Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Oatmeal bread and a case of the Januaries

I called my Grandma recently and asked how she was doing. With a sigh, she said she was suffering a case of the Januaries. “What’s that?” I asked. She replied that it meant she didn’t have much energy to cook or do much of anything. That’s certainly not a good way to feel.

Do you ever suffer a case of the Januaries? After December, which is a lively month filled with festivities, gifts and fellowship, I can see how some would think that January is something of a letdown with its cold, short days. I, however, view January as a time to recharge my batteries—it’s a fresh start! And since, fortunately, I am not suffering a case of the Januaries (though check back with me in February when I usually start shaking my fist at a mocking sun that gives off more light but still refuses to emit any heat ), I decided it would be nice to bake my grandmother some bread. But not just any bread—I decide to bake her a loaf of her mother’s oatmeal bread.

When I spent time with my grandparents last summer, we had a blast going through all of the family recipes. Every dish came with a story, but Grandma especially lit up when we came across the card for Great-Grandma Gibson’s oatmeal bread. “That’s my favorite,” said Grandma. Great-Grandma Gibson’s oatmeal bread wasn’t an everyday thing—she only baked it about once a week. But when Grandma would wake up and see a loaf cooling in the kitchen, she knew it was going to be a great day. She recalled one time when she came home from college and Great-Grandma had just pulled a loaf out the oven. “I was so hungry and it smelled so good, I probably ate most of the loaf with some butter (or maybe it was peanut butter),” she said.

I’d never made Great-Grandma Gibson’s oatmeal bread, but had eaten it on a few occasions as both my grandma and my mom have been known to bake it when a craving hits. And since it’s such a beloved treat, I decided that this cold winter evening would be perfect for firing up the oven and baking some history.

I found my copy of Great-Grandma Gibson’s recipe card and the directions were brief. My grandmother at some point had penciled in a couple of modifications, but I had to squint to read the light marks on the too-dark copy I’d made. Fortunately, I had all the ingredients on hand, and as her recipe makes two loaves I was pleased that I would get to save one for myself.

The dough takes some time as I used non-instant oats that Great-Grandma recommended let steep in hot milk for a couple of hours. And her original ingredient list called for yeast, yet there was no mention of letting the dough rise. I finally made out a faint handwritten word that said "rise," so after mixing all the ingredients I kneaded the dough until it was smooth (though Mom later told me that kneading is not necessary, which is part of the recipe's charm and ease). I then formed two round loaves and let them rise for an hour or so. After they had doubled in size, I brushed them with a milk wash, sprinkled some oats on top and slid them into the oven. There was no indication on how long to bake the bread, so after forty-five minutes I checked on them and when I thumped the bottoms they sounded hollow. The bread was done!

Pulling the fragrant loaves out of the oven, I couldn’t wait for them to cool—I sliced off a thick piece, slathered it in butter and took a bite. And I then understood how my grandma ate almost a whole loaf in one sitting as each bite was slightly sweet and nutty with a moist, soft crumb. It was heavenly.

So Grandma, your loaf of oatmeal bread is in the mail. And may it help your case of the Januaries go away!

Great-Grandma Gibson’s Oatmeal Bread
Ingredients:
2 cups of boiling milk
1 cup of rolled oats (not instant)
2 teaspoons of salt
1 egg
1/2 cup of honey
4 tablespoons of shortening
5-5 1/2 cups of flour
2 packets of yeast
1/2 cup of warm water

Method:
1. Add oatmeal to hot milk and let stand for two hours.
2. Dissolve yeast in warm water.
3. Mix yeast and other ingredients with oatmeal (start with five cups of flour and add more a little bit at a time until dough is smooth).
4. Form into loaves, and either fill two loaf pans or place in balls on a parchment-paper lined sheet.
5. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about an hour).
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.
Notes: While I usually balk at shortening, I wanted to be true to the recipe so I used Spectrum Organic Shortening. I also kneaded the bread, but as I mentioned—that apparently isn't necessary. To make the bread pretty, you can brush the loaves with a milk wash (1 T of milk and 1 T of water) and then sprinkle oats over the top.

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55 comments:

Susan said...

Here in Nova Scotia we make a similar bread called oatmeal brown bread. Here we just say brown bread, which doesn't mean wheat bread, it means this delicious oat bread but we always substitute molasses for the honey so the bread is very sweet, very delicious ... and brown. cheers, S.

Sara, Ms Adventures in Italy said...

Agh, I am definitely suffering from the Januaries!! I want comfort-type food and I am not as worried about taking photographs and posting it! Luckily I have some material from India to post about but I will try to break out of the Januaries this weekend! :)

Madam Chow said...

