We were finishing our last loaf of bread on Friday, and I saw that the Oatmeal Bread was on the list for Mellow Baker's for August, so I thought I'd give it one more try. I made this bread back in February maybe? and I was not too crazy about it.
When I made this bread the last time and saw that overnight retarding would work well for this straight dough bread, I decided to go that route. I really love being able to mix up the dough for a bread, and then shoving it in the fridge until the next day when I just have to shape, proof and bake. On page 232 where it explains that overnight retarding can be used for many of the breads in the straight dough section, it says 'little time' is needed the next day to finish the job. So when I looked at the oatmeal bread recipe and saw that final fermentation was 1 to 1 1/2 hours, I assumed that was roughly the time it would take to proof after it came out of the fridge and was shaped. I cut the recipe in half last time and proofed it in a 9" by 5" pan and I remember wondering if I had used the wrong size pan, because after an hour and a half, the loaf had still not crested the lip/edge of the pan. I was puzzled and I think I let it proof a bit longer, but not much, and threw it into the oven, as I was concerned that the dough would overproof. I thought maybe I had done something else wrong that prevented the dough from rising very much in the pan. Anyway, that loaf I made back in the winter was pretty flat when it finished baking, and I thought it was dry, dense and I couldn't taste any sweetness to it at all. I actually thought it tasted quite bland.
This time around I thought I'd change up the ingredients just a bit to try improving the flavor and/or texture. Sometimes I make changes, though, and I'm not sure why I did it. I just think it might perhaps bring some improvement. I used whole milk as opposed to 1%. (I had a small quantity of whole milk in the fridge this time, because I had been using it for a Nick Malgieri cake recipe). My thinking was that perhaps a higher fat content in the milk might make a more tender loaf. Instead of the King Arthur whole wheat, I used their white-whole wheat and I subbed some barley flour for part of the wheat flour as well. I had just made some cookies last week with oat flour, barley flour and whole wheat flour and I thought the barley flour might give a more complex, nuttier flavor to the bread. I didn't have enough high-gluten flour, so I had to use some of my bread flour. I used 1/4 tsp less salt than called for when cutting the recipe in half, but don't ask me why. No reason.
Just like last time, the loaf hadn't even risen above the lip of the pan after 1 1/2 hours of proofing in my 9 by 5 pan. I looked at some of the recipes in Peter Reinhart's book Artisan Breads Every Day, and those loaves required 2 1/2 to 3 hours of proofing after the dough was shaped and had come from the fridge. So I decided everything was fine, and that I'd just leave the loaf go for 2 1/2 hours and then come back to it. When I came back, it had crested the top of the pan and was ~ 1/2 inch above the lip of the pan. I left it go another fifteen minutes and decided it was probably ready to go.
The loaf had nice oven spring and rose at least another good half inch or so upon baking. I was fairly pleased with that. The loaf didn't taste nearly as dry this time I believe. It slices very nicely and doesn't seem too dense. I still don't taste any sweetness at all, but maybe its just me. I think next time I'll use agave nectar and see if that gives me my sweetness. It tastes much better than before, but I'm going to increase the amount of barley flour next time anyway, just to see if I get a more pronounced nutty flavor.