I forget why, but back when my sister and I were kids we’d head over to our grandparent’s house many days after school and on Thursdays my grandmother would always be baking bread.
I remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday, the squeak of the hinge from the door in the garage that lead into the kitchen, the way the wood louvered window shutters rattled when the door closed and most of all, the smell of fresh bread baking in the oven when you entered her kitchen.
I never really thought a thing about it. It never occurred to me this wonderfully comforting routine of years could be different. It is simply the way things were until they weren’t.
As I was to learn, arthritis plagued my grandmother’s hands, had for sometime, and finally it forced her to the realization that the strenuous ritual of hand kneading bread wasn’t doing her arthritis any good. Her days of bread baking were over. No such thing as a stand mixer with a dough hook in those days.
At that time I was sixteen or seventeen years old and my hands were just fine. So I asked my grandmother to teach me to bake bread. And she did. That started a ritual for me that has continued to this day and ranks high on my list of the most comforting, life-reaffirming things I do. Not to mention tasty.
Today I bake the weekly bread and work far less at it than my grandmother ever did. I have a big stand mixer with a dough hook that changed my life. I love it and I’ll probably take it with me when I go. Occasionally, I still hand knead a single loaf of yeast bread but mostly I leave the mixer in the corner because I’ve started allowing my bread to rise overnight, very slowly, and it needs no kneading.
Julie Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, the section on baking French baguettes in particular, aided my understanding of the value of a) the simplest and purest of ingredients and b) how a slow rise in bread baking is needed to develop truly exceptional flavor. So now, rather than starting a loaf in the morning and enjoying it for lunch, I allow our daily bread to rise overnight and enjoy if for breakfast.
Also, I suggest you switch out your traditional loaf pan for a Dutch oven with a heavy lid to capture the steam released from the dough during baking. By making this change you’ll create the kind of crispy crust loaf you only get from professional bakers with steam-injected ovens. Add in an overnight rise for taste and suddenly you’re on the road to baking some mighty fine artesian bread.
The below recipe for our Rustic Oatmeal Overnight Artisan Bread is substantial, filled with flavor and texture sporting a crispy, crunchy crust that will make every bite something special. Plus, it is simple and easy to make.
The day we filmed this episode, we had about a cup of left over steel-cut oatmeal in the fridge from the previous morning’s breakfast, so we tossed it into the dough. It adds that wonderful oatmeal taste but feel free to omit it or better yet, add your own favorite ingredients.
Rustic Overnight Oatmeal Artisan Bread
Prep Time: About 10:00 minutes
Rise Time: Overnight
Cooking Time: About 55 minutes
Tools you’ll need:
A Dutch oven (we recommend Le Creuset)
A Sturdy Wooden Spoon
A Large Bowl for Rising
4 Cups of Spelt (flour is fine)
1 cup Oatmeal (made from steel cut oatmeal)
1.5 tsp. Salt
1.0 tsp. Yeast
1.0 tsp. Sugar
1.5 cups of Water
To your mixing bowl add four cups of spelt.
To your flour add the cooked oatmeal and mix to combine.
Add the salt, yeast and sugar and mix to combine.
Add the water and combine to make dough. The dough will be sticky.
Allow your dough to rise overnight in a warm place
In the morning, preheat your oven to 450 degrees with your Dutch oven inside. While your oven is pre-heating,
turn out your risen dough onto a heavily floured work surface and shape into a ball. Allow your dough to rest until your oven is ready or if you’ve got the time let it continue to rise for another hour or two before baking.
When your oven is pre-heated, carefully remove your Dutch oven from the oven, drop your dough into the pot seam side up, return the lid and return it to the oven. Immediately turn down the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 55 to 60 minutes, removing the lid half way through the cooking time.
Pre-heating the oven to 450 degrees encourages what is called “yeast bloom” when the dough is placed into a hot oven. Accelerating the yeast with heat results in the creation of a higher rising dough.
Now, there are two different points of view on covered cooking time. Some bakers will tell you to cook your bread in the oven covered with the lid for the first half-hour then remove the lid to finish it off as we’ve done in our production. On the other hand, others believe it best to keep your bread covered the entire time.
I’ve done it both ways and will tell you keeping your bread covered the entire time will create a crisper crust but either way you go, the inside is creamy soft and tastes better than virtually any commercially available bread on the market. Keep in mind, depending upon your oven, cooking time should be reduced to 45 to 50 minutes to keep it from burning or becoming over crisp if you decide to keep your loaf covered the entire cooking time.
This is literally our daily bread, we bake it every week and hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Tell us how your loaf turns out.