This a bread for when you have time to enjoy baking. It’s a traditional yeasted dough that’s best left to rise twice. For the loveliest texture choose good-quality, old-fashioned oats rather than quick cooking. Toasting the nuts lends a rich, warm flavor. You could use half and half bread flour and whole-wheat pastry flour if you’d like, but the bread will be slightly denser in texture.
MAKES 1 BRAIDED LOAF OR 1 DOZEN ROLLS
1 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup warm water (110°F)
1/4 cup honey
1 envelope dry active yeast
2 cups buttermilk
3 1/2 cups bread flour plus more for work surface
2 cups old-fashioned oats, plus more for topping loaf
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk
Lightly toast walnuts in a dry skillet over medium heat. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, combine the water, honey and yeast and let stand for 10 minutes, until bubbles form.
While yeast proofs, warm the buttermilk in a small saucepan over medium heat. It should be just warmed, not hot. Stir the buttermilk into the yeast mixture, followed by 2 cups bread flour, oats, whole-wheat flour, oil and salt. Stir in the remaining flour ,creating a shaggy dough. (You may not need to use all the flour.) Cover the dough and let it rest for 15 minutes.
On a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding additional flour as necessary. The dough should be smooth, but still soft and a little tacky. Knead in the walnuts. Form the dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover and let the dough rise until doubled in size, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Punch down the dough. Turn onto a lightly floured work surface and knead a few times before dividing into 3 equal pieces. Roll each into a rope about 16 inches long. Braid the dough loosely and tuck the ends under. Place on a prepared sheet pan and cover. Let rise until almost doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment.
Whisk together the egg and milk. Brush the loaf with the egg wash and sprinkle with oats. Bake the loaf for about 50 minutes, until it is golden brown and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack and wrap loaf before storing at room temperature.
It’s delicious on its own or toasted with preserves.