissa! who didn't answer (booooo!) Next step is call my favoritest aunt who lives in Alabama and is a PHENOMENAL cook. She answers on the first ring (see Melissa, SHE was prepared for my panic!) I explain my ordeal and she says well you used "warm-not-hot" water right? (I love how this phrase is said as if its one word...) I said yes (very confidently of course, no need to let on to my "warm-not-hot" issues) then she says well all you need is the yeast the "warm-not-hot" water and sugar... Wait wait wait, why do I need sugar? she then explains that I need to "feed the yeast" or the bread won't rise... what's up with that?? this is a very high maintenance ingredient... I add a teaspoon of brown sugar, stir it up a little and stare at it... Aunt Diane nicely explains that it takes a few minutes and to just leave it be and move on to the next part of my bread... I think she just didn't want to listen to me breathe in her ear while I waited for the yeast to jump up and sing showtunes like that frog on that old cartoon (remember? "hello my baby hello my darling..." yes? no?) so I move on to the oat-nut flour.

In my handy little black & decker power chopper I throw in 1/2 cup of walnut halves and 1/2 cup of quick oats and pulse until its ground up fine... I make it 2 pulses before rushing back to check on the yeast, and GUESS WHAT!!! it DID something!!! nothing so cool as singing showtunes (how great would that be?? better than grilled cheese Mary!!) but it had developed a thin layer of foamy stuff that took it from the 1/4 cup mark to the 1/3 cup mark!!! Look!!
After confirming with my aunt that that's what its supposed to be doing I let her go and commenced with the breadmaking. Out comes my fabulously beautiful Kitchenaid Stand Mixer (any day that I get to use my Kitchenaid is a good day in my book, I inherited it from my Grandma who aside from being a really cool lady was an amazing cook, I spent many a summer watching and learning from her!). I finished pulsing the oats & walnuts to a fine powder I set aside about 3 tbs of the powder and dumped the rest in the bowl along with 2 cups of pumpkin from a can (mark this date my friends this is one of the few times you will ever see me use something from a can!!) my yeast-water mixture (which by this point has foamed up so much I'm worried it might start spilling over the sides of the cup!) 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/4 tsp of baking soda, 1 tbs cinnamon, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 cup of Hodgson Mills Gluten Free baking mix (it has good stuff like flax in it) and I start the mixer.
Once everything was mixed together nicely I began adding flour. Now I was told a few very important things about the flour one: there IS a difference between regular white flour and bread flour. I looked around and found Bob's Red Mill Unbromated (whatever that means) Unbleached White Flour and I will tell you I bought it mostly because it specifically said "Superb for breadmaking by hand or machine" now if Bob says something is superb, I trust him, he's never steered me wrong before (side note: have you SEEN how many different varieties of flour he makes??? I saw green pea, hazelnut and coconut!!) The other important thing I was told (by my aunt) was that you should make sure at least half of your dry ingredients are normal flour so that you'll have a "finer crumb"... I have no idea what that means but I made sure that I countered the cup of oat-nut mixture and the 1/2 cup of Hodgson Mills with at least that much white flour. Anyway so I started adding the flour a half cup at a time into the mixer until the dough started to hold together in a ball (I had added 2 1/2 cups) I sprinkled a light layer of flour on my counter and slapped my dough ball on the counter and began kneaing it, adding a little bit more flour any time it seemed too sticky (all together there was about 3 cups of flour in my bread) I kneaded it for about 8 minutes, until all the flour was incorporated into the dough and it wasn't overly sticky.
Now for the scary part: I spread a little butter into a big bowl, stuck the dough in the bowl and lightly covered it with plastic wrap. And then I stared at it... Photobucket
After a few minutes of nothing happening I finally left it be and cleaned up the kitchen then went to read for the hour it was supposed to rise. After my hour was up I rushed back to the kitchen and IT ROSE!!!!! I cannot tell you how excited I was, I actually had to go back through my camera to check and make sure it really was bigger! So a bunch of the recipes I looked at said to punch it down, re-cover and let it rise again for "a finer crumb" agian, I have no clue what that is but I'll go with it. I punched it down (breadmaking is therapeutic, I mean when you kneed it you really put your strength in there and then you get to beat it and on top of that you get a lovely sense of accomplishment when you see its doubled in size!) I covered it up again and pored myself a celebratory glass of wine and went back to my book (book 3 in the Twilight series if you're wondering...) and after 40 minutes i peeked again and will wonders never cease? it rose AGAIN!
I pulled the dough out (after very lightly dusting my counter again) and rolled it into a rectangle roughly 9x12 and then using my pizza cutter I sliced it into three strips, leaving the tops attached.
I then braided the strips (this part is a bit of a pain) and tucked the ends under the dough and transported it to my buttered cookie sheet, covered it again and went back to the vamps. Photobucketafter another 40 minutes I came back and yet AGAIN it had nearly doubled in size! (I wonder if that works on other things? beat on it, ignore it and it doubles in size? your thoughts?)
I pre-heated my oven to 375, cracked an egg in a bowl and whipped it with a fork and spread a light layer on the bread (I had to use a spatula, my nifty basting brush has gone missing... I suspect the dogs...) then sprinkled the oat-nut powder, a little bit of brown sugar, a little bit of cinnamon and some more non-ground up oats on top and stuck it in the oven for about 35 minutes.

