Oatmeal Molasses Bread (recipe)
Last year, for Mother’s Day, my daughter made me a flower bookmark. On the back, she wrote, Dear Mom, Thank you for making bread. Love, Elly. I don’t need flowery poetry or a string of xoxo’s. This bookmark was perfect.
I have similar happy memories of my mom baking bread. Even now, the smell takes me back to my mom’s kitchen, where everything was good and warm and right. I want to create those same memories for my kids. Maybe when they are adults, it will remind them to call their mother.
I have often been surprised how certain scents can instantly transport me back to specific points in time. For me, most of these memories are happy and many are connected to food. One whiff of my mom’s meatloaf and I’m home from college on winter break. Peppermint gum seats me back in my grandma’s meticulous little Honda. Watermelon smells like summertime, and I am running around the backyard, spitting seeds at my brother.
According to extensive brain research, the sense of smell triggers our memory more than any other sense. Smells are processed by our olfactory bulb, which starts in our nose and runs along the base of our brain. This is connected to two brain areas, in the limbic system, which are responsible for emotion and memory. Our other senses do not travel the same route. One smell can spontaneously trigger a long-forgotten experience and the emotions connected to it.
I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure the smell of bread baking is one of the strongest happy memory triggers. This recipe is one of my favorites for soft, simple, sturdy bread. It is perfect for toast or sandwiches or (preferably) just cutting into thick slices warm from the oven. The molasses and brown sugar give a subtle sweetness (you could also use honey), while the oats and whole wheat flour give it a nice heft and texture.
Baking from scratch might not be your thing. No problem! Pop open a can of cinnamon rolls. Grab a tub of cookie dough. You can still create amazing smells & memories for the people you love. Or… make baking from scratch your thing. You can do it and this bread is a great place to start.
Oatmeal Molasses Bread
yield: 2 loaves
1 1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. water
1 1/2 T. active dry yeast
3 T. brown sugar
2 T. molasses
1 1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. oil or melted butter
1 1/2 c. quick oats (I also use old-fashioned)
5 c. unbleached white flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
- In a microwave-safe bowl, combine the milk and water; heat until warm (about 2-3 minutes). Pour into the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar on top and stir once. Let it sit until the yeast dissolves and becomes bubbly, about 5 minutes. Add the molasses, salt, oil/butter, and oats. Stir until evenly combined.
- With the mixer running, slowly add the flours, one cup at a time, until a dough ball forms. Continue to knead (by hand or in the mixer) for about 5 minutes, until an elastic dough forms. Add a little more flour, if needed, to prevent it sticking to the bowl. (The dough should be manageable but slightly wet/sticky.)
- Coat the inside of a large bowl with butter and transfer to the dough ball into it. Cover and let rise until doubled, about an hour.
- Shape into 2 equal loaves, tucking the dough underneath to create a smooth top. Place into greased loaf pans, cover, and let rise, about 40 minutes.
- Bake at 375-degrees for 30-40 minutes.
My cast iron collection/obsession is coming along nicely, thanks to my newest addition: a seasoned Lodge Cast Iron Loaf Pan (Amazon). I love the look and weight and function of this little black beauty. And at less than $15, you can add price to that list, too.
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