St. Brigid–(aka Bridget, Bridgid, and Bride), named after the ancient Druid Goddess of Fertility, was always giving food to anyone who was hungry. This recipe for Brigid’s Honey Oat Wheat Bread makes a dense and delicious loaf–especially good when sliced still warm from the oven. Made with milk (recalling Brigid’s many years as a dairy maid) and honey, (reminiscent of the promised land “flowing with milk and honey”), this bread is even better if you begin with steel cut oats which have been cooked in water for 15 to 20 minutes and cooled before adding the other ingredients. By the way Bridget’s feast on February 1st signaled the beginning of Spring in Ireland.
1 cup steel cut oats cooked in 1.5 cups water (bring to boil and then turn way down–watching to be sure the foam doesn’t cook over onto the stove top). OR
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 cups of milk scalded and cooled (to about 100 to 110 degrees); then added to the cooled oats.
1 Tablespoon (package) yeast (sprinkled right over the cooled milk is fine)
1/4 to 1/3 cup honey (poured right over the yeast, milk, oat mixture)
1 Tablespoon salt (sprinkled over the mix)
1/3 cup butter (melted and cooled) OR 1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 egg (stirred right into the mix)
3 cups of whole wheat flour (stirred, one cup at a time, into the mix; let rest 10 minutes so the whole grain can absorb the moisture; then proceed…)
3 to 4 cups of unbleached white flour (added one/half cup at a time into the mix until too thick to mix with a spoon or heavy rubber spatula).
Scrape the dough out onto a floured counter and knead, adding sprinkles of flour to prevent excessive stickiness, until a soft dough is formed.
Grease the bread bowl with a tablespoon of oil. Turn the ball of dough into the bowl and turn several times to coat the outside of the dough with a thin film of oil. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk–anywhere from 1 to 2 hours (depending on temperature and the liveliness of the yeast).
Punch dough down and divide into two loafs. Shape into balls and place in 8-inch cake pans or shape into rectangles and push the edges firmly into the corners of a bread pan. Cover with tea towel and let rise in a warm place until bread seems risen–it will not rise very high.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaves for 35 to 40 minutes, turning and reversing pans half-way through the baking. Test with meat thermometer registering 190 degrees or turn out of pan and knock on the bottom side listening for bread’s “hollow” sound. If the bread is not hot enough or sounds a dull thud, place back in the oven directly on the rack (out of the bread pan) and check again in five minutes.
Cool slightly on rack before slicing and smothering in Brigid’s Butter or cool completely before wrapping for storage or freezing.