A knock at the door broke the tension. It was a small serving maid, with a tray of supper. She bobbed shyly to me, smiled at Jamie, and laid both supper — cold meat, hot broth and warm oatbread with butter — and the fire with a quick and practiced hand, then left us with a murmured “Good e’en to ye.”
We ate slowly, talking carefully only of neutral things; I told him how I had made my way from Craigh na Dun to Inverness, and made him laugh with stories of Mr. Graham and Master Georgie. He in turn told me about Mr. Willoughby; how he had found the little Chinese, half-starved and dead drunk, lying behind a row of casks on the docks at Burntisland, one of the shipping ports near Edinburgh.
We said nothing much of ourselves, but as we ate, I became increasingly conscious of his body, watching his fine, long hands as he poured wine and cut meat, seeing the twist of his powerful torso under his shirt, and the graceful line of neck and shoulder as he stooped to retrieve a fallen napkin. Once or twice, I thought I saw his gaze linger on me in the same way — a sort of hesitant avidity — but he quickly glanced away each time, hooding his eyes so that I could not tell what he saw or felt.
Diana Gabaldon, Voyager, (Chapter 25)
Whoa — Voyager kills me — every time. From the time Claire dons her Jessica Guttenberg, to her first steps through the door at A. Malcolm: Printer and Bookseller, to this first night at Madame Jeanne’s (and, to tell you the truth, long after that), I am unavailable to the real world. It is my favourite reunion show ever.
DG’s rich, descriptive vision has the image of Jamie’s fine, long hands burned forever in my mind’s eye — I could describe those paws down to the last knuckle hair — but I’d much rather he used them to spread me another slice with butter.
This oatbread from Madame Jeanne’s is a white loaf made tender with buttermilk and sweet with honey.
As I’ve assumed before, Jeanne was a Madame of exquisite taste. She would have imported the finest milled flour for her kitchen along with other necessities from Paris. The oats are in there to keep her Edinburgian customers happy, but they also lend the loaf a delicious softness that is almost irresistible fresh out of the oven.
And, if it lasts, it makes for fantastic morning toast the next day.
(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)
A slightly sweet, soft loaf made with white flour and oats.
Yield: 2 Loaves
- Buttermilk – 2½ Cups (600 g)
- Rolled Oats – 2 Cups (180 g)
- Honey – ¼ Cup (85 g)
- A.P. Flour – 5 Cups (625 g)
- Butter, small pieces - 2 Tble (30 g)
- Salt – 2 tsp
- Instant Yeast – 2 tsp
- Butter – 2 Tble
- Honey – 1 Tble
- Oats – for garnish
Warm the buttermilk in the microwave or a pan on the stove until luke warm. Stir in the oats and honey, then set aside while you gather the rest of the ingredients.
Combine the flour, salt, yeast and butter in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Add in the oats and buttermilk mixture, and mix on low until a rough ball forms. Switch to the bread hook and knead the dough on med. for 6 minutes. You should have a soft, dense dough that is slightly tacky, but not sticky.
Form into a bowl, cover with clean towel or plastic wrap, and set aside in a draught-free place until doubled in size, about 1½ to 2 hours.
Grease (2) 8” x 4” loaf pans with butter. If you have it, line the pans with parchment so that the honey-glaze doesn’t stick to the pans.
Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces. On a lightly floured counter, press each piece into a rectangle about 5” x 8.” Starting on the shorter end, roll up the dough one section at a time, using your thumbs to pinch the seam closed after each roll. Pinch the final seam closed, then gently rock the loaf to even it out — do not taper the ends.
Transfer the dough to the prepared pans. Ensure the loaf touches both ends of the pan to ensure an even rise. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a clean dishtowel and set aside to rise a second time, until the dough is doubled in size and cresting the top of the pans, about 1-1½ hours.
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Melt the remaining butter, stir in the honey and brush the tops of both loaves gently, then sprinkle a few oats on top. Put the loaves into the oven, then lower the heat to 350° F. Bake 45-50 minutes, turning and rotating the pans halfway through.
Remove the loaves from the pans immediately and cool on a rack for at least 60 minutes before slicing.
Ith gu leòir! (Eat Plenty)
- No buttermilk? Stir 2 tble fresh lemon juice into 2¼ cups + 2 tble milk. Let it sit 5 minutes. Voilà! You now have clabbered milk, a good substitute for buttermilk in baking.
- Substitute 2½ tsp active dry yeast in place of instant.
- This dough is easily made by hand. Knead for about 10 minutes on a lightly floured counter.
- If you keep your house on the cold side, try rising your bread on top of a toaster oven set on low, or next to the woodstove, if you have one.
- Once the dough is split, shaped and in the pan, wrap the loaves you want to save for later tightly with plastic wrap. These loaves will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 weeks. Remove them from the fridge about 4 hours before baking to give the dough time to rise. Defrost frozen loaves on the counter overnight, then unwrap and bake the risen dough off in the morning.