Beautifully Hand-shaped Bread

I surprised myself making this one:

It's a delicious walnut-oatmeal-flax seed bread (formula at the end of this post). Hearty and healthy, perfect for sandwiches, or just nibbling. My expectations are exceeded by the wonderful flavor and moist crumb of this bread, and even more by the beautiful shape of the loaf--smooth, symmetrical, substantial in its height, and not over-handled. I consider this professional-quality, handmade bread--good enough to sell (though I have no desire to do so).

In making this bread, I had a marvelous feeling of making a great leap forward in bread-baking learning and skill. (I thought this feeling was something I had left behind in childhood--how fun to have it still with me.)

Apparently, husband and I are reaping the benefits of the focus topics at our monthly "Taste-and-Tell" events with the Chicago Amateur Bread Bakers. March's focus was scoring; April's was basic bread shaping. Husband's scoring has improved by leaps and bounds since the March event (see, for example, his beautifully scored bread), while my shaping is knocking our socks off.

Hmm, now if only we could settle on a focus for the May "Taste-and-Tell" . . . any suggestions?

*     *     *     *     *

And now for the formula for the walnut-oatmeal-flax seed bread. I began with the formula on p.234 of Jeffrey Hamelman's Bread, then made a bunch of changes and additions:

          100   %     bread flour
            16.5%     rolled oats
            80   %     water
            11   %     milk
              7.5%     honey
              7.5%     walnut oil
              2.2%     salt
              0.6%     instant yeast
              5   %     flax seeds
            15   %     walnuts, toasted & chopped

I soaked the oats in the water and milk for 30 minutes. Then I mixed together all of the ingredients--except the flax seeds and walnuts--and kneaded for a few minutes. Then added in the seeds and nuts.

I baked the loaf in a Dutch oven. At 460°F (238°C) for the first 20 minutes, with the lid of the Dutch oven on; then at 430°F (221°C) for another 20 minutes, with the lid off.

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