Saturday, October 22, 2011

Oatmeal Bread

There are so many criteria by which to judge good bread. And I love them all. Soft pillowy center. Crispy flakey crust. Crunchy exterior around a yeasty middle. Rich with grains. Sweetened or savory. Dense and thristy for some butteriness spread on its toasted face. And I love them all.

But today I wanted sandwich bread. Not just a delicious loaf to rip into and tear a hunk off of, but something to slice neatly and orderly to layer with fillings. Sandwich bread should be firm enough to be picked up with one hand and not flap apart, but soft enough to mold around its stuffing to hold it all together. It should be dense enough to spread evenly with mustard or peanut butter, but light enough to not overpower whatever tasty treats go inside. It should be flavorful, but not so flavorful that it can't go equally well with either cheese or jam. And it should have at least one flat side, but preferably three.

I have a lot of great bread recipes to try, saved up from specialty baking cook books and websites. But this sandwich bread order is another project entirely. I wish I could recall what search terms led me to the Clockwork Lemon blog, but whatever they were, they led me to this fantastic bread (and some adoreable cat photos!) It was also satisfying to discover that, although the author is writing from North of the border, the recipe she used was from Seattle's own Macrina bakery! A number of years ago, I spent some time with the very same cookbook in which this recipe originally appeared. But it wasn't until it was specifically called out here as "sandwich bread" that I took note, and the time to make it.

My analysis is that this is Darn. Good. Bread. Delicious flavor, soft interior but dense enough to hold up to a hearty buttering or ____ (choose your own adventure). Crispy crust without being crunchy. Perfect texture for sandwiches, excellent as toast. Overall, for sandwiches, it was just a little too sweet for anything other than my classic peanut butter. This makes sense since it used a lot more sugar than many bread recipes, so I when I try it again, I will simply cut back the sugar to 2-3 tablespoons (from 1/2 cup).  Bakes up full in two 9x5 (1.5 qt) loaf pans, (would surely overflow my smaller, more square-bottomed loaf pans) to make for those coveted three flat sides.

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