Bread: A Baker’s Book of Techniques and Recipes, by Jeffrey Hamelman had been sitting on my bookshelf for too many years. A crime scene investigation wouldn’t have yielded one yeast-pasted fingerprint on that book. I attempted to harvest the depth of details, but lost my way in the science of bread: bran, sperm, endosperm, oxidation, autolyse (is that better than buying a car), scoring (was it a hit or an error). I also learn best by observing, so it was hard for me to follow the drawings and instructions on shaping and rounding. And the formulas? Did I want to bake 31 loaves or 3 loaves? Measure by weight or volume? Weight a minute! I didn’t have a scale. I’m sorry but this book needed to quickly find a place on the shelf far from arms reach. Okay, maybe I overreacted. The plain butcher paper wrapper of truth is that the book intimidated me. I now own and use a scale. I decided no more excuses, you’re ready to take on Hamelman, so I followed the breadcrumbs, dusted off my resistance, and yanked it off the shelf. It was like pulling the sword out of the stone.
I started with a straight dough recipe for oatmeal bread because I wanted bread for that evening and breakfast the next morning. I am often on the lookout for other oatmeal bread recipes to try, and try again—this is one that I’m moving to the head of the line. This bread received an FA rating (family approval). I knew not to expect a TRIG (this is really good) or RGD (really good, dad) because of the inclusion of whole wheat flour. My daughter is genetically programmed to crave all things white (white four, white rice, pasta, mashed potatoes) and reject all things brown or off-white (whole wheat or rye flour, brown rice, whole wheat or spelt pasta). You get the picture. The 8 oz. of whole wheat flour in this recipe didn’t push her alert and reject button. But it also didn’t deter her from expressing disdain in her next breath. “Good bread, dad.” Oh, leavenly father. I started counting. Five (I love my daughter)…four (what can I buy her)…three (she can have unlimited TV time)…two (I won’t prevent her from rotting her brain away while texting with friends)…and….”Whole wheat flour!! Bleah. I hate it.” Like a crisply pleated pair of khaki trousers, this bread looks good and doesn’t have to try hard to impress.