Bread Co-op: Oatmeal
How many of you are members of a cooperative, or co-op? I became a member of a large, well-establish co-op (the one associated with Weavers Way Farm) here in the city awhile back, and I’ve seen a few co-op apartments advertised around the neighborhood. But generally speaking, I always saw co-ops as these big entities that somehow solidified when no one was looking. Of course, I know that some energized and creative folks worked hard to start them at one point, but I’d never seen it happen.
Thanks to some creative minds at Weavers Way Farm, the development of a co-op has been demystified for me. Farmer Dave and the great interns working with him this year, Nina and Nicole, decided to start a bread co-op. Knowing how much I love to be in the kitchen, they invited me to “join”. Now, I’m guessing you might have had some of the same questions I did. What is a bread co-op? How does it work? Is there a membership fee? How do I benefit? What kind of bread do I need to make?
It’s so simple and so brilliant, it makes me grin from ear to ear when I think about it. This particular co-op has only one goal: get everyone a loaf of delicious homemade bread once a week. Since there are now four households/individuals in our little co-op, this means each “member” has to bake bread – four loaves to be exact – once a month. It can be any kind of bread: flat breads, sourdoughs, yeast or soda bread, quick breads, even cinnamon rolls (I asked, and no one objected). The bread gets distributed at the Headhouse Market where we all end up nearly every Sunday anyway. So now, along with all the amazing fresh produce I’m buying at market, I’m also coming home with a loaf of homemade bread. Fantastic, yes?!
The benefits of this little arrangement are probably obvious, but I’ll spell out a few anyway. First, having homemade bread every week is just wonderful for eating purposes. It also means that we’re eating more “local” and without preservatives. It’s also an interesting way to think about saving money as the prices of wheat products continue to rise. I personally plan on buying flour in bulk now and this co-op will make bread much less expensive for me. And, above all, the co-op is a great way to gather together a little community and to inspire creative cooking.
Now, here’s where you get to benefit too. I’m going to post the recipe for my contribution to the co-op each month, along with a list of the loaves I received from the others. First up is a moist and slightly sweet loaf of oatmeal Bread. I hope it inspires you to think about creating a homegrown co-op centered around homegrown/made food.
Adapted from The Big Book of Bread
2 C. whole wheat bread flour
1 C. white bread flour
1 ½ C. old-fashioned oats
2/3 C. oat bran
1 sachet fast-action dried yeast
2 t. salt
1 T. honey
2/3 C. warm milk
1 C. warm water
Grease a baking sheet and set aside. Using your hands or a food processor, rub the old-fashioned oats until they are much finer. Mix together with the flour, oat bran, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add the milk, honey and half the water to the well. Mix to begin forming a dough. Add more water as needed to created a soft pliable dough.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead for five minutes or until smooth and elastic. Using your hands, shape the dough into a tight round loaf and place on the baking sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 450 F. Lightly brush top of risen loaf with water and sprinkle with a few oats. Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 400 F. Bake for another 15 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow with tapped on the bottom.
Cool and serve in slices with a drizzle of honey.
(makes one loaf)