There are so many wonderful smells in the world. Fresh lilacs. Dried lavender. Warm laundry. New cars. Chicken roasting. Bacon frying. Brisk autumn air. These are all beautiful and evocative smells that make life so sweet. But bread baking? That might be my raison d’être. Or at least, that’s what I thought to myself two weekends in a row, each time I made maple oat bread. If I could have bread baking in my apartment at all times without even eating the bread, I would be content. It smells that good.
Just kidding. I’d totally eat the bread.
Maybe I find myself craving the scent of bread because it’s such an autumnal food, without being too obvious or in your face about it. It’s probably just because I like to pretend I live in some quaint English village in the countryside during the fall. What else would I do there but make bread and churn butter all day before cozying up in front of the fire to watch a (suddenly modern) Tim Burton movie?
Obviously, it more has to do with the idea of the fall harvest. While some people picture a cornucopia of gourds, Indian corn, and apples, I envision stalks of grain and all the different sorts of bread I can attempt to bake with them. (That’s not to say I don’t envision gourds and apples…my focus just happens to always be first and foremost carbs.)
I love baking bread; the yeast, the simple ingredients, the waiting, the rising, the kneading. It’s all so interesting and amazing to me. One set of ingredients (with some slight variations here and there) can give you so many different types of breads. Ahhhhh, bread: one of the best, most basic foods that exist.
Bread making doesn’t have to take a lot. It doesn’t have to take a lot of supplies or ingredients. It doesn’t have to take a lot of experience. What it does take is patience. It takes patience to for the rising and resting periods. It takes patience to practice. It takes patience to get to get a feel for dough.
I made this bread when I was at my grandparents’ house in New Hampshire two weeks ago and I’ve already made it again since then. I think this is what they call “no knead bread” but really any yeast-y bread kneads just a little bit of needing. Ha. Please laugh.
You dump the ingredients into a bowl, stir thoroughly, cover and let sit for a bit (this is where the patience comes in). Then you pre-heat your oven and your dutch oven, slightly knead and shape the dough and throw it in there. You’ll be rewarded not only with the mouthwatering aroma of baking bread, but when it’s finished, you get a rich, brown crust and a dense, soft crumb. Plus, if you don’t let the bread cool as long as you should, like me (and here’s where the lack of patience comes in), you’ll be greeted with a warm and steamy exhale as you slice that loaf right down the middle.
I may not have been baking bread and churning butter in ye olde English countryside but I did bake some bread and breath some fresh, crisp fall air in New England and it was sublime. I’m back in Brooklyn now, but with the scent of baking bread, I can go to England, old or new, any time I want.
Maple Oat Bread
Made with this recipe
Yields: 1 large loaf (or potentially 2 smaller loaves)*
5 cups all-purpose flour (you can switch in whole wheet flour for a few cups if you want)
1 ½ cup rolled oats
1/3 cup maple syrup
¼ cup melted butter or olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon of instant yeast
2 ¼ cup room temperature water
- Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon (or your hands) until you are left with a tacky, sticky dough.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for at least 8 hours, or optimally, overnight. It should be bubbly and poofed.
- Gently scrape the dough onto a well-floured surface and knead several times before shaping it into a round loaf. Place loaf on a well-floured kitchen towel and cover to sit for an hour.
- Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees. Place a 6-8 quart Dutch oven (or similar baking crock with a lid) in the oven while it heats up. When the dough is ready and the oven is hot, transfer the dough into the Dutch oven, cover it, and bake for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake until the crust is deep brown, another 20-30 minutes.
- Remove the bread from the Dutch oven and let cool slightly (if you can wait that long) before slicing it. Enjoy it hot from the oven with a nice spread of room temperature butter and some salt.
*Note: I haven’t tried splitting the dough into two loaves before, but I very well may next time. In that case, I’d do one right after the other and cut down on baking times.