Get the Good Stuff
Once the hottest days of summer begin to moderate, and I can stand the idea of running my oven, I have an overwhelming desire to make bread again. This is seriously good bread.
In the wintertime, I may have leftover oatmeal to use - but as autumn approaches, I will go out of my way to make a batch of oatmeal especially to use in this bread - it's that good.
Leftover Oatmeal Bread
Makes 2 loaves or 24 good-sized rolls
3 c leftover cooked oatmeal (I like to use steel cut oats)
2 c warm water
1/4 c honey (4 Tbsp)
2 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp kosher salt
4+ c all-purpose flour
If you make oatmeal especially for the bread, let it cool until just a little warm to your hand. If you're using leftover oatmeal, warm it up a bit and stir it around, so it's not stone cold and has no hot spots. Measurements are approximate, and you should feel free to add a bit more of this, or a bit less of that, to your personal taste.
In a mixing bowl, stir together the oatmeal, water, honey, and yeast; stir enough to break up the oatmeal. Let it sit on the counter for 15 min or so.
Add the salt and 2 cups flour, and mix very well. Don't be afraid to beat it hard: you're developing gluten that will help the bread rise. Add additional flour, mixing well after each addition, until the dough just comes together - it may take 2 more cups, it may take a lot more, it depends on the weather and humidity and all sorts of things.
When the dough will just hold together in a shaggy mass, turn it out onto a well-floured counter. Knead, adding more flour as needed, for 2-3 minutes. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes or so.
After the dough rests, knead it another 3-5 minutes, adding more flour as needed. It takes a bit of experience to know when you've kneaded enough. It will no longer be sucking up flour, the surface will be smooth and a bit less sticky, and it will feel alive under your hands. You can also use the windowpane test.
Put your dough in an oiled clean bowl, turn it so that all surfaces are oiled, then cover with a tea towel and let the dough rise until doubled in bulk.
Turn out on a floured counter and gently punch it down. Shape dough into 2 loaves, or into 24 rolls, and let rise until doubled in bulk.
Preheat oven to 375˚F. Slash the loaves (or rolls) as you prefer, and bake 30 minutes. About 5 minutes before the bread is fully baked, the smell of fresh bread will suddenly dominate your kitchen. Then, check for doneness: the bread will look done, it will sound hollow when turned out of the pan and thumped on the bottom, and the internal temperature is about 200˚.
Let cool for at least an hour before slicing - the bread needs to firm up. Rolls, on the other hand, are the perfect form if you think you'll want some right away. Don't burn your mouth!