I will always be a fan of white-ish sandwich breads – not necessarily “white bread”, but buttermilk, potato and similarly pale and soft breads that are versatile and toast well – but I also like to get some variety into my sandwiches with whole grain breads, as well. One bread I particularly like right now is Oroweat‘s Oatnut Bread. As the name suggests, the bread has whole oats and nuts in it. The oats give it a nice sweetness and the nuts, a nice texture. Oroweat actually uses finely chopped hazelnuts in their bread, so the flavor is very unusual for a sandwich loaf.
My version of homemade Oatnut bread has more whole grain than the original bread it is based on, as I made it with white whole wheat flour. The store-bought bread has a fairly fine texture and, because white whole wheat flour is lighter than plain whole wheat, I used it in the hope of recreating that texture. Since whole grain flours don’t usually have as much protein in them as all purpose or bread flours, I also added some vital wheat gluten (basically wheat protein, sold at markets like Whole Foods) to help give the bread some additional elasticity. Wheat gluten keeps the texture of the bread from getting dense or crumbly. I also added in rolled oats (I used the quick cooking variety, but whole rolled oats are fine) and finely chopped pecans. Hazelnuts or walnuts are also good choices here.
The finished product was excellent, and similar enough to the original that the source of my inspiration was obvious. My bread was slightly sweet and the nuts provided some of the contrast in texture that I had hoped for. The loaf had a light and even crumb to it and was easy to slice into thin, sandwich-able pieces. If you can’t find the wheat gluten, you will be able to bake this bread without it. You may not be able to get such fine slices, however, as a bread made with only whole grain flour will probably be a bit more crumbly than this loaf was.
This bread makes great sandwiches and excellent toast. It’s hearty enough to stand up to a cheese, as well, so simply cut thick slices if you wish to put it out with appetizers as a pairing for dip or sliced cheese.
Homemade Oatnut Sandwich Bread
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water (100-110F), divided
3-4 cups white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick cooking rolled oats (whole rolled oats, chopped)
1 tbsp vital wheat gluten (optional)
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
In a large bowl, combine the yeast (about 1/4 oz.) and 1/4 cup warm water. Stir and let stand for 5 minutes, until foamy.
Stir in remaining water, 1 cup of flour, the oats, vital wheat gluten (if using) and honey, and mix well. Add in salt, pecans and an additional 1 1/2 – 2 cups flour. Stir, adding remaining flour gradually, until the dough comes together into a ball a begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl (this can also be done in an electric mixer with the dough hook attached).
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board and knead, adding flour a tablespoon at a time as necessary to prevent sticking, until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5-8 minutes.
Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 – 1 1/2 hours.
Lightly grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.
After dough has risen, turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface again. Gently deflate dough into a rectangular shape. Fold up the two long sides of the rectangle and pinch the seam together. Place seam-side down into prepared loaf pan. Again cover the bread with a piece of plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
While the bread is going through its final rise, preheat oven to 375F.
Bake loaf for 35 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the bottom reads about 200F.
Cool loaf outside of pan on a wire rack completely before slicing.
Makes 1 loaf.