Oatmeal Bread

More pandemic bread making.  I am using one of the last envelopes of yeast my neighbor was kind enough to share with me.  Yeast and flour are extremely hard to come by right now.  I’ve never before had trouble finding yeast on the grocery store shelves.  Apparently toilet paper isn’t the only thing people are hoarding. A friend messaged me a couple days ago after finding a jar of yeast in her freezer which had a 2013 expiration date on it.  She wanted to know if I thought it was still good.  I sent her a link with instructions for testing the yeast to see if it would still work.  Testing is really very simple.  You put a little yeast in warm water with a pinch of sugar and it should start bubbling after a few minutes.  If it bubbles, you’re good to go.  Amazingly her yeast was still good.  Freezing or refrigerating dry yeast lengthens its shelf life as long as it is in an airtight container.  Cake yeast should not be frozen.  But truthfully, I haven’t seen cake yeast in years!!

Back to my oatmeal bread.  This recipe is one that I found years ago in the food section of a local newspaper.  It’s a hearty, dense bread.  Easy to make. The brown sugar and whole wheat flour give it a bit of a sweet molasses like flavor.  We toasted some this morning and enjoyed it with a cup of coffee.


1 cup old fashioned oats

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 T salt

2 T butter

2 cups boiling water

2 1/4 tsp dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water

4 cups AP flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

Combine the first five ingredients in a large bowl, pouring the boiling water over the butter and dry ingredients.  Stir and set aside until it cools to lukewarm.

Dissolve the yeast in the 1/2 cup of lukewarm water.  Once the oatmeal mixture has cooled, add the yeast.  If it is too hot it will kill the yeast so make sure you’ve allowed it to cool sufficiently.  Start stirring in the 4 cups of AP flour and the 1/2 cup of wheat flour.  You’ll have a shaggy dough.

Empty the dough onto a clean work surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes.  Add a little additional flour if necessary.  After kneading you should have a smooth, slightly sticky dough.

Place the dough in a bowl that has been lightly greased with butter.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel.  This bowl belonged to my grandmother who regularly made pulla (a Finnish braided bread with cardamom) and limpu (a Finnish rye bread).  Over the years I watched lots of bread dough rise in that bowl making it extra special to me.

Put the bowl in a warm place and allow the dough to rise until it is double in size.  Many new ovens have a proof setting that you can use to speed the rise process a bit.

Punch the dough down and divide into two loaves.  You can shape them into standard loaves and put them in greased pans or shape them in rounds on a parchment covered sheet pan.  Whatever your shape preference.  Cover with a towel and allow the dough to once again double.  While your dough is rising preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown.  Remove from the pans and allow the loaves to cool on a wire rack.  Slice and enjoy. There’s nothing like homemade bread.  The ultimate comfort food.

NOTE:  This dough can be made using the dough hook on your KitchenAid.  But I think hand kneading is much more satisfying.  As my daughter says, sometimes you just have the need to knead.  If you keep making bread during this pandemic, it becomes important and necessary to share it with someone.


During this Coronavirus pandemic many of us have been busy cooking and baking. The stores, at least temporarily, are out of yeast and flour. Fortunately we had a small stockpile. Last week my friend Jane and I were on voluntary quarantine with my daughter in Chicago. We decided baking bread was a good project to pass the time. Our first loaf of bread was an herb loaf that we apparently allowed to rise too long. It fell during baking and, while it tasted okay hot out of the oven, it was too dense and it later became croutons. A second batch of dough didn’t want to rise at all. We tried deep frying dough balls to simulate donut holes on the theory that anything tastes good deep fried. Wrong. Everything does not taste good deep fried. Our “donut holes” were overcooked on the outside and raw in the center. Even liberal dosing with cinnamon sugar didn’t help. Then we decided to make a Babka. Babka is a traditional Polish Jewish bread. In Polish Babka means old lady or grandmother. If I was a grandmother I wouldn’t mind being called Babka. Soft and sweet and smelling of cinnamon and vanilla. Babka is thought to have originated in the early 1800s when extra challah dough would be spread with cinnamon or jelly and rolled up before baking. The recipe we used is a King Arthur Cinnamon Babka recipe with golden raisins and pecans. Last week we made an initial babka run. I failed at reading the instructions correctly and we cut the dough wrong. It still tasted great! Once I got back home I made another loaf of babka. This time I knew how to properly cut the dough.

Dough Ingredients:

3 cups (361g) AP flour

2 tsp instant yeast

1/4 tsp cinnamo

1/4 cup sugar

1 1/4 tsp salt

1 large egg

5 T unsalted butter at room temperature

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Combine all of your dough ingredients in a large mixing bowl, starting with the lesser amount of water. With a wooden spoon mix all of the ingredients together until everything is moistened. If necessary add more of the water until the dough comes together. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and allow it to rest for 20 minutes. Remove the dough to a clean, lightly floured work surface and knead until soft and smooth. Place the dough into a lightly buttered bowl, cover, and allow the dough to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until the dough is quite puffy.

While your dough is rising make your filling.

