Feeding the husband’s habit

Husband's habit bread

Husband’s habit bread

Several years ago, poking around google looking for an oat bread recipe, I found that an unknown denizen of the Internet had put up a good-sounding recipe under the name of ‘Habit Bread‘. I made it that very day. My husband, who is a big fan of oat breads (he has his toasted with almond butter), said that I had aced it on the first try.

Since then, this loaf has become a standard in our family. Like with every other recipe I have made modifications — I call my version the Husband’s Habit Bread. It is so much part of my husband’s weekly routine that I try to have a loaf sliced and frozen at all times.

Here is a trick to storing loafs of bread, specially of this dense variety. One thing I have found is that the freezer works great, but unless one wants to thaw the entire loaf at once, it is better to pre-slice it. Then you can pull out one slice at a time.

Go ahead, pull one out. What? You can’t?! You can’t because all the slices stuck together when they froze?

Exactly. That’s why I put sheets of parchment or waxed paper in between each pair of slices before I freeze them. Put all the slices thus separated in a freezer bag, squeeze out as much air as you can from it, bind it tightly and put it in the freezer.

Husband’s Habit Bread

This recipe makes one 9″x5″ loaf.

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup corn polenta
  • 1/2 cup dry milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups water

Dry Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur’s premium whole wheat)

1 cup bread flour

2 teaspoons instant yeast

Method:

Combine all the wet ingredients together into a pot and bring to a gently boil. Stir nicely to get it all to combine, paying special attention to breaking up the dry milk lumps. Once it comes to a boil, turn off the heat and wait for it to cool.

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The unknown denizen of the Internet who is the originator of the Habit Bread recipe mentions that a bowl of cooked oatmeal is notorious for holding onto heat and that is true. It takes a while for this mixture to cool to lukewarm. At the same time, you don’t want to wait too long, because then the mixture will turn into a giant lump and the bread will not mix very well. I have found through trial and error that this time period is about half an hour; but test before using.

Meanwhile combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a mixer; if you choose to knead by hand, just combine in a large bowl. Stir the flours with a fork. Put the (lukewarm) wet ingredients in and stir with the dough hook for about 3 – 4 minutes until the dry ingredients are moistened. You may find you need to add up to 1/4 cup extra water while kneading. Leave it covered with a plastic wrap for about 10 to 20 minutes.

Come back to it; by this point due to the autolyse process the dough will be much easier to knead into a smooth ball.

Turn on the mixer with the dough hook for another few minutes or so; first the dough will come together into a shaggy mass. I like to finish kneading by hand until maximal smoothness.

Cover with oil and let it rise at room temperature in an oiled bowl for about 2 hours. It should double in volume.

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Take it out of the bowl, flatten it gently into a rectangle and roll into a loaf, while taking care to tuck the ends in. Squeeze the seam shut all the way across to seal it. Oil the shaped dough and put into a 9 inch by 5 inch loaf pan, also oiled. Cover with a plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature for an hour to an hour and a half more.

This is a pretty dense bread, and it is quite a job for the wheat flour gluten to lift up the great heft of the oats and the corn polenta. Plus we are using a large percentage of whole wheat flour, the bran in which tends to counteract the lift of gluten. So this bread is not going to win any light-and-airy contests. By the time it has peeked over the rim of the loaf pan, it is probably done rising.

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Bake in a 350 F oven for 55 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the meat of the loaf should read 200 F. Take it out of the oven and let it cool on a rack for an hour before slicing into it. Thank you, unknown denizen of the Internet.

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