Oh, thank you, and thank your Grandma. I've been feeling not quite myself, and it wasn't until I read this post that I realized that I'm suffering from the Januaries! And I'll have to make this lovely bread.

Jennie said...

Oh, this looks delicious, and the sweet story behind it is even better!

Forgive my ignorance, but when you say to add the oats to hot milk and let stand for 2 hours, you turn the heat off after the milk is hot and just let the oats sit there, right?

Lydia said...

I don't know about the Januaries, but I do know that when the weather gets cold I crave all things oatmeal. Thanks for sharing your great-grandma's recipe.

Gena said...

Mmmm...sounds delicious! Too bad I myself have a case of the Januaries, and probably won't be baking anything for awhile.

sugarcreekfarm said...

Yum, thanks for sharing! I love old recipes. Will most definitely try this, as well as Susan's molasses variation. And "a case of the Januaries" sounds so much better than "seasonal affective disorder"! I'm stealing that diagnosis.

nosheteria said...

Yum, there us nothing like the smell of yeast proofing to bring one right out of the Januaries.

Maxfield Family said...

Just found your blog while on my quest for a homemade tortilla recipe. I cannot wait to try them! Visit my recipe blog at heidisrecipes.blogspot.com. I'd love to add your link to mine.

Lizard Eater said...

A case of the Januaries -- oh, I love that. My mom used to live in Rochester, NY, and she still talks about how in January, she'd just look at that snow fall, fall, falling down and the tears would just roll down her face.

Nandita said...

Love the bread! Is it possible to use half the measures for a smaller bread, this one might just go on and on between the two of us.

Danielle said...

Heya. Gorgeous bread! Also, I tagged you - http://habeasbrulee.com/2008/01/24/seven-7-things-about-me/

Debjani said...

Here in Berlin The Januaries are rife. Last night when I got home I had to give myself some TLC. So I pulled a bag of your chilli out of the freezer and ate it with a fried egg on top. It felt so wrong, but it was sooooo right.

Homesick Texan said...

Susan--Molassses sounds like it would be an excellent substitution for the honey--I'll have to try that!

Sara--I hope you get over your case soon--and just think, February is only a few days away!

Madam Chow--This bread will surely make your feel warm and cozy.

Jennie--Yes, you turn off the heat and just let it sit. After 2 hours, the oats will have absorbed the milk and you'll have a pot of oatmeal.

Lydia--Isn't oatmeal the best cold-weather breakfast? It sticks to your bones and keeps your warm!

Gena--I hope you feel better soon!

Sugarcreekfarm--You bet it does--at least it sounds more temporary!

Nosheteria--Yeast proofing and bread baking are indeed two of my favorite smells.

Maxfield Family--Thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy the tortillas!

Lizard Eater--Oh, your poor mother! It does get horribly cold up in Rochester.

Nandita--I'm sure it would be fine. Though the dough and/or loaves can be frozen as well.

Danielle--A tag! I haven't had one of those in forever. Thanks!

Debjani--Chili is never wrong!

Melissa said...

Oh, I know those Januaries only too well! Your great-grandma's bread looks like just the cure, though. It's amazing how something as simple as bread can give us so much comfort. I wonder, though, since January is almost over...do you think this bread will also cure a case of the Februaries? :)

Acme Instant Food said...

I am not a bread baker. I can't even REMEMBER (honestly) the last loaf of bread I baked. AND I read recipes for it all the time...but no bread ever bakes in my oven. Until now.

I can't put a finger on why I am suddenly compelled to bake this bread. It does sound delicious. But, I think it's the personal story behind this post. Thanks. I'm gonna be a bread baker! :)

JEP said...

Perfect recipe for January as is Oatmeal Month!

Miss Meat and Potatoes said...

I too, am suffering a case of the Januaries. Or maybe I'm just plain freezing to death, as it's an average of 50 degrees lately in our NY apartment!

This sounds like the perfect remedy. Can't wait to try it.

SO jealous of your photography skills my dear. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous.

Cynthia said...

I love your grandma :) I think I will start using that word now: Januaries :)

Ceci said...

I, too, am an expat Texan--I live in Michigan where it is 0 this morning. I get the Februaries, and that oatmeal bread looks wonderful! I can't wait to try it!

Lizard Eater said...

YUMMY! I'm here at home, with 4 sick kids and a sick husband so with a pot of sausage and bean soup, just what we needed! Gave it a prelim rise (mostly to make it fit my schedule), gently deflated it, and made it into loaves.

Light as air! Thank you for sharing.

Shorty said...

not a fan of the oatmeal (long boring story) but i may have to ask my lady to try this,thanks for sharing

Jennifer said...

