After the past few weeks I’m not sure I want to move ever again. Over the course of the last year as our new house has been under construction we’ve been steadily reducing anything superfluous around the house. My wife and I really don’t have much “fluff” to start with (we try to only buy what we absolutely need), and yet, this move (only across town mind you) has been a sprint from start to finish. We had only a few weeks to fix all the small issues found by the inspector, prepare all the paperwork required, pack up our belongings and finally do a last cleaning. Toss in a graduation trip one of the weekends plus visiting family and that leaves only a smidgen of time to get all this done.
The truck was finally packed to the brim; furniture on top of furniture, kitchen stuff on top of bedroom stuff, clothes on top of everything else, but one sure thing was my starter acted as a co-pilot up front in the moving truck where I could keep a close eye on it.
Somehow we pulled it off and are now in a temporary abode until our home is finished hopefully only a few more weeks. Baking for the rest of the month is going to be tough, but it’s going to make moving into a home with a double oven that much better. I cannot wait to be able to at least double my bread experiments.
Now that the moving gripes are out of the way, let’s get started with this entry. I’ve been working on it for quite a while now through several attempts, failures, and successes. Let’s talk about oats.
My wife typically gives me dirty looks when she catches me finishing off the household’s supply of rolled oats before she can even get a few days of breakfasts in (since writing this I’ve started to stock these oats bulk, 4 package containers so we always have supply). I eat them just about every morning for breakfast with cut fresh fruit, pecans/walnuts/almonds, honey and either currants or raisins. It’s one of the only things I can eat in the morning that keeps me completely full until lunch. Given my high activity level (running, gym, dog walking, hiking, etc.) I almost always wake up ravenous and oats simply do the trick.
A while back when I was flipping through Tartine No. 3 I stumbled on their oat porridge recipe and immediately read it with unwavering attention. So let me get this straight, oat porridge, my favorite breakfast concoction, cooked into a loaf of my already favorite sourdough recipe? I tell you I was ready to grab the package of oats from the cabinet and get baking straight away.
Despite my fervor for cooking this loaf I’ve been hesitant to share my progress on until I finally tinkered and tested enough to discover some insight, with a bit of luck here and there, and a process that will deliver worthy results. Now that I’m happy with the outcome, and I’ve consistently made some really exceptional tasting loaves, it’s time for me to share my findings with you.
Your first attempt at this bread might be more challenging than previous the recipes I’ve written in the past. I have never made a porridge bread prior to this and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but really, what could be so hard about folding in some cooked oats? I’ve added all kinds of ingredients (walnuts, olives, sesame seeds, stout beer, etc.) and had smashing results so this shouldn’t be any different… Well it turns out those cooked oats come with a lot of surprises. First and foremost, cooked oats really do hold on to a lot of water so you have to take that into account when hydrating your dough. Additionally, the simple act of cooking oats pushes them into releasing much of their starches which in turn makes them very, very sticky (ever noticed if you leave your morning oatmeal in the bowl the oats stick to the bowl like glue?). Not only these two things, but since they are sticky and hold together tightly after they are cooked, they can be quite difficult to properly mix through your fermenting dough without totally destroying the gluten network built up during bulk fermentation. Don’t worry though, we’ll work through each of these issues in turn.
Aside from all the doom and gloom, this is one incredibly moist, tender, light and tasty loaf. Once you get the hang of dealing with the porridge and the effect it has on your dough, you’ll be hooked on the results. This is one of those breads where people will line up outside your door in the rain waiting for a loaf it’s superb.
I’ve received a few comments and emails asking for me to show you a few of my “failed attempts” and the process from beginning to end, not just the final results. For this oat porridge bread I chronicled each attempt, the results, and any notes and lessons learned. The method and ingredients directly below represent my best attempt thus far and the entries afterward show those that didn’t quite hit the mark. If you’re interested, read on as they might provide some added insight for those struggling with this tricky recipe.
Let us begin.
Prepare the young levain – 6:30am
The levain used for this bread is the same young levain I described in my last post. Start this in the morning when you wake and it’ll be ready in around 5-6 hours.
|35g||King Arthur whole wheat flour|
|35g||Sangre De Cristo White Bread Flour|
|70g||H2O @ 85ºF|
I try to keep the levain somewhere warm in the kitchen, at around 78º F. One handy little trick rick I’ll use if my house is still a tad on the cool side, especially in the early morning, is to put the levain in the oven and turn the interior light on until it warms up slightly (not the actual oven!). This provides a fairly sealed environment where the levain can do its thing for about 5 hours.
When your levain build is ready for use after its ~5 hour rest, first cook your oat porridge.
