This recipe is from The River Cottage Bread Handbook, which I just got and am very excited about.  First off it is a very detailed book on how to bake bread (with lots of pictures) by a baking instructor.  It has both a very detailed breakdown of how to make a basic bread recipe (which is what I made here) as well as a lot of other recipes to try.

In this day and age, with the internet and all, it can seem silly to buy a cookbook.  You can find recipes for everything online.  I was just planning Thanksgiving dinner and would come up with ideas (like pumpkin bread pudding) that a quick Google search unearthed tons of recipes for.  I usually try not to buy cookbooks, 1/6 of my bookshelf is already cookbooks.
Bread baking can be hard.  It is something that requires practice.  Most people can manage a batch of cookies if they pay close enough attention to the recipe, but bread takes a bit more finesse.  It is a lot more finicky than a batch of chocolate chip cookies; there is less room for error.  Plus, depending on the weather or the flour's mood the recipe that worked last week won't quite work today.  Practice helps you learn the feel of bread.  Keep that in mind as you go.  If the bread feels sticky: add more flour, to dry: add more water. 
But baking bread is one of the great joys in life.  My whole apartment fills up with that delicious smell.  There is a sense of satisfaction and of sustaining yourself that a batch of treats doesn't provide.  Plus kneading can work out a lot of anger.  So I'm posting this recipe and I hope you try it and if you think you need more help or more recipe ideas definitely check out this cookbook.  Once you get the hang of it, bread is a joy to make and homemade bread is infinitely better than store bought.  Now that the weather is bad and at least up in Seattle the days are short, people are spending more time inside, so take advantage of that.  It is hard to imagine something that makes a house warmer and cozier than fresh bread baking in the oven.


8 cups flour
1 tbsp instant yeast
4 tsps salt
2 1/2 cups warm water
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 cup flour for coating
1.Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add oats.
2. Add water and olive oil and mix together. Add enough water to make a soft, easily kneadable dough.
3. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and clean your hands. Knead the dough until it is as smooth and satiny as you can make it, about 10 minutes.
4. Shape the dough into a round once you have finished kneading the oil the surface and put the dough into the wiped-out mixing bowl. Put the bowl in a trash bag and let ferment and rise until doubled in size, anywhere between 45 minutes and 1 1/2 hours.
5. Deflate the dough by tipping it onto the work surface and pressing all over with your fingertips. Then form it into a round.
6. Return dough to bowl and allow to rise once more.
7. To prepare for baking heat the oven to 500 degrees. Place a baking stone or heavy baking sheet in the oven. Put a roasting pan at the bottom and put a kettle on to boil.
8. Divide the dough into one large or two small pieces. Shape into rounds and let them rest, covered, for 10 to 15 minutes.
9. To shape the loaves press the dough flat with your fingers. Roll it up tightly toward you. With the seam upward, press all along the seam with you fingertips. Now flatten and stretch the dough sideways to form long rectangle. Fold in thirds and flatten to a rough square. Roll it up tightly again and seal the seam.
10. Roll loaves in flour until evenly coated. Slash the tops with a serrated knife.
11. If using a baking sheet, remove from the oven and place bread on it. If using a baking stone, place loaves on a rimless baking sheet.
12. Slide loaves onto baking stone or replace baking sheet. Quickly pour boiling water into the roasting pan and shut oven dour.
13. After about 10 minutes, turn the heat down to 400 degrees if the crust looks pall or 350 if it is noticeably browning. Bake until loaves are well browned and crusty and feel hollow when you tap them: in total 30 - 40 minutes for small loaves and 40 - 50 minutes for large loaves.

Recipe from The River Cottage Bread Handbook by Daniel Stevens

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