We’re back!! Ahh, that was such a fabulous break the last couple weeks. Did you all have a lovely holiday break too? We both really needed that. Here we are though, back to the first week of the new year and all the Christmas cookies and treats are gone, pants are fitting a bit snugger, and we need to get back to clean eating. We’ll save the excersise part for later on, you know, when we aren’t about to get hit with a “polar vortex.” What the hell is a polar vortex anyways? Who knows… All I hear is that it is going to be even colder and my brain tells me to stay inside and bake something so the house warms up and smells delicious. Sounds like a plan.
With that, I have really been trying to eat as clean as one can during the holidays. That’s not saying much though, I definitely ate my weight in sweets and junk in the last few weeks, but hey, that’s why New Years is so close to Christmas right? Time to put good habits back in rotation. One of the hardest parts of clean eating for me is giving up store bought bread. I am a child of the 80’s/90’s and a loaf of white wonder bread is always delicious to my refined palate. There is definitely bread you can buy at health stores that is made of whole and natural ingredients, but taste wise, it’s very hit or miss. More misses if we are honest. That’s where this fab little recipe comes into play. Over the past few months I have been trying out a few different quick bread recipes from my favorite cookbooks to see if there was one that I could actually have time to make every week and that would work for stuff like sandwiches, toast, etc. The one I keep coming back to is from this great little cookbook/lifestyle guide from Daphne Oz called, Relish. It’s great because it’s soft and moist (I find a lot of these healthy bread recipes tend to taste and feel like cardboard), and the honey still adds a very subtle hint of sweetness, and then lots of nuts and seeds so you get healthy fat and lots of fiber in your slice… Naturally. Then the other nice thing about this recipe is that hands on time is about twenty minutes. It’s almost as simple as whipping up a little muffin recipe. Measure stuff, throw it in a bowl, let the bowl sit, transfer to a bread pan, let it sit some more and then throw in the oven. I definitely appreciate simplicity when it comes to pantry staples.
Most people (myself included) who are not avid bakers get turned off from a recipe as soon as they see that yeast is involved. Don’t let that derail your attempt on this one though. I promise it is super easy. All you do is get your sink running so that the water is warm. What do I mean by warm? You want it to be room temp. Try not to overthink it, just run the water until it’s not cold, but not hot yet. If you go a little less or more, it’s okay. Practice makes perfect, so don’t be nervous about getting it perfect on the first try, although you probably will get it perfect anyways. So, just test the water with your hand and when it goes from cold to warmer, but not hot, you are at lukewarm. Once your water is a good temp throw it into a large mixing bowl and then sprinkle a packet of active dry yeast all over the top. That’s it. You just let it sit for a few minutes and that is all there is to it. Simple.
While your yeast is sitting, grab another mixing bowl and measure out the dry ingredients. You can use whole wheat flour or regular all purpose flour; or a combo of the two. If you are a wonder bread type of gal/guy, I would start off with white flour and then slowly switch to whole wheat flour as your taste buds get used to bread that is made without loads of sugar and all that other fun stuff. Don’t want to shock the system after all.
The bread is also full of oatmeal which is great and adds a lovely chewiness to the finished batch. However, make sure you have oats that are called “rolled oats,” not the quick or instant oats. I like Bob’s Red Mill oats, but you can grab whatever, just make sure it is called rolled oats.
Add a sprinkle of salt, some flaxseeds and wheat germ (if you have them, if not you can omit, but they add a lot of healthy fat and fiber, so try to get your hands on one or the other at least). Then it’s up to you for what other ingredients you want to add. A handful of walnuts or pecans, some pumpkin or sunflower seeds; whatever you have in the cupboard that looks good. I actually want to make a batch of this bread and throw some chopped dates in there for a little extra sweetness. This is your time to be master creative chef, or just to get rid of the little remnants of nuts, seeds and fruits that are in the cupboard. This bread is not sweet if you stick to the original recipe, so you can even go for a more savory bread and add your favorite herbs or spices such as parsley, basil, oregano, rosemary, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, etc. Just add a teaspoon of each of the spice/s you would like to use, or a 1/4 cup of the nuts/seeds/fruit you would like to use. That will give it a nice flavor, but not be overbearing. So, I would recommend following the recipe as is for the first time, so you know what it tastes like, but then get creative on future batches if you want to.
Anyways, we throw a little honey and coconut oil into our water/yeast mix that has been sitting, and mix. Then we dump the dry ingredients into the yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon and you are done for the most part. From this point on we just let the dough sit for another 20 minutes in the bowl, then transfer the dough to a bread pan and let it sit for another 20 minutes and then bake. So, overall the time will take a couple hours from start to finish, but the majority of that time is just letting the bread dough sit and rise, and then bake. The actual prep time is about 20 minutes total, not too bad. Very simple to do on a lazy Sunday between catching up on all the Real Housewives drama you missed during the week.
After baking you will have a nice, hearty loaf of bread you can use just as you would normal bread you buy at the store. I got out my bread knife and sliced it up and put the loaf into a freezer bag so that it’s easy to just reach in and pull out a couple of slices for sandwiches or toast without having to get the cutting board out every time. That is too much work. Just get it over with right off the bat.
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil, plus more for the pan
- 2 cups warm water (130 degrees Fahrenheit)
- 1 packet active dry yeast
- 3 cups all purpose or whole wheat flour (or a combo of the two)
- 1 cup rolled oats (not instant or quick cooking)
- 2 tablespoons wheat germ (optional)*
- 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed (optional)*
- 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)*
- 3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds (optional)*
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup pure honey
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and grease a standard bread pan with coconut oil.
- Pour the lukewarm water in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the top of the water and set aside. Let stand until the yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes.
- In another mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, flour, flaxseed, nuts, seeds, salt and any additional spices.
- Stir the coconut oil and honey into the water/yeast mixture until combined.
- Using a wooden spoon, stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix well. The dough will be dense and very sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place (like on top of the warm oven) for 20 minutes.
- Use the wooden spoon to fold the dough from the outside perimeter into the center of the bowl for two minutes, rotating the bowl as you are folding. The makes the bread nice and chewy.
- Pour the dough into the greased loaf pan. Cover the loaf pan with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for 20 minutes more.
- Remove the plastic wrap and place the pan in the middle of the oven. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until the crust is a deep golden brown.
- Turn the bread out of the pan and thump it on the bottom-it should sound hollow when finished baking.
- Transfer the bread to a cooling rack and cool completely before slicing.
- * I would suggest not omitting all of the optional ingredients, but you can leave out one or two if you want, or use another similar ingredient as a substitute; ideas are in the post above.