Friday, January 10, 2014

Recipe: Oatmeal-Honey Bread for the Bread-maker... and Memories of Gram's Bakery

Gram's bakery license from 40 years ago

My grandma, Adaline, had a small bakery in the back room of the farmhouse at one time.  She was a masterful baker and was locally famous in Connecticut for her breads, especially.  I heard many bakery stories over the years, attesting equally to her baking skills as much as her work ethic.

She worked hard, long hours to make the bakery work.  In her own words, Gram would "take the stairs two at a time" with all the running around the house she needed to do.  When I moved into the house, I found an old receipt for a commercial stand mixer that she had purchased, but she did all the kneading, for every loaf, every day, by hand.

There were several movie stars who would send their drivers out to the farm to get a few loaves of her
fresh-baked breads.  There also was an airline pilot who, as he flew in and out of the Hartford-Springfield airport, would point out to his passengers the little bakery below with the "best bread ever" as he flew over our property.  The bakery closed decades ago, before I was born, but people still talk about it with fond memories.  Just this fall, a woman came up to us during a tag sale were were holding.  She said that when she was a child, her entire family would drive out to the farm from Simsbury (about a half hour away) every weekend.  They would bring a stick of butter and butter knife with them in the car so, on the way home, they could all enjoy a slice of Gram's warm, right-out-of-the-oven bread spread with butter.

Gram didn't follow recipes exactly, or sometimes even use recipes at all.  She measured amounts intuitively rather than with teaspoons and measuring cups.  Almost every time I make bread, I remember her story of when she forgot to add the salt.  It was completely unpalatable for missing such a small ingredient - even the cows would not touch it when she threw it out in the pasture for them!
When she got older, she still enjoyed making bread for the family.  She thought a bread-maker was one of the best inventions ever because it took all of the work out of kneading.  My grandpa still liked it baked in a loaf pan, however, so she would transfer the dough to a pan and the oven for baking.

Her most well-loved bread was Oatmeal.  I've made many varieties of breads, rolls, and pizza doughs in my own bread-maker, but I have always been on the look-out for an Oatmeal recipe that she would be proud of.  (She did not have her recipes written down, they were only stored in her head.)  I've tried many recipes, but they were not perfect - usually too dense or too dry.  Then I tried this one today and it made me smile... I think she would be proud!  It has a light texture and a slight sweetness, perfect for both toast and for dipping in a bowl of beef stew.

Gram-Would-Be-Proud Oatmeal-Honey Bread (for the bread-maker)

Ingredients:
1 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon salt
heaping 1/2 cup old-fashioned or rolled oats
2 1/3 cups white flour
1 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
Optional: 1 heaping tablespoon dry milk powder (enhances the crispy crust)

Steps:
1. Add all ingredients to the bread-maker in the order listed.
2. Set to "Light Crust" setting, if an option.
3. Set to a basic bread cycle.
4. Pretty easy, right?  Sit back and enjoy those baking bread smells!

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