I pulled it out and tapped and was rewarded with a lovely hollow sound, signaling proper done-ness, let it cool and sliced a piece off to share with hubby (cue angels singing) it tasted great! not overwhelmingly pumpkiny but rich and dense, a bread that won't get lost in a sandwich. Hubby rated it an A plus :)

So Nikki's official recipe for Savory Oat-Nut Pumpkin Bread:

1 packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm-not-hot water
1 tsp plus 1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup walnut halves
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup Hodgeson Mills Baking Mix (really not necessary but I had it in the cupboard, sub another 1/2 cup flour if you don't use this)
2 cups canned pumpkin
1 tbs cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 greased/buttered bowl
1 greased/buttered baking sheet
plastic wrap
mix yeast and 1 tsp brown sugar into warm-not-hot-water, set aside for 5 minutes
put oats and walnuts into food processor and pulse into a fine powder, reserve 3 tbs for topping
Check to ensure yeast is foaming up (ie: alive) if so pour into a large mixing bowl, add oat-nut flour, baking mix (if you're using it), pumpkin, cinnamon, salt and baking powder. Blend until mixed. Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time until dough forms a ball.
Place dough on a floured surface and kneed for 8-10 minutes adding flour in small increments until its no longer really sticky. Form into a ball and place in greased bowl, loosely cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place (I pre-heated my oven to 200 then turned it off and kept the bowl near the burner that the oven vents out of) leave for 1 hour. recommend cleaning up the mess you made of the kitchen during this hour... but if you're not as messy as me (I'm really messy) you can find other more... constructive... things to do with the time...
After the hour is up return to the bowl and you will see it has doubled in size! (woo hoo!!!) punch the dough down a few times and re-form the ball, cover again and leave it for about 45 minutes (until it doubles again)
** This next part is optional, if you don't want a braid just stick the dough in a greased loaf pan (its a lot of dough you might need two loaf pans...) and skip on to the cover/let rise part**
Take dough out and put it on a lightly floured surface, roll it out to a 12x9 rectangle, cut into 3 strips, leaving the tops attached and braid. Fold the ends under and carefully transfer to a greased cookie sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise for 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375. Lightly beat egg and spread on top of bread dough sprinkle oat-nut flour, more oats, a little brown sugar, and cinnamon (use your taste/judgement, if you want a lot sprinkle a lot!) and bake for 35-40 minutes (until bread sounds hollow when you tap it) place on wire rack and allow to cool, slice it up and serve it however you wish, I toasted it and topped it with butter & honey:


Post a Comment