Shape each 24-oz. piece into a fat batard.
Roll each batard on a damp towel, and then roll the loaves on a sheet pan filled with oats, making sure the oats enrobe the whole loaf.
Place the oat-covered loaves seam-side down on an unfloured couche. Allow the loaves to proof for about 2 1/2 hours.
About 10 years have passed since the oat bran craze swept the nation. Most of us now appreciate oats for their health benefits, but also for their unique flavor and function as a shelf-life extender.
When my wife and I created this particular oat bread, our goal was to make a bread that "screamed" oat. (Several earlier attempts merely "whispered" oat.) Eventually we created a method to showcase the uniquely earthy flavor of oats, which led to the creation of this distinctive oat bread.
Oats do not contain gluten, so wheat flour also must be used to produce oat bread. Enough oats are needed to achieve a distinct flavor, but too many oats weaken the strength of the gluten network. The oat bread formula provided uses a biga. A biga is an Italian preferment made of flour, water and yeast. It ferments slowly due to its low hydration. The biga adds strength, which is useful in bread where gluten is compromised from a non-wheat adjunct. The biga also extends the shelf life of bread. I experimented with making yeasted preferments out of oat flour, but the results were lackluster. A standard biga of 55 percent hydration provides strength and flavor and helps keep this bread edible for days.
The first step in creating the oat bread is to prepare the oats. You will need a total of 2 lbs. of oats. Most of the oats will be toasted, not cooked. Place 1 lb. 3 ozs. of oats on an unoiled sheet pan, and toast in a 400°F oven until they are light brown. Stir them occasionally during toasting because they tend to burn around the edges of the pan. Set these oats aside. To prepare the remaining oats, bring 3 lbs. of water to a boil, then add the rolled oats. Cook over low heat until the porridge becomes very thick. Spread the cooked oats on a lightly sprayed sheet pan and refrigerate until needed.
The two oat preparations help the bread in different ways. The toasted oats maintain their integrity in the bread and are visible in the dough, while the cooked oats break up in the dough, blending in with the wheat to make a unique crumb texture and unsurpassable aroma.
After the oats are prepared, begin mixing the bread dough. Place all the ingredients in the mixer in the following order: water, yeast, honey, broken up biga, cooked oats, toasted oats, flour, and salt. If the cooked oats have been in the refrigerator overnight, heat them to room temperature before adding.
Mixing this oat bread can be challenging. As you mix the dough, it will become increasingly moist as the cooked oats release some of the water they have absorbed. The toasted oats will soak up the water, however they soak up water more slowly than the cooked oats release water.
Although the dough is 35 percent oats, it will develop into a strong dough. It is important to develop the dough very well. Mix about two minutes on first speed and five minutes on second speed in a vertical mixer. You may need to add extra water to the dough. The goal is for the dough to feel more wet than usual when it leaves the mixer. The final dough temperature should be about 80°F.
Allow the dough to bulk ferment for about three hours. Halfway through the fermentation, fold the dough in thirds, and then in half. This folding keeps the fermentation running smoothly, equalizes the dough temperature and strengthens the dough. When the oat bread dough is ready for shaping, it should feel fairly gassy and have increased drastically in volume.
Roll loaves in oats
Divide the dough into 24-oz. pieces and gently round each piece. Rest the rounded pieces for 10 to 15 minutes to prevent gluten damage during forming. I always leave rounded pieces resting with the seam side up because this method prevents flour from entering the seam and being rolled into the loaf. It also protects the outside of the loaf from forming a skin. When the dough is ready, roll each piece into fat batards.
Roll the loaves onto a wet towel, and then roll them in oats. Make sure the oats completely enrobe each loaf. This step contributes to flavor and appearance, as well as function. The bread tends to burn on the bottom due to the honey content, so the enrobing protects it as it bakes.
Place the finished loaves on a couche with the seam side down. Flour is unnecessary on the couche because the oats on the outside of the loaf keep it from sticking to the couche. Cover the bread, and let it proof for about two and a half hours at room temperature. This particular bread has a low proofing tolerance. Because the large percentage of oats weaken the gluten structure, it is important to monitor the proofing. If the loaves overproof, they will not open up as high and beautiful as they should.
Make one deep score down the length of each loaf. The score should not be precisely on top, but should be about 45 degrees to one side. If the score is on top, the loaf will have its "ear" on the side and look unusual. A score on the side will open up and yield an "ear" in just the right place. Bake in a 450°F (230°C) oven with a lot of steam. Vent the steam when the loaves are semibrown, and bake vented until they are deep brown and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. The oats on the outside will become toasted, but they should not be burned. Oats give the loaf a distinct texture and outstanding aroma.
The finished product has an excellent shelf life of about three to four days, due to the cooked oats and the biga. The bread is ideal for toast and sandwiches. Its oat-covered appearance can liven up your bread display causing even your most regular customers to take notice.
|Rolled oats||360 g||12.7|
Total appr. wt.
|Instructions: Bring water to a boil, and add the rolled oats. Cook over low heat until the porridge becomes very thick. Spread the cooked oats on a lightly sprayed sheet pan and refrigerate until needed.|
|Bread flour||570 g||1||4|
|Instant yeast||1 g||0.03|
|Total appr. wt.||887 g||1||15|
|Instructions: Mix all ingredients until flour is moistened. Ferment for 18 to 24 hours at room temperature.|
|Instant yeast||10 g||0.35|
|Oats, cooked||1.71 kg||3||12.75|
|Oats, toasted||540 g||1||3|
|Bread flour||1.65 kg||3||10|
|Whole wheat flour||300 g||10.5|
|Total appr. wt.||6.747 kg||14||14|
|Instructions: Mix and shape according to article. Dampen loaves with a wet towel, and roll them in oats until they are enrobed completely. Place on an unfloured couche, and let rest for about 21/2 hours. Score and bake at 450°.|
Andrew Meltzer, Lecturing Instructor in Baking and Pastry Arts at The Culinary Institute of America, teaches Hearth Breads and Rolls to students pursuing bachelor's and associate degrees in Baking and Pastry Arts. For more information about The Culinary Institute of America, visit www.ciaprochef.com.