Although I sometimes make this just for the family, I almost always make it when we have company. It's easy, really delicious, and always a hit with our friends and family. It has a crispy crust, is slightly chewy on the inside, and has a slight sourdough flavor - without using a sourdough starter. I love baking it in my cast iron Dutch oven, but you could use any type of Dutch oven or casserole dish with lid.
What You Need:
4 cups unbleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup softened butter
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon instant or dry active yeast
2 1/4 cups cool water
Electric mixer with a dough hook (optional)
Large mixing bowl
14 or 15 in. Dutch oven or lidded stoneware baker, or a 9 x 12 in casserole dish with a cover
How to Do It:
1. Pour all the ingredients into a large bowl. If using an electric mixer with a dough hook, secure the bowl to the mixer and allow the machine to stir until all the ingredients are well blended. Otherwise, use your hands to mix the ingredients together.
2. Secure plastic wrap over the bowl and place it in a warm (not hot) location. Allow it to rise for at least 8 hours. It will rise quite a lot, so transfer the dough to your largest bowl before letting it rise, if necessary.
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and shape it to fit the container of your choice. Lightly grease the container and plop the dough into it. Cover and let it rise at room temperature for 1 hour.
4. Make the bread prettier by sprinkling a handful of oats on top of the loaf. Using a knife, make a hash mark (#) on top of the dough.
5. Place the lid back on the container and put the whole into a cold oven. Turn the temperature to 450 degrees F. and bake for about 40 minutes. Remove the lid from the container and keep baking for 5 to 15 minutes, or until the bread is deep golden. Be careful not to overbake, or the bottom of the bread will burn. (If this happens, you can just cut it off and no one will be the wiser.)
6. Remove the container from the oven and turn the bread out onto a cooling rack.