I'd been itching to make an oatmeal bread, as it is one of my favorite favorites. My last fall in Blacksburg, VA, I'd go to the farmer's market every week and buy the Oatmeal Bread from the bread vendors there. I lived on that bread, with Brummel and Brown spread and blueberry jam, until it was gone 2 days later. Not the healthiest diet, but a nice tradition nonetheless.
You can use a preferment, or just a piece of "old dough" to make this bread, but it's not necessary. The best part about the recipe is that you make what is basically a massive bowl of oatmeal to start out with. Well, my bowl of oatmeal is massive when baking for the restaurant. Yours might not be so big.
I found the recipe on the blog Farmgirl Fare. I'll include the recipe here, but you'll want to check out the Farmgirl blog because there's detailed dough shaping instructions, and in the comment section there's lots of good extra info about this recipe. I'd like to try making it here at home in smaller batches, because at the restaurant I have problems with the tops of my loaves splitting during the final rise, and I've tried both round free loaves and log shaped loaves in loaf pans. The loaves still taste awesome though.
This recipe make three pound and a half loaves, plus 10 oz of dough to save for your next batch. You can freeze this extra dough until you need it. You don't have to remove the extra dough, and you don't have to use this same kind of dough as your preferment. Heck, you don't even have to use a preferment, but it makes it better if you do.
4 cups hot water or milk
2 1/2 cups (11 oz) rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 cup (2 oz) oat bran
1/2 cup (3 1/2 oz) packed golden brown sugar
1/2 cup (1/2 stick, 2 oz) butter
1 T instant yeast
6 to 7 cups bread flour (about 2 pounds)
1 T salt
10 oz "old dough"
Stir together the oats, oat bran, brown sugar, butter and hot water. Let sit together for about 30 minutes, letting the mixture cool and enzymes develop.
Combine the yeast with 2 cups of flour and stir into the oat mixture. Stir and add flour one cup at a time until its dough-like enough to be kneaded on a well floured surface or in your mixer with the dough hook. Knead by hand for about 8 minutes or knead by hook for about 5. Cover the dough and let it rest for 20 minutes.
Knead in the salt and the old dough until they are completely combined; about 5 minutes.
Put the dough in a large bowl that have been sprayed with oil and dusted with flour. Dust the dough with flour, too. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel.
Let rise for an hour and a half at 70 or 75 degrees. If the room temperature is much coolor or warmer, the rise time will be slower or faster. When the dough is ready, you should be about to poke your finger deep into it and the indentation won't spring back.
Once the dough has risen, remove the 10 oz for the next batch, if desired. Put it in a ziplock bag and plop it in the fridge or freezer.
Now it's time to shape your loaves. I usually make round loaves. Here is a great description of how to shape a round loaf, with pictures.
Farmgirl makes log loaves and bakes in a loaf pan, and her post has good instructions on that. Here also is a site with pictures.
Once your loaves are shaped, brush the tops with water and sprinkle with oats. Or, as I did, put some oats on a plate and dip the top of your loaf in them. Very pretty.
Let the bread rise an hour more. You'll want the bread to be close to it's final size because this loaf doesn't have very much "oven spring," or it doesn't rise very much once in the oven. Again, try the finger indentation test.
Bake the loaves for 35 minutes at 375, or until golden brown and hollow sounding when the bottom is tapped. Remove from the pans and cool on a rack so the bottoms don't get soggy while cooling. Wait at least 40 minutes before slicing.