Marguerite has a term she likes to use for our shared fondness for bread; yeastovore. It’s actually pretty accurate too, I can, and have, taken down small loaves in a single sitting. And by small I mean medium. And by single sitting I mean tearing hunks off and smearing them with Cheddarie (God who remembers Cheddarie eh? If ever there was a case for British Intelligence testing the resilience of the population with shitty cheese substitute) and eating them whole. I’m better now, although I think we should all stop and have a moment’s silence for the fact that the time I ate a whole loaf in four bits? Is actually a fairly high end university memory.
Anyway, oatbread, again from the excellent A Feast of Ice And Fire, which this week gets an amazon link and everything. You really should go buy it, it’s awfully good and if you don’t want to cook, the pictures are lovely. What I assumed, skim reading the recipe, was that this would be oaty bread, my first clue being ‘oat’ and my second being ‘bread’. At no point in that title did I notice ‘orange peel’, ‘raisins’ or ‘mixed fruit’ but in there they most certainly are. So, after a brief foray to the shop, I had…this.
(The tomatoes are photobombing and played no part in the recipe)
So what you’re looking at there is:
1 1/2 cups of warm water
1 tablespoon salt
1 packet yeast
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 – 3 cups all purpose flower
1.3 cup mixed dates
1/3 cup candied orange peel
1/3 cup diced apple
Except of course, as you can already tell, I’m lying. The fruits were a bust so I went for mixed fruits, raisins, sultana, that sort of thing instead. Measurements have been a concern for me since I started baking seriously again and thankfully, now Marguerite’s kitchen is here, that concern is allayed. Know why? These chaps:
The little pans are all one cup, or half a cup, or a quarter cup whilst the spoons are the same for a tea spoon, a tablespoon and fractions in between. It’s a simple method and it’ss aved my life more than once today, meaning that I can not only get the amounts right but get uniform of size by cheating and using the tablespoon one as a biscuit baller.
With these in play, taking the measurements is actually very easy, as is the recipe itself. Just add the warm water, yeast and honey together and leave it together in a bowl until it starts to bubble.
Once that#s done, add the oats, a cup of the flour, the salt and the butter and stir until it’s all completely mixed together. Then add the fruit. Stir some more. Then stir some more.Then get worried you’ve made a bowl of beige slime and add about a cup more water. Stir more. Panic more. Then stop as the mixture suddenly turns a corner, coalesces and becomes actual honest to God dough! Hurray! We’re saved!
I know, I know it’s not super exciting looking but, what happens next is. Flour a surface, then drop the dough onto it and knead it. And by knead it I mean pound on it, beat it like it’s the last thirty second of every closing fight in every Rocky movie ever. As long as you don’t go through you’ll be fine and if the dough sticks to the board don’t worry just add some more flour next to it, roll it over and you’re away.
Once that’s done, and you’ll know because when it’s done you’ll prod the dough and it’ll bounce back, you leave it in a greased tin and cover it until
A)It’s doubled in size
B)About an hour’s passed.
C)The honey biscuits are done.
Then you take it, cut it in half and shape each loaf into a round. Once that’s done, cut a cross in the top and sprinkle oats across it so it looks a bit like this:
(As you can see, now the salt’s photobombing)
Whilst you’re doing this, heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius or 400 Farenheit if you’re not within earshot of the Queen. Flour the bottom of each round and, once the oven’s up to heat, pop them in on a middle shelf. Give it half an hour and then pull them out when, for me, they looked like this:
(See? So impressive they’re in focus and everything. Even Shakespeare looks impressed.)
It’s good bread, crusty but good and spongey in the middle and very soft. If I have a regret, it’s that I should have shaped it in the loaf tin because I think it’s a slightly better shape but that’s just me. The mixed fruits worked really well and, crucially, it doesn’t taste like fruit cake in a bow tie, it tastes like bread that happens to have fruit in it. It’s also really easy to make so there’ll be more of this in my future.
And look at the honeybiscuits! Marguerite is officially a genius, suggesting exactly ten minutes in the oven and then tne minutes cooling. The result is not the spicy pebbles of last week but golden brown, soft biscuits that are crammed full of the richness of honey cut, very subtly, with salt. They work a treat, so much so, in fact, we’re about to have one with some sorbet for dessert.
Next week, oatcakes I think.