Today I was up to my usual tricks of using up the dribs and drabs that are left in the fridge or pantry. This morning we had oatmeal for breakfast. It seemed like such a shame to throw out the leftovers but I KNOW that nobody is going to eat day-old oatmeal around here. Fortunately for my children, leftover oatmeal or 9-grain cereal is a wonderful addition to bread. So this afternoon, that lump of cold oatmeal landed in my mixer bowl with a thump.
The trickiest thing about using leftover cooked cereal in bread is guessing approximately how much water that cooked oatmeal represents. When I make bread in my Kitchenaid, I try to start with two full cups of warm water. Today, I used about 1 1/4 c. really warm water in addition to the water that was already present in the oatmeal. I whisked the oatmeal in the warm water and then added another cup of bread flour, a glug of oil (okay—probably 2 T.), 2 t. salt….and then I spied something else that fell into the dribs and drabs category.
Earlier in the day, Nate had made molasses cookies (and of course they were long gone by the time I made the bread!) and there was a bit of molasses left in the jar. It wasn’t going to be enough for another batch of cookies, so I decided to use that instead of the usual sugar. I put the jar into the microwave for about 20 seconds to make the molasses really runny and the poured it into the bowl with the oatmeal and water. There was about a teaspoon of sugar left in the bowl that Nate had rolled his cookies in, so I threw that into my mixing bowl as well. Last, and after making sure that the mixture wasn’t too hot from the microwaved molasses, I put a generous tablespoon of dry yeast in. I whisked it all together and let it sit. Almost immediately, the smell of molasses and oatmeal gave my kitchen a wonderful aroma.
I let the sponge bubble for about 20 minutes. Then, using 2nd speed on the mixer, I mixed in about 4 c. of bread flour. I ended up adding almost a whole cup of flour beyond that because the day was so cool and humid. This part of the process will vary greatly with each batch of bread. You want to end up kneading the dough for about 4-6 minutes after you’ve added all your flour. Because of the oatmeal, the dough won’t clear the sides of the bowl quite as cleanly, but it should form a ball on the hook.
As always, the dough should be approximately the texture of your earlobe. (There HAVE been some boys who have been researching the SOUND of dough when it’s sufficiently kneaded. It has been suggested that the ball of kneaded dough should make the same nice thump when patted that is made when the boy who is kneading pats his own backside. I will NOT vouch for this method. I’m fairly sure that middle-aged backsides don’t have the same resonance that the backside of a 12-year-old competitive swimmer or 15-year-old cross country runner does. Nuff said about THAT!)
After kneading, I covered the dough with a clean towel and let it rise until it was double it’s original size. Don’t let the dough over-rise. I punched down the dough and formed it into two loaves, slashed the tops, and set them to rise again. After they’d doubled again in size, I put them on a stone pan in an oven that was preheated to 400°.
These loaves darkened up fairly early. If I hadn’t been taking their temperature, I might have been tempted to take them out too early, while they were still doughy in the center. I waited until the quick-read thermometer (a must-have for bread bakers) showed 190° before taking the loaves out of the oven. Generally, once bread hits 180-190° in the center, I take it out of the oven.
It was absolutely delicious…all crusty on the outside and the perfect soft texture on the inside. The oatmeal gave the bread some great texture and flavor AND I used up the last of that molasses and the rest of the oatmeal!