This is one of our all time favorite breads. The recipe produces three beautiful loaves, so it’s my “go-to” bread when I want to give a loaf of bread as a gift. I’ve been making this bread from memory for so long that it took me some time to find the original recipe. It’s in a book called Bread by Beth Hensperger (1988). I noticed when I read the recipe again that I had made a number of adaptations, but it’s a great recipe and well worth making.
1 package yeast ( or 1 TBS )
1 1/4 C warm water
1 1/4 C warm buttermilk ( or regular milk with a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice )
1/4 C sugar ( or honey )
2 Tbs molasses
2 Tbs vegetable oil ( or butter )
1 C whole wheat flour (stone ground if possible)
1 C rolled oats
3/4 C sunflower seeds ( I use the roasted, salted ones. )
1 TBS salt
About 4 C unbleached white flour
1. Proof the yeast in the warm water. Sprinkle a little sugar into the water to feed the yeast.
2. Combine the warm*buttermilk, sugar, molasses and oil.
* Once I discovered that you could make your own buttermilk by adding about a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to a cup of regular milk and letting it sit for a few minutes, I stopped buying buttermik.
3. Combine the whole wheat flour, oats, sunflower seeds and salt in a large mixing bowl.
4. Add the proofed yeast, the buttermilk mixture and the egg. Mix very well with a wooden spoon.
5. Add the unbleached white flour 1/2 C at a time. Keep mixing with a wooden spoon and then your hands until you have a soft dough that is ready to knead. Flour amounts are so arbitrary when making bread. The amount changes based on the amount of humidity in the air on any given day. Go by the feel. You want a soft, pliable dough, not a brick.
6. Dump dough onto a lightly floured board and knead for about five minutes. Add a bit more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking to the board. You know it’s ready when the dough feels springy, and it bounces back when you stick your finger in it. If you have a heavy duty Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook, you could certainly use that, but I usually knead this one by hand.
7. Put the dough in a greased bowl. Turn the ball of dough so that the whole thing is greased. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until it has doubled in size. A cold microwave is great for this. No drafts! This should take about 1 1/2 hours.
A bowl works just fine for this step, but I’ve been using something new lately that I really like. I found a four quart plastic container with a cover at a restaurant supply store. It has measurement markers on the side, and you can see when the dough has doubled. The cover eliminates the need for plastic wrap.
8. Once the dough has doubled, put it back on the floured board and form it into three round loaves. Put them on a parchment lined half sheet pan that you’ve sprinkled with oats. If you don’t use parchment, you’ll have to grease the pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled.
9. A nice finishing touch is to brush the loaves with an egg beaten with a little milk, and then sprinkle some oats on the tops. This causes the loaves to brown well, and it looks really professional!
10. Preheat the oven to 375. Bake for 40 minutes. Bread should be nicely browned and give off a hollow sound when you tap the bottom. Make sure to cool on a rack before slicing.