Definitely one of the best breads of all time. The farm owner at the Borner Farm would often make this bread for our Saturday Morning Market, doubling the recipe and forming it into six small loaves. Some folks came just for the bread — and with good reason! Fluffy yet substantial, with a toasty, complex flavor and a lot of wholesome goodness rolled up in these delectable loaves. Delicious still slightly warm from the oven or crisped in the toaster, and makes incredible French toast.
Ever since my boss shared the recipe with me (from Great Whole Grain Breads by Beatrice Ojakangas), I have been waiting for a good moment to try it out, and was excited to finally take a stab at it this week! As it turned out, it was a bit more challenging than usual to fit bread baking into the day, between two job interviews and teaching. The dough suffered slightly from neglect, spending a little too long rising in the bowl, yet the bread still turned out wonderfully. My biggest shortfall was dividing and rolling out the dough unevenly, so that I ended up with one high domed loaf and one squat, undersized one. In tribute to my boss’ spirit of generosity and gratitude, I pulled on my raincoat (rain at last, yey!) and darted across the street to bring our neighbors the larger loaf. They called later to rave about the taste, texture, moistness, and crumb. My family devoured our own loaf within a day, and is already clamoring for more. In short, even in my inexperienced and preoccupied hands, this is a fool-proof recipe and truly exceptional bread. I can’t recommend it highly enough, and look forward to making it again soon!
I couldn’t resist tinkering with the recipe slightly, halving the amount of sugar and increasing the proportion of whole wheat flour, and was pleased with the result. It will be much less sweet than most cinnamon breads. If you prefer a slightly sweeter bread, you may wish to use the 1/2 cup of sugar called for in the original recipe. I think I might also like to try this recipe using molasses, honey, or maple syrup for sweetener.
UPDATE (1/27/18): Been wanting to try a sourdough version for a long time — finally found the time and the perfect occasion. Timed it so that I could have it ready in time to make French toast for a dear friend and housemate’s birthday, and so that kneading could be a fun shared evening activity. Wasn’t counting on a cold snap and no one cooking on the stove that day. So as usual, denser and smaller than I expected, but charming and delicious nonetheless! Great to know it can be made with sourdough, mostly whole wheat flour, raw sesame seeds, and free-form (turns out no one has a bread pan when they live in a community with its own bakery), and still turn out respectably! Still room for improvement, but I’ve recorded the process I followed, as best as I can remember, at the bottom of the page.
Cinnamon Swirl Oat Sesame Bread
(Makes 2 medium loaves – a double recipe makes three large loaves)
1 cup rolled oats
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
1/4 cup melted butter or neutral flavored oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon melted butter or oil for glaze (optional)
Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water and let proof for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine boiling water and rolled oats. Stir in seeds, melted butter or oil, and salt, then mix in yeast mixture. Gradually incorporate the flours, starting with the whole wheat, to form a stiff dough. Let rest 15 minutes, then knead on a lightly floured counter for 10-15 minutes, until elastic. Place in a greased bowl and flip to coat, then cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Deflate dough, divide in half, and roll each out into a rectangle, approximately 8×12 inches. Spread 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon over each half and roll up tightly. Seal seams and ends and place in two greased bread pans. Let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Preheat oven to 375ºF and bake 30-35 minutes until golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Brush tops of loaves with melted butter or oil for a shiny sheen if desired and remove immediately to cool on wire racks. Yum!
Note: A medium loaf = 8 1/2 x 4 1/2″
In a large mixing bowl, combine boiling water and rolled oats. Let rest about 15 minutes, until lukewarm and most of the liquid is absorbed. Mix in 1 cup sourdough starter, 1/2 cup sesame seeds, and up to 2 cups whole wheat bread flour (however much you can incorporate into the sponge.) Let sit for several hours or overnight, then mix in 1/4 cup melted butter or oil and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (I used only 1/2 teaspoon, since I was using salted butter) and up to one cup more of the whole wheat flour (I bet spelt would be great for this if you have it). Knead for about 10-15 minutes, until elastic (I never was able to get past the tacky point, despite kneading for almost half an hour). Form into a ball and leave, covered, for several hours, or overnight, until notably expanded. Divide in half, and roll each out into a large rectangle. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon, then roll width-wise and shape into loaves. Place in small bread pans or on a baking sheet and let rise for a few more hours. Preheat oven to 350 and bake for 30-35 minutes, until hollow on the bottom. Brush tops with melted butter (optional, I forgot this step and it wasn’t a big deal), let cool completely on wire rack, and enjoy!
Alternately, the dough could probably all be mixed at once, and left overnight for the first rise, without starting with a separate sponge.