The Beloved and I stopped by the Crafty Beer Shop when we were at Lafayette Village this weekend. I was looking for some beer to bake with, and as soon as I saw the Old Neighborhood Oatmeal Porter from Mother Earth Brewing in Kinston, this whole post appeared before me. Honestly. I knew exactly what I was going to say. And make. An oatmeal beer bread made with oatmeal porter. Not a quick bread, but a yeast-raised beer bread, malty bittersweet to marry beautifully with oatmeal and the oatmeal porter. Like most of my breads, this oatmeal beer bread is made using a modified straight dough method: mix the oatmeal, beer and half the flour into a batter and let it hang out so the oatmeal hydrates. Then, just toss in all the rest of the ingredients and knead away. You could absolutely put some raisins or dried currants in your batter to make a perfect morning toasting bread.
Snapshots from My Old Neighborhood
In my old neighborhood, we didn’t have streetlights until I was nine. We played flashlight tag on long summer nights, and we could hide simply by lying down in a slight dip in someone’s yard. Kick the Can. Capture the Flag. Red Rover. Color Man, a tag game that might have been unique to our neighborhood. We played them all, over and over again.
We had a Fourth of July Parade every year that wound through our quiet streets and ended up at the neighborhood swim club. What seemed like hundreds of kids with red, white and blue crepe paper wound in the spokes of their bicycles paraded and sweated and ate watermelon. Each year, my friend’s older sister Carol would faint in the withering summer sunshine.
In my old neighborhood, we all learned to kiss by playing Seven Minutes in Heaven in Julie’s old playhouse. I am pretty sure that, by the time we reached adolescence, each neighborhood kid had kissed every other neighborhood kid at least once.
We all walked to elementary school in the old neighborhood. The school was named for the neighborhood. Or was it the other way around? A mile there. A mile back, from the time we were in fourth grade. We were never afraid; there was no need. Sometimes I rode to and from school on the back of Lizzie’s yellow bicycle. I read, knees out to the sides and glasses perched upon my nose, balanced on the rear fender like some angular owl. I tore more than one sole off my shoes by getting a little too close to the spokes. The bike and the book always survived, but the Stride Rite crepe-soled shoes had it rough.
When we were in middle school, we would get up, get dressed and be out the door to reach the bus stop half an hour before the bus was due so we could play stick ball or have crab apple fights before the bus came. When we got home, there was always a snack. Fresh peanut butter cookies and milk, maybe raisin bars, or even the precursor to the Little Debbie oatmeal cream pie. I can still remember that flavor from my childhood, and while I wouldn’t turn down a Little Debbie even these days, they are not the same as I remember.
Most kids had slumber parties for their birthdays. We’d play “Light as a Feather, Stiff as a Board,” raising each other up over our heads with two fingers each. At my parties, we’d go raid our tin-lined pull out bread drawer: Roman Meal (grown-up bread. Ew.) on one side, Sunbeam on the other. The oatmeal cream pies in the middle. And of course we hypnotized each other. Because, why wouldn’t we?
In my old neighborhood, if an adult wasn’t your mom or your dad, they were your aunt or your uncle. On my street alone, I had an Aunt Queenie, an Uncle Ivan, an Aunt Caroline, an Uncle Bob, an Aunt Betty and an Uncle Jim. When one set of parents decided to throw a party, all the kids would sleep over at another sets’ house. We were communally raised.
Like any neighborhood, we had our legends. Marcie and the burning bush. The pink and blue toilet paper rolling mystery. The awful kitchen fire of 1973. The great Sporking incident of ’78. The Pocket Lady.
I sometimes think that our neighborhood had more than its share of tragedy. Car accidents, suicide, and other untimely deaths. Cancer, cancer and more cancer.
While there was plenty of sadness, there were also years and years of love and laughter, of growing up together. When I see these people, even when I haven’t seen them for decades, I feel at home. Even though that street and that old neighborhood haven’t been my street and my neighborhood for thirty years, the people who I grew up with, who were all shaped by the ebb and flow and rhythm of life on that street, in that neighborhood, are my people. We resonate in sympathetic harmony.
- 17 oz bread flour (I used King Arthur)
- 5.5 oz (1 1/2 cups) rolled oats (I used Bob's Red Mill)
- 1 12 oz bottle of porter (I used Mother Earth Brewing's Old Neighborhood Oatmeal Porter. An oatmeal stout would work here as well)
- 4 oz whole milk (you could substitute 2% or even skim)
- 2 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 oz Grandma's Molasses by weight, not volume (mild molasses)
- 1 oz melted butter
- 1 Tablespoon (about 1/2 oz) granulated sugar
- 1 egg beaten together with 1 Tablespoon of milk
- rolled oats for decorating the tops of the loaves
- Put half the flour (just eyeball it), the oats and the beer in the bowl of your stand mixer. Mix until well-combined, then cover and let rest for 30-45 minutes to soften up the oats.
- Mix the milk and yeast together and add that to the bowl along with the rest of the flour, the salt, molasses, melted butter and sugar.
- Mix on low speed using the dough hook. The mixture will look pretty wet, but forge ahead.
- Once all the ingredients are mixed, turn the speed up to medium and knead until you have a sticky dough that clears the sides of the bowl but sticks in the bottom of the mixer bowl in about a 2" circle. Knead for about 10 minutes. The dough will be very soft, and you'll have to oil hands or coat them with pan spray to work with it.
- Form the dough into a reasonable-looking ball and drop it back into the mixer bowl. Spray the top with pan spray. Cover and let rise in a warm, moist place until doubled, about 2 hours. I bring a mug of water to a boil in the microwave and then scoot it to one side and let the dough rise that way.
- Once the dough has risen, gently press out the gases. Divide the dough so that one piece that weighs 1 1/2 pounds. With oiled hands on a lightly oiled surface, press that piece out into a rectangle and then roll it up into a log. Fit it into an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" baking pan, spray with pan spray (or brush with a bit of oil) and cover.
- With the remainder of the dough, roll it into a smooth ball, tightening the top as much as possible. Place on a sheet of parchment, spray with pan spray or brush with some oil and cover. Let both loaves rise in a warm, moist place until almost doubled again, about 90 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400F a good 45 minutes before baking. Place a baking stone on a rack one down from the center of the oven.
- When ready to bake, gently but thoroughly brush the tops of the loaves with the egg-milk mixture and then evenly toss on some rolled oats.
- Slide the round on the parchment onto the baking stones and place the baking pan next to, it, leaving enough room so the round doesn't bake onto the pan.
- Bake for 10 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to 350F and continue baking until the loaves are a lovely deep golden brown and the internal temperature is between 195F and 200F. You may have to cover the loaves with foil to prevent overbrowning, so keep an eye on them.
- My round was finished in about 30 minutes while the loaf in the pan took around 40 minutes.
- Let cool on racks, turning the loaf in the pan out after about 5 minutes so it doesn't get soggy. Let cool to below 140F before slicing or ripping off a chunk and devouring. If you can wait that long.
Feel free to bake this bread as rolls if you'd like. You can also bake two or three larger rounds; it's completely up to you. Enjoy!
Want to make your own loaf? Here are my recommendations. You’re on your own for the beer!
Thank you for reading today; I appreciate it. Enjoy the bread, and have a wonderful day.