Saturday, March 21, 2015

Oatmeal Cranberry Walnut Bread

I've been sooo lazy to post. Honest, I have been cooking and baking a lot, but nothing too spectacular to warrant a blog post. Well, I guess, one thing that I enjoyed was that, earlier this week, I made some homemade black bean veggie enchiladas with homemade roasted tomato serrano sauce. It was good and fed me throughout the week. The recipe for the roasted tomato salsa is from Once Upon a Chef (found here). I am now amazed at how easy it is to make roasted salsas at home. By simply broiling tomatoes, onions, garlic, and serranos for 10-20 minutes, then blending them with oregano, cumin, salt, and fresh lime juice, you come out with this tasty sauce you can add to various Mexican dishes to perk up the flavor. Alas, I had no cilantro, which really would have given the sauce the extra fresh flavor it needed. This will be a go-to recipe for a different salsa than the normal pico de gallo.

Today, I was shuttered up in the house for most of the day because it was raining all day here in Houston. Houston is like that. One day will be bright and sunny and beautiful (i.e., yesterday, the first day of spring), and the next is freezing and it's raining cats and dogs! Okay, so the rain was not so terrible. It let up now and then, but still put a damper on my usual morning walk with my dog. Being stuck in the house, all I could do was cook or bake. So after fixing myself a nice breakfast taco (I have learned to make scrambled eggs by cooking over low heat rather than medium high. My breakfasts have been transformed with soft silky eggs now instead of dry crunchy eggs!), I set to making a bread that has wow'ed me since I first tried it out.

Red Star Yeast posted this recipe for Oatmeal Walnut Bread and I made it some months ago. It was so fantastic I had to write a note on the recipe that it was really good so I would remember. Now, this is my go-to bread. But I must admit I never seem to make it the same. First time, I used just honey and maple syrup instead of molasses and pecans instead of walnuts, because that is what I had. This time, I used 2 Tbs of molasses and 1 Tbs of honey and added walnuts and cranberries. This bread gets better each time I think.

The reason I added walnuts AND cranberries is because the HEB (huge Texas grocery chain) bakeries make this fantastic cranberry pistachio bread. It is one of their best. They also do a cranberry walnut bread. These are baked in artisan-looking loaves and run about $4.99. HEB knows these breads are good and generally never put them on sale. I wanted to replicate that delicious bread but with a recipe I was familiar with. Additionally, I wanted a healthy spin. This Oatmeal Walnut Bread lends naturally to those requirements.

I was pleased with the result. I admit I am still uncertain about my hand-kneading technique but I think the crumb came out well. The crumb was a bit dense from the whole wheat and mix-ins, but you can still see the airy micro-structure and the gluten development, which allowed for a sturdy loaf that doesn't fall apart too easily when you cut or tear it. The instructions listed below are for how I made it this time around (rainy day, humid Houston, 65-75 degree outside temperature).

Oatmeal Cranberry Walnut Bread
One 9x5" loaf
1+1/4 cup of bread flour + more for kneading
1 sachet (2+1/4 tsp) of Platinum Red Star Yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup water
2 Tbs molasses
1 Tbs honey
2 Tbs vegetable/canola oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup instant plain rolled oats
1/2 cup walnuts, crushed or chopped
1/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries
Half an egg and some more plain rolled oats for topping

Special equipment
Thermometer that reads up to 130 deg Fahrenheit
9x5" loaf pan


  1. Mix the 1+1/4 cup of bread flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl.
  2. In a medium sized microwaveable bowl, add 1 cup water, 2 Tbs molasses, 1 Tbs honey, and 2 Tbs. Microwave for over 1 minute 30 seconds until a thermometer, when inserted, reads 120 to 130 deg Fahrenheit. 
  3. Pour the still warm liquid mixture into the dry mixture. Stir until dry bits are incorporated.
  4. Add in the 1 cup whole wheat flour slowly until you reach a dough ball that pulls away from the sides, stays together, but don't make it too dry.
  5. Mix in the crushed walnuts and cranberries.
  6. Now turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about 5-8 minutes until the dough is supple and elastic. Add extra bread flour a tablespoon at a time if needed to work the dough. The dough may still be a little sticky but do not add more just to prevent all stickiness. Adding too much dough will make your bread dense and taste like cardboard wheat.
  7. Lightly grease a large bowl. Roll the dough into a ball, brush a little oil on top, and then place into the greased bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and leave for 30 minutes. 
  8. The dough will have almost doubled in size. Lightly punch down the dough, expelling excess air and redistributing the yeast. Knead and stretch the dough into about a 7" x 14" rectangle. Roll the rectangle up along the long end so you end up with a log about the size of the loaf pan. Pinch the seals closed.
  9. Lightly grease the bottom and lower sides of the loaf pan. Sprinkle with flour or cornmeal. Place the rolled dough seam-side down into the pan, cover, and let rise for another 30 minutes.
  10. Before the last 10 minutes of rising, preheat the oven to 375 degree Fahrenheit. Place a pan filled partway with water inside to create steam. Mix half an egg with water and brush the top of the loaf with the egg wash. Sprinkle the remaining rolled oats on top and press lightly to make them stick.
  11. Once the oven has finished preheating, put the loaf in the middle rack of the oven (keep the water pan inside) and bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is lightly browned and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. If the top is browning too quickly near the end, remove the loaf, cover the top with foil and return to the oven to finish baking.
  12. When finished baking, remove the loaf and let cool for about 20 minutes. Remove the loaf from the pan and let cool on a rack.
The bread was so good eaten fresh out of the oven. It was even better when it cooled down further and even better better when I made a roast turkey sandwich with it. I really should have taken a picture of my sandwich. Fresh avocado, smoked gouda, cucumber, tomatoes, lettuce, and turkey deli slices that I heated in the toaster. It was a fantastic sandwich. 

Hope you enjoy this bread as much as I did! Oh, and if you have tips on kneading bread dough, I would love to hear your advice. Thanks for stopping by!

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