This bread is simply wonderful. I pulled my two loaves out of the oven 20 minutes ago. With my fiance's help, half of one loaf is already gone. This is going into regular rotation for my weekend baking, which is a new habit to stave off the Januaries and the Februaries to come.

Melissa said...

I was just sent a link to your blog and I can't thank you enough for what you do here. I too am a transplanted Texan - only I'm in Connecticut. This has been the next best thing to a trip home and a seat at my grandmother's dinner table.

Keep up the good work!

julia said...

I just made this bread. It's my first exploration into bread making mostly because I don't have a mixer, but...

Ah, success!

I'm a transplanted Texan in Westchester. At school in Ithaca, I did the exact same thing as Lizard Eater's mom.

Thanks for all the recipes and reminders of home!

Olivia said...

Oooh I love oatmeal bread....with melted butter. Mmmm.

The January blues, indeed. Though today I was surprised to see that at 4pm the sun was still out!

White On Rice Couple said...

What a great blog! We especially love the oatmeal bread. It'll bring perfect warmth to our house during our chilly Southern California 50 degree weather ! Brrrr! :)

Sally Parrott Ashbrook said...

"The Januaries" is a great name for the winter blahs. What a sweet story, too, and what a loving grandchild you are.

hensteeth said...

I get a good case of the Februaries. I'm not really cured until baseball and spring training roll around.

This is a familiar oatmeal bread, though your people sure like it sweet. I am going to follow your recipe to the letter, and I'm guessing I'll watch that bread disappear.

And now I have a proper written recipe too. Thank you.

(My own written recipes are shorthand memory joggers, kind of like your Great-Grandma's. I think I'll spend some time and make those critical notes in the margins for my own granddaughter.)

alifeworthliving said...

I made this bread over the weekend and love it! (My roommates love it, too) I cut the recipe in half and it worked great! Thanks for sharing.

Lore said...

I've already wanted to bake bread at home but somehow I never seem to have the time:(. This seems to be a great recipe and I hope to try it soon!

Brave Sir Robin said...

When you say you used Irish Oats, do you mean Steel Cut?

Miri said...

This is perfect bread. And you can taste the honey!
I made this today as we are snowed in and there's nothing else to do but eat! I served it with my roasted potato soup.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/mirimoonsong/2227689504/

lobstersquad said...

that´s such a great expression, the Januaries. I totally get it.
Lovely story and lovely bread.

Homesick Texan said...

Melissa--I reckon this bread will work for the Februaries just as well.

Acme Instant Food--Welcome to the world of bread baking! Enjoy!

JEP--Really? I had no idea! January is a perfect month for oatmeal, though, so it makes sense.

Miss Meat and Potatoes--Yep, I have a buildiing like that as well so I'm always keen to turn on the oven. As for the photos--many thanks! I just throw my subject in the window and hope for the best!

Cynthia--Isn't that a great term? I love it too!

Ceci--Enjoy!

Lizard Eater--Yay! I'm so glad you made it and it worked for you. It's perfect with soup.

Shorty--You're very welcome.

Jennifer--Ha! My granparents ate in one sitting half the loaf I sent them as well. Glad y'all liked it!

Melissa--Welcome! And thank you. It's hard being so far from home.

Julia--I don't have a mixer either, and I make bread at least once a month. Glad you enjoyed it!

Olivia--I know! The days are definitely getting longer...Spring is just right around the corner!

White on Rice Couple--It's almost criminal how perfect the weather is in Southern California! Many, many thanks and I hope y'all enjoy the bread!

Sally Parrott Ashbrook--I agree, it's a great name.

Hensteeth--I know, there's just something about the crack of the bat that makes me feel so happy. And yes, you should definitely write down your recipes for your grandkids--they'll appreciate it some day.

ALifeWorthLiving--That's good to know it works if you cut the recipe in half and I'm glad it met with your roommates approval!

Lore--It's good stuff, and doesn't take that much time at all.

Brave Sir Robin--Yes, they're steel cut oats.

Miri--I'll have to make that roasted potato soup--perfect for snowdays indeed!

ann said...

A case of the Januaries... So that's what it's called! I've been right there with your grandma. I've had just enough energy to get through work, cook a little and post a little, but obviously have been very remiss in my blog reading otherwise I would have known to make this loaf of bread to scare the blues away!
I love this recipe, thanks for sharing Lisa :-)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this fabulous recipe! I had a slice this morning spread with "Peanut Butter & Co."s Dark Chocolate Dreams (peanut butter & dk chocolate) - it was HEAVEN!

Sarah said...

another vote of thanks for the great oatmeal bread recipe! I made it last night (substituting butter b/c i have no shortening) and it really hit the spot -- same with the whole family. I was already thinking about the molasses idea, I'm definitely trying that next time.

