For a number of years, my favourite brown bread has been the Grant Loaf, partly due to the almost ridiculously easy method of preparation, and partly due to its deliciousness, especially when either freshly baked, or lightly toasted.
However, even the most ardent of fans will admit that it is not a light loaf. It has certain brick-like qualities not limited solely to its shape. So the discovery of this loaf, which not only uses wholemeal flour, but adds oatmeal to it as well, and which results in a light and airy loaf, is a bit of a revelation. You’d think that mixing heavy, stoneground wholemeal with heavy oatmeal would be a recipe for a loaf of leaden qualities, but no – it’s almost as if these two ‘wrongs’ make a ‘right’. Fickle as I am, this is now my new favourite wholemeal loaf.
Like the Grant Loaf, it also takes advantage of the initial vigorousness of the yeast by being proofed only for two short intervals, making it much quicker than traditional bread.
The second difference is the shape in which it is baked. The recipe’s author, Sir Henry Thompson, was most famous for his expertise in the fields of medicine and surgery. However, as a recognised polymath, he was also knowledgeable in a number of other areas, including nutrition, exemplified by his book “Food and Feeding” (1879) in which he noted (on the subject of wholemeal flour)
it does not readily produce light agreeable bread when made in the form of ordinary loaves : a solid mass of this meal being a bad conductor of heat, will have a hard flinty crust if baked sufficiently to cook the interior ; or it will have a soft dough-like interior, if the baking is checked when the crust is properly done. Consequently the form of a flat cake, resembling that of the ordinary tea-cake, is preferable, since it admits of the right amount of heat operating equally throughout the mass.
4th Edition, p40.
The first edition of Sir Henry’s book suggested a mixture of wholemeal flour and fine flour. Later editions changed this to a recommendation of oatmeal – fine if using baking powder and medium if using yeast. I’ve tried both combinations and much refer the yeast version, as the baking powder version seemed to develop a sour taste quite quickly, although that might have been due to me using Sir Henry’s own version of baking powder which reversed the proportions we use nowadays, i.e. 1 part cream of tartar to 2 parts bicarbonate of soda.
This recipe can be baked in two Victoria Sandwich tins and produces deliciously airy bread, ideal for sandwiches. You can cut slices across the loaf, as in the photo, or cut it into quarters for a simpler, but less elegant, wedge.
You can make this bread with ordinary wholemeal flour, but bread flour gives the better result. If you’d like to try the baking powder version, the quantity recommended for this recipe is 15g.
You can download a free copy of Sir Henry’s book, “Food and Feeding” (4th edition) here.
Wholemeal Oat Bread
450g stoneground wholemeal bread flour
115g medium oatmeal
20g fresh yeast or 1 sachet fast action yeast
30g unsalted butter
400ml-ish half milk, half water, warmed
- Put all the ingredients into a bowl and knead together for 10 minutes on slow using a dough hook, or by hand.
- If using a dough hook, at the end of the 10 minutes, switch the speed to High for 2 minutes to bring the dough into a ball.
- Allow to rise for 20 minutes.
- Divide the dough in half, and mould each piece into a ball.
- Press the dough into two greased, Victoria sandwich tins (20cm diameter).
- Set to rise for another 20 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 220°C, 200°C Fan. Depending on how quickly your oven heats, you might want to do this as you set the bread for its second rise, or after it has been rising 10 minutes.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then turn the heat down by 20 degrees and bake for a further 15 minutes.
- To crisp up the bottom crust, tip the bread out of the tins and return the loaves to the oven to bake for a final 5 minutes.
- Cool on a wire rack.