Filling Ingredients:

1/2 cup brown sugar

4 tsp cinnamon

1 T AP flour

1/4 cup melted butter

1/2 cup diced pecans

1/2 cup golden raisins

Just before you’re ready to shape the dough combine the sugar, flour and cinnamon and stir in the water and melted butter. Set aside.

Once the dough has risen place it on a clean, lightly floured surface and shape into a 9” by 18” rectangle that should be about 1/4 inch thick. If the dough is fighting you let it rest about 10 minutes, then stretch some more. I used my hands to shape the dough.

Smear the dough with the filling coming to within an inch of the edges. Sprinkle with the nuts and raisins.

Starting with the short end roll the dough gently into a log sealing the seam and ends.

Using a pair of scissors or a sharp knife, cut the log in half lengthwise, not crosswise.  You should have two pieces of dough, each about 10” long.  Take care to prevent too much filling from spilling out.  With the filling side up, twist the two pieces into a braid, tucking the ends underneath.  Place the twisted loaf into a lightly greased 9×5 loaf pan.

Whisk an egg with a pinch of salt and brush the top of the loaf with the egg wash.  Cover the loaf and let it rise until very puffy and crowned a good inch over the rim of the pan, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.  Toward the end of the rise time preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Now the bread is ready for the oven.  Bake the bread for 40-50 minutes, tenting with aluminum foil during the final 15 to 20 minutes of baking.  The loaf should be a deep golden brown and the internal temperature should be about 195.

Remove the babka from the oven and immediately loosen the edges with a spatula or kitchen knife.  Allow to cool for about 10 minutes and then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

Slice and enjoy.

NOTE:  King Arthur suggests a topping (also known as supreming) consisting of:

2 T AP flour

1 T brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 tsp cinnamon

pinch of salt

1 T cold butter

Mix the topping ingredients until crumbly and sprinkle over the loaf before rising.  

I used the topping on one loaf but not on the other.  We also omitted the raisins in the first loaf.  As with so many recipes, it’s all a matter of personal preference.  

It seems like it would make excellent French toast but I haven’t tried that.  It is excellent briefly warmed in the microwave or oven.



Meatballs are a classic comfort food and they are so versatile.  You’ll find countless recipes in cookbooks and online.  Spaghetti and meatballs, Swedish meatballs, meatball subs, teeny tiny meatballs in Italian wedding soup.  They can be adapted to different ethnic cuisines by altering the meat you use, the seasonings and the sauces.   Jewish meatballs made with ground lamb, veal or chicken.  Middle Eastern are made with bulgur (cracked wheat) and ground lamb, beef, goat or camel. Traditional German meatballs are made with beef liver or pork.  In Austria spleen is mixed in with the liver.  And, of course, Finnish meatballs, which are made with ground beef, fried in butter, and finished in a milk gravy.  I just made a very large batch of meatballs to take to a funeral dinner.  The ingredients below are for a small batch…about 15-20 medium size meatballs.  I multiplied the recipe by eight.  Use the ground meat of your choosing.  I used half ground round and half bulk Italian sausage.


1 pound ground meat

1 egg

1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

1/2 cup milk or half n half

1 cup bread crumbs

2 tsp garlic salt

1 T Worcestershire

2 T fresh flat leaf parsley chopped

1/2 c finely diced onio

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp dried basil

I save ends of bread and grind them up in my food processor for bread crumbs.  I added my parsley near the end of the grind.

Once your bread is in the bowl stir in your milk or half n half and add the eggs.

Add the ground meat, onions, Worcestershire, garlic and herbs.

Add the fresh grated cheese.

Now comes the fun part.  Take off your rings, roll up your sleeves and dig in with both hands.  Mix all of the ingredients together well.  Once everything is incorporated you’re ready to start making balls.

I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper (easier clean up) and used a scoop to make my meatballs a consistent size.

I baked these at 375 for approximately 20 minutes.  Baking time will vary based on the size and number of meatballs.  Internal temperature should ideally be 160 degrees.  Meatballs can also be fried on top of the stove in butter or olive oil.  I almost always bake my meatballs unless I’m making a small batch in which case I may do them over medium high heat in a cast iron skillet.

Once the meatballs are done it is time to sauce them.  You can add them to your pasta sauce, pizza sauce, or gravy depending on what you’re serving.  I used what I call a sweet and sour and it’s been a standby for years.  One bottle of Brooks Tangy catsup and one can of Ocean Spray Whole Cranberry Sauce.  Stir the two together and ladle over the meatballs.

Because I made 8X the recipe, I layered the meatballs and sauce in the roaster.  By doing that you ensure that the sauce reaches all of the meatballs for best results.

Once they’ve been sauced I put them in the oven at 325 degrees for about an hour to meld the flavors.  And that’s that.  Enjoy!

NOTE:  If you’re making meatballs they freeze well.  You’re already making a mess and getting your hands dirty so you might as well double or triple the recipe.  Allow them to cool completely, put them in freezer bags and they’ll be ready for a quick dinner or appetizer.  One of my Dad’s favorite foods was meatloaf.  I used to make up enough for several miniature loaf pans and freeze them for easy dinners.

Change up the ground meat…chicken, turkey, pork, lamb, beef or a combination.  Change up the spices depending on the dish you’re serving and the flavor profile you’re looking for.