I also was wooed to your website by your great tortilla recipe. I'm so glad I found you! (and my husband is thrilled to see your nacho manifesto; after a year living in Texas that's the only way he'll make nachos, as well)

Liz said...

Just the thing to keep me busy during the Super Bowl (I prefer to watch just the ads on DVR later :) - Now I can see why your grandmother could eat half a loaf in one sitting! I'm tempted...

Ceci said...

I just made this bread yesterday. After taking a bite, my husband closed his eyes and said, "Oh, my God."

I think I'll be making it again!

podgykat said...

Absolutely lovely. Many thanks for sharing the recipe-I just had to make this the moment I saw it on your blog! So in between getting dinner ready yesterday evening I made time to make this lovely bread. I couldn't resist a slice straight out of the oven; and who would join me but the MOTH himself; a lover of all things home-made!

By the way, I'm visiting you all the way from Malaysia!

Tamara said...

Thanks so much for posting this recipe, it has become one of my favorite breads.

Chris said...

Thanks for the wonderful recipe! I did make some changes, though...
I made only one loaf just to test it out, so I cut all the ingredients in half. I also used Smart Balance margerine (no trans-fat/omega 3) instead of the shortening, and I added a couple of tablespoons of ground flaxseed and about half a cup of walnuts. I also let it rise for an hour after kneading it for about 10 minutes, and then let it rise again after shaping it and placing it into a pan. I am currently taking a nutrition class this summer, so I have been eating oatmeal just about every day, but I really love eggs. I figured that if I could make some kind of oatmeal bread, that would help to eliminate some of the cholesterol. So I have been searching for a recipe...BINGO! This is it! I just had some toasted for breakfast along with one of my beloved eggs and it was delicious! Thanks again to you and your grandma for your fabulous recipe!

Anonymous said...

That is hands-down the best bread recipe ever. My husband called "luxurious"!

Anonymous said...

Thank you homesick Texan for sharing your recipe and tell grandma thanks as well.

Herman

joanna said...

I really just can't decide which I enjoy best, the stories or the recipes. Thanks so much for sharing both. The bread is a big hit.

Anonymous said...

Do you think this recipe would work with ordinary rolled oats as well? I can't seem to find steel cut oats anywhere :(

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Anon--Yes, just use rolled oats.

Mom24 said...

Oh my gosh! So good, and I even screwed it up and left out the salt (which I do not recommend, you can tell, but I can still tell it's fabulous!)

Thank you so much, I can not wait to make it again! (The right way!)

You should have put this in your (fabulous) cookbook.

Laura W said...

This is one of my favorite everyday breads...thanks for such a great recipe! I just wanted to post that I tried swapping out molasses for the honey last night, and while the bread is still good, the molasses flavor is a little too strong for a yeast bread like this. Next time, I'd do 2-3 fewer tablespoons.

LillyRoseAnne said...

Here in South Africa I have just tested this recipe. I soaked the oats (Jungle Oats which is not instant oats) overnight. I found this recipe only needed exactly 3 level sifted cups (South African cup measure = 250 ml) of bread flour to get the dough to come together into a ball. I've used maple syrup instead of honey. Result :( ....Not what I was expecting! Either this recipe is not suited to South African ingredients or more like it could be some kind of a "comfort / childhood food" of America which becomes an adult comfort food.... ;) as Mosbolletjies (Aniseed buns & rusks are to South Africa) .. My honest opinion: Pleasantly tasty, perhaps an acquired taste, but not ugly. Too sweet to be used as a sandwich loaf. Neither bread nor cake. More like a cross over between the two ;)) .... Dogs looved it (& my dogs are picky!;0 They ate it all up right down to the very last crumb!

Luann said...

This bread is a nice change - fairly dense with a hint of sweetness from the honey. I used rolled oats and cooked it in loaf pans. Loved it toasted - it helped take care of a case of the Februaries.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your Great-Grandma Gibson’s oatmeal bread recipe. My husband and I live in Mozambique, Africa. The bakeries here only have a white Portuguese type bread and I wanted something that would make a good breakfast toast. It’s an easy recipe and I can get all the ingredients here (except shortening, I substitute unsalted butter). I have a lot of whole wheat flour I need to use up so on the third try, I experimented and used three cups regular flour and two cups whole wheat. It turned out great. It’s not only great for toast but also makes great grilled cheese sandwiches!

Sir Gibbs-Alot said...

My last name's Gibson and I'm living in NYC. Just moved here from Texas, and I must say your blog is a god send!

Are you related to any of the Gibson's from south Houston? :D

Karie Ball said...

Love love love this bread! So easy and tasty. I think this will be my go to bread from now on!

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