Oat porridge – 11:30am:
I cooked the following in a covered saucepan over the lower end of medium-low heat for about 16 minutes. You want the porridge to be creamy and ever so slightly on the liquid side. Don’t cook for too long or at too high a high a heat or the porridge will dry out and become very stiff. I’ve found that cooking this porridge requires a bit of trial and error, each person has a different idea of what “porridge” means and typically for me it’s more on the dry side. When I made the porridge for this bread at a lower heat and only for 16 minutes, it was creamy with a whitish color that was easy to later fold and incorporate into the dough.
After this cook time I scooped out the porridge onto a baking sheet and covered with aluminum foil to cool but not dry out.
|250g||Bob’s Red Mill Regular Rolled Oats|
|A Pinch||Fine Sea Salt|
You’ll want to cook this far enough in advance to ensure it cools sufficiently before mixing into your dough right before the first set of stretch and folds during bulk fermentation. You really don’t want to mix warm/hot oats into your dough, fermentation will pick up at a rapid pace I have nightmares about dough like this. I cook the porridge right before I start the 1 hour autolyse to give it much needed cooling time.
Now that the porridge is cooked and cooling, let’s start our 1 hour autolyse.
Autolyse & Mix – 11:30am
For this bread I’ve found that you need at least a 1 hour autolyse to increase the extensibility of the dough. Increasing the time here will help make the dough stretch further without tearing, leading to an easier incorporation of the cooked oat porridge. Previous iterations on this recipe I tried 30 & 40 minute autolyse times, producing a less extensible dough that spelled trouble when folding in the porridge later.
Gather the following for your dough mix:
|700g||Sangre de Cristo white flour (a locally milled flour, this is high protein, close to bread flour)||70%|
|300g||King Arthur high extraction whole wheat flour||30%|
|750g||H2O @ 84ºF||75%|
Perform the following:
- In a thick bowl add in your 150g levain
- Add 700g of your total water at 84º F to your mixing bowl and mix with your hand until the levain is completely dissolved
- Add in your white and whole wheat flours
- Mix by hand until all the dry ingredients are incorporated
- Cover with wrap and keep covered in a warmish place in your kitchen at around 77-79ºF for 1 hour
After your 1 hour autolyse, add to your mass:
- 25g sea salt
- 25g of the remaining warm H2O (save 25g to help when mixing the oat porridge in later)
Cut the salt through your dough with your hand and mix everything until it comes back together and becomes sticky.
At this point, as I was mixing in the 25g salt and 25g water, I started to feel a little anxious… I really wanted to add more water, things just felt strangely stiff. You must fight the urge to add more water here, trust me. Once you add in your cooked oat porridge later in the process the oats will release quite a bit of water into your dough, dramatically increasing hydration. Early attempts at this bread had me sweating as I was trying to shape hydrations that were surely in excess of 100%.
|Final dough temperature:||79ºF|
Bulk Fermentation – 12:30pm
Transfer your dough to a clear container to be used during bulk fermentation and let rest for the first 30 minutes.
After the first 30 minutes and right before your first set of turns, add in the oat porridge a little bit at a time folding well after each addition. Use splashes of your remaining 25g of water a little at a time as your folding the porridge into your dough. You’ll have to make the judgement call here whether you’ll need the entire 25g based on how your dough feels. I ended up using it all, but it has been quite dry lately here in New Mexico.
Now that the porridge is pretty well incorporated, perform the first turn set and each subsequent in 30 minute intervals. When performing each set pinch any large clumps of oats with your fingers to break them up, we want a fairly uniform distribution of porridge throughout the dough and very, very few pockets of porridge hiding in your final loaves.
- 12:30pm – Turn Set 1
- 1:00pm – Turn Set 2
- 1:30pm – Turn Set 3
- 2:00pm – Turn Set 4
- 2:30pm – Turn Set 5
- 3:00pm – Turn Set 6
- 3:30pm – 6:00pm – Rest on counter untouched
The dough was so hydrated I felt like I could have kept stretching and folding until the sun went down. You’ll need to judge your dough to determine when it has reached sufficient strength to stop the stretch and folds. Six sets did the trick for me this time around.
Pre-shape – 6:10pm
Take the dough out of the container onto your work surface and sprinkle some flour on top before dividing. Divide into two halves and lightly scoot the dough in little circles across your work surface with your bench knife in one hand and your other empty hand. Let this pre-shape rest, covered with a damp towel or inverted bowls, for 20 minutes.
You want to do the pre-shape rather tight, a little tighter than you’d normally do for my standard country sourdough. The tight pre-shape will help strengthen the dough just a little bit more before your final shaping.
Lightly dust your proofing bowls/baskets with white or brown rice flour in preparation for the next step.
Shape + Proof – 6:30pm
Take a clean kitchen towel and lay it on the counter. Spread flat some of the uncooked rolled oats onto the towel in a circle about the size of your desired finished boules. After shaping you’ll quickly plop the shaped boule on top of these oats to coat the surface before placing into your proofing baskets, creating a nice dotted surface with a touch of crunch after baking.
For this wet porridge dough I find shaping into tight boules produces a much better result than using Tartine’s “structural shaping” technique for a batard shape. Shaping here is your typical procedure, folding the dough up like a package and then twisting on the work surface to create tension. For a detailed explanation see this post’s section on shaping.
After each boule is shaped tight and resting on the counter, scrape up the first boule and gently invert and drop onto the resting rolled oats. Pick up the boule with both hands and gently lower into the proofing basket, seam side up. Spread out some more rolled oats for the next boule and repeat.
I found that this bread requires a little more proof time to get that fermentation really active. After doing the final shape, I left these loaves out on the kitchen counter (ambient temp was around 74º F) for an hour.
Score + Bake – 9:30am
In the morning, place your baking stone and Dutch oven in your oven at the bottom 1/3 rack position and turn it on to 500ºF for a 1 hour pre-heat. I usually leave the shallow side facing up on the left, and the deeper side on the right facing down. This way when it’s time to load the bread I can quickly grab the shallow side, slide in the dough, and then place back on the stone and place the deep side on top to cover.
After one hour, take one of your baskets out of the fridge and cut a piece of parchment paper to place on top. Take your peel and then put it on top of those two and quickly invert it so the dough is now resting on the parchment paper and the peel.
For these oat porridge loaves I have taken quite a liking to Tartine’s “zipper” like scoring. Grab your kitchen shears and do 3-4 snips across the top of the dough so that the shears are almost completely parallel to the surface. This score opens up so beautifully and creates a very rustic feel to these loaves, which contrasts elegantly with the dotted rolled oat surface.
Take out the shallow side of your Dutch oven and drag in your boule. Quickly place the pan back in the oven, cover with the deep side, and bake for 20 minutes at 500ºF. After 20 minutes, turn down the oven to 450ºF and cook covered for an additional 10 minutes. Once this 10 minute period is over, open the oven and take off the deep lid of the Dutch oven (set it next to the other half inside the oven, which will help regulate oven temperature for the rest of the bake), then cook for an additional 30 minutes or so, until the bread is to your desired doneness.
This oat porridge sourdough requires a little longer cook time to get that nice dark outer crust. Additionally, the interior, extremely hydrated by the porridge, takes several additional minutes to wholly cook through. For this dough you’ll want to experiment with cook times and temperatures, potentially decreasing the heat towards the end of the bake to extend the bake time without scorching the crust. I ended up baking for a total of 34 minutes for the last uncovered portion.
Once you are finished with the bake, try as hard as you can to not slice into them for at least a couple of hours. The interior remains very delicate and almost “gooey” for quite a while until things set.
This first venture into porridge breads was a challenge for me; adding in another type of grain that has been cooked with additional hydration threw a wrench into my process and had me experimenting until things came out how I was hoping. The results, though, are pretty darn great. This bread has a very, very moist crumb with an extremely thin crust that stays good for many days after baking. I made toast almost a week after and the bread still tasted fresh to me.
Marvelously thin and unexpectedly soft, this crust was colored so well and had such a special taste. It’s something different than the other breads I’ve made, hard to completely put into words, but if I had to sum it up I’d say soft like silk. The super high hydration must leave its mark and the mark is very welcomed.
Just look at those colors… I heard myself saying “oooooh” in my head as I first saw that picture from my camera roll. I just love the sheen and the shine, the striations of color, the dark spots and the light spots. The crunchy baked oats on top impart a nice crispness to the outside when you bite into the bread, I wouldn’t bake this bread without them.
The crumb is just straight tender. Nothing I’ve had can compare to this light, stretchy and custard-like interior. My latest attempt produced a nice and open result no large gaping irregular holes that I like to see in my sourdough, but a porridge bread like this has a more uniformly open crumb. There is room for improvement here, no doubt, but if they are all similar to this I’m untroubled.
You can see in this shot the crumb was actually quite light and airy, I just love this aspect of this bread. The oat porridge was well incorporated throughout and there are only hints of oats every once in a while — I finally got the incorporation of the porridge properly executed.
Not much more to say here than already stated: it’s remarkable. This cooked oat porridge does not impart a particularly heavy “oat” taste to the bread, but rather, adds a moistness and tenderness that hints at a light nutty flavor. For days after the bread remained moist inside, and when toasted, became crisp and continued to have that fresh-baked-bread taste.
I highly recommend trying this bread! If you have any issues or questions, drop me a post below and I shall do my best to get you on track. For the curious, read on for some of my “missed” attempts including some notes, pictures, and my hypotheses on why things didn’t quite pan out.
Previous Oat Porridge Attempts
Attempt #1 – The Strong Dough
This was my very first attempt at this recipe and my first endeavor into the world of porridge bread. As you can clearly see in the following pictures, the results were less than stellar. The porridge was not sufficiently mixed through the