Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Cooking The Breakfast Book, Chapter 1: Oatmeal Orange Bread

When I walked solo into the Herbivoracious event at the stunning Cookhouse space a few months ago, I had no idea I would leave so inspired by Michael Natkin's cooking and his luscious cookbook, or that I would eat and laugh and walk out the door with a gang of interesting and accomplished women. As we parted, we talked of getting together soon, and our plan somehow became meeting for "Sausage Tuesday" at my neighborhood German joint, Schmidt's. As we later ran through the calendar attempting to find a mutually-agreeable date for everyone via email, Rachel of Ode to Goodness suggested we do a Cook the Book project together, and recommended a favorite, The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham.

Some of our Cook the Book gang after our first meeting

We all heartily agreed, and although I am a big fan of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook by Cunningham — and an even bigger fan of breakfast — I was not familiar with the The Breakfast Book. If you aren't either, read the Gourmet magazine review here or David Lebovitz's musings on the author here, and hopefully you will follow along as we cook our way through it and will come to appreciate the warmth and character of this delightful classic.

The book is filled with illustrations and charming asides that are a wonderful expression of Ms. Cunningham's personality and old-fashioned style. For example, she provides 14 rules for 'Breakfast Table Civility and Deportment'. I was relieved to see that according to her guidelines you don't have to get dressed and can read the newspaper at the table...

Now that the rules of the game are set, let's get to cooking!

Chapter 1: Yeast Breads

Out of a chapter of full of tempting recipes, I chose the Oatmeal Orange Bread and had no regrets. Like most yeast breads it does take a good amount of time, but the end result is a moist, flavorful bread that stayed fresh for a number of days.

This is a toothsome and versatile bread. It's not too sweet, with zesty flavor and the oatmeal gives it great texture. Both versions of this bread made incredible toast and sandwiches. This is a go-to for PBJs and the non-glazed version is also great with more savory toppings.

I opted for the Orange Marmalade glaze variation on one of the two loaves in order to compare. While it did supply a nice second layer of citrus, make sure to process the orange so it's finely chopped and less chunky. Cunningham's recipe specified coarsely chopped for a marmalade-like result, where I think something closer to a true glaze with tiny chunks would be nicer.

Oatmeal Orange Bread

Adapted from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham
Makes 2 loaves


For the bread:

1/2 cup warm water
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 packages active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups milk, warmed
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 cups cooked oatmeal (made from rolled oats)
6 cups all-purpose flour, approximately
1 orange, quartered, seeded and ground in a food processor (or coarsely chopped to make 1 cup)

For the Orange Marmalade glaze (optional):

1 orange, quartered, seeded and ground in a food processor (or finely chopped to make 1 cup)
1 cup of sugar

As you prepare your ingredients, cook enough rolled oats for 2 cups of cooked oatmeal.

When the oatmeal is close to done, mix 1 teaspoon of sugar into 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl. Add the contents of 2 packages of dry active yeast and let for 5-10 minutes, until frothy.

Warm the milk, and add it to the yeast mixture along with the butter, salt, remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, cooked oatmeal and 3 cups of flour. Stir vigorously until well mixed and add only enough flour by half cup until it forms a workable dough.

{Note: I ultimately needed upwards of 7 1/2 cups of flour, due in part to the fact I didn't let the oatmeal cook long enough because of bad recipe reading/timing. Cunningham's recipe called for only 5 cups of flour which I found to be fairly inaccurate. Next time I make this bread I will definitely weigh my flour to ensure proper flour measurements and adjust the amount accordingly.}

Add the chopped orange and knead with your hands for 1 minute, or for 15 seconds with a dough hook attachment in a food processor. After letting the dough rest for 10 minutes, begin kneading again and continue until it is elastic and smooth.

Grease a large bowl and place the dough inside covered by plastic wrap, until it has doubled in size. Sprinkle your work surface with flour and punch the dough down and divide it into equal halves. Place each half in a greased medium-sized loaf pan and allow to rise to the top of the pan.

Preheat oven to 375° and place pans on middle rack. Bake for 45 minutes or until beginning to brown on top. Place on racks to cool.

For the glazed Orange Marmalade version:
Quarter, seed and finely grind an orange in a food processor to make 1 cup. Mix with 1 cup of sugar in a small saucepan and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until all the sugar is dissolved and the glaze becomes shiny. Let it cool and then brush onto the top of the loaves 10 minutes before they are done cooking. If you are only glazing one loaf, reduce ingredients by half.

Oatmeal Orange Bread, both ways

Don't miss out on a still-warm buttered bite!

My fellow Cook the Book cohorts are five excellent food bloggers who I feel lucky to be in the company of: Rachel of Ode to Goodness, Natasha of Non-Reactive Pan, Emily of The Bon Appetit Diaries, Claudie of The Bohemian Kitchen and Sammy of Rêve du Jour. Click through to check out each of their Chapter 1 choices, and be ready for our next Breakfast Book foray in 2 weeks.


  1. Wow, Aimee, this looks great. Can't wait to make some myself.

    1. Thanks Natasha. I swear the cinnamon rolls have been dancing in my head from your post!

  2. Your bread turned out incredible! And I can't wait to meet you ladies in person... :)

    1. Ditto on your gorgeous crumpets and a resounding yes to the meeting in person!!

  3. Looks absolutely divine! Thanks for all the tips along the way too. That will make it so much easier to make! Thanks Aimee!

    1. Thank YOU Rachel :) Was a great kick-off to our project!

  4. Your breads look amazing! I'm really happy with the book we've chosen for our project because of the variety of interesting recipes such as this one and the successful results we get! Also, I see oranges tempted you too :-) I think their little addition gives a very fresh and unique kick to the breads, so I can't wait to try and taste this version too!

    1. I'm happy with our choice too Claudie! I just looked through all the different recipes the other day, and was impressed all over again at the variety. Two cheers for orange breads ;)

  5. Wow that bread looks absolutely DELICIOUS! I can't wait to try it once I'm off this crazy naturopathic diet. Mmmmmm.

    1. Thanks Allie - always good to have things to look forward to making in the kitchen, right? Let me know how it turns out when you make it!