A good oatmeal bread is one of my favorite bakeries. When I lived in San Francisco, I used to make my way to the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market most Saturday mornings. One of the things I would pick up is a loaf of oatmeal bread from Marla Bakery. I started baking my own oatmeal bread after moving to Southern California a few years ago and thought I’d share my favorite today. It’s a hearty, buttermilk-based, oat-speckled bread generously topped with melty cubes of cheddar cheese and punctuated with thin slices of jalapeño pepper. Where the cheese touches the pan, it’s set to golden-crunchy perfection. There’s an argument that a thick slab of this bread makes the best toast in the world.
Let’s talk through the ingredients in this oatmeal bread.
- Old-fashioned oats: Skip the instant oatmeal, you want a heavier flake here.
- dry yeast: I use this type of yeast for my no-sourdough bread recipes because it’s honestly the easiest yeast to find in most stores here in California.
- buttermilk: Mentioned below, buttermilk is my liquid for this bread if I have it on hand. I love the taste of buttermilk. That said, milk and water work beautifully too, just use what you have. Keep this in mind: If you heat buttermilk too much or too hot, it can crack and curdle. It’s not the end of the world and you can just continue the recipe once it’s cooled to the desired temperature, but heating gently can avoid this.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Your olive oil doesn’t have to be fancy, it just needs to taste good. Whatever you use for frying. However, for fun, you can experiment with using a lemon olive oil or basil or herb oil for an alternative flavor profile and added dimension.
- Darling: This oatmeal bread uses a sweet kiss to top off the cheesy spiciness of cheddar and pepper. My main advice here is that a great tasting liquid honey is the easiest to work with.
- Unbleached all-purpose flour: You have a ratio of 1 cup of oats to 3 cups of flour here. The amount of oats really delivers a wonderful element of whole grain heartiness and flavor. I would recommend trying the recipe as directed. At this point, if you’d like to add some whole wheat flour instead of the all-purpose flour, you absolutely should! I recommend swapping out 1/2 cup or 1 cup to start, make note of how you think it turns out, and adjust your next bread from there.
- Jalapeño peppers: I like actually tasting the peppers here and find the use of two chunky mediums to be near perfect. You can of course adjust to your comfort. Go ahead and leave the seeds and veins in the peppers.
How to make oatmeal bread
Prove the yeast. How to make sure your yeast is working. Otherwise your bread won’t rise. If you end up with an inactive yeast packet, no problem, just start the fermentation process over.
Make your bread dough. In this step, you will combine your risen yeast liquid with the remaining ingredients. I use a large mixing bowl from the beginning of the bread baking process to the end. One thing to keep in mind, this dough is a little difficult to read because of all the chunks. Keep kneading until the space between the cheese cubes is smooth and elastic. Also, pro tip – you can just wipe out your mixing bowl between steps and use it for the initial rise too.
Let the bread rise. This is the first climb and the key here is making sure your bread is cozy. If my oven was on, I put the bowl on it. Or look for a sunny spot. My father has a fermenting oven and it’s a dream. You can approach one by preheating your oven on low for a few minutes, turning it off, and then putting your dough in to rise.
Forming the loaf and the second rise. My number one piece of advice here is to keep being nice to your bread dough. Handle gently. Squeeze gently to deflate the surface of the dough. Shape the dough gently, no tearing or pulling. Remember that you don’t want the pancake to be flat before you shape it. I make a small burrito roll to shape this dough – roll it in lengthways and tuck the ends in a little. Place in pan, seam side down.
Sprinkle with oatmeal and bake. I like topping my sandwiches with some of what’s inside (when appropriate). In this case, the cheese cubes will melt and ooze, crisp and color. They break through the surface on the top of the loaf so I don’t feel compelled to add more. Green streaks of jalapeño are also visible, so we’re all good on that front. To top it with oatmeal, brush the top of your oatmeal bread with some well-beaten egg whites, then sprinkle generously with oatmeal before placing in the oven to bake.
How to save
Oatmeal bread doesn’t keep as long as sourdough, for example, but this cheddar version keeps for a good 4-5 days. If you bake a version without cheese, it will become a bit dry after the 2nd day. Toasting fixes this and extends the charge another day or so beyond that.
Storage: Once your oatmeal has completely cooled, store in an airtight container for up to 4-5 days. The cheddar jalapeño oatmeal stays incredibly moist, the less decadent versions a little less so.
Oatmeal Bread Variations
- Wholemeal bread with oatmeal: Increase the proportion of whole wheat flour. Due to the oat content in the dough, this is a relatively hearty bread. You can make it even heartier and healthier by swapping out some of the all-purpose flour for a whole-wheat flour — start with 1 cup. Or take baby steps and start with 1/2 cup.
- Saffron Honey Oatmeal Bread: You can take this bread in a whole different direction! Skip the cheese and jalapeño. Dilute a pinch of saffron with 2 teaspoons of almond extract, then stir this mixture into the 1 tablespoon of honey left over after proofing. Combine some sliced almonds with the rolled oats that were sprinkled on top of the loaf before baking.
- Vegan / Dairy Free Oatmeal Bread: Omit the cheese, use water instead of buttermilk or milk, and skip the egg wash before baking.
My favorite ways to enjoy this bread
- To keep it simple: toasted with a sprinkling of salted butter and sprinkled with nutritional yeast.
- Had a slice with this carrot soup and simple salad for a perfect lunch.
- Going the panini route, this bread loves toasting, use it in a Panini TLT.
- The cheddar and jalapeño combo makes this the perfect addition to a breakfast sandwich – top that with an egg!
If you are looking for more baking inspiration, you can find all the baking recipes here. I love this beautiful braided onion bread, and if you’re a bit intimidated by yeast breads, you can never go wrong with a good one-bowl baking recipe.
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