Herb-oatmeal bread (clay-pot)

Yield: 2 Loaves

Measure Ingredient
2 packs Active dry yeast
3 tablespoons Honey
1½ tablespoon Salt
2 cups Water
¾ cup Oatmeal; not instant
2 tablespoons Sour cream
¾ cup Whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon Celery seeds
1 teaspoon Poppy seeds
1 tablespoon Sesame seeds
1 tablespoon Fresh sage; chopped
1 tablespoon Fresh basil; chopped
½ teaspoon Dill; dried
1 \N Egg; beaten
2 tablespoons Butter; melted
½ cup Pine nuts
4 cups All-purpose flour

Combine the yeast, honey and salt with 1 cup lukewarm (not hot) water and set aside. (Remember: if the water is too hot it will kill the growing yeast.)

Heat 1 cup water to boiling, and add the oatmeal and sour cream.

Simmer, covered, for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat and cool to lukewarm. Combine the whole-wheat flour, seeds, and herbs in a large mixing bowl. Add the oatmeal and yeast mixtures and beat until well blended. Add beaten egg and melted butter and beat several times again. Add the pine nuts, then add 3 cups of the all-purpose flour, one cup at a time, beating between each addition until a fairly stiff dough is developed.

Spread the remaining all-purpose flour on a board and knead the dough into it thoroughly, about a dozen times, then put the dough in a large, well-greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Set to rise in a warm place until double its original bulk (about 1 hour).

Just before the end of the rising time, presoak 2 clay pots, top and bottom, in hot water for 15 minutes. (We use 2 pots in order to bake each loaf separately.)

Place the risen dough on a floured board, divide, and shape into 2 loaves. Before putting the loaves in the presoaked pots, put a small piece of aluminum foil, just large enough to cover the bottom of the loaf, on the bottom of each pot. (This keeps the bread from sticking to the pot.) Place the dough inside the pots, cover, and allow to rise until almost doubled in bulk (about 45 minutes). (I wrapped the pot in a wet towel to keep it from drying out too soon.) Cover the pots and put them in a cold oven.

Set the oven temperature at 480 degrees. Bake for 40 minutes. If necessary, remove lid for the last 5 minutes of baking to get a golden brown crust.

Source: "The Clay-Pot Cookbook" by Georgia MacLeod Sales and Grover Sales

NOTE: This is the best bread I've made in a long time. High loaf, light, and with a very crisp crust and moist inside. Pine nuts don't add much to it and could be left out. Had a problem with it sticking to the pot (my clay pot has a semi-glazed bottom which I greased very lightly with shortening, and it still stuck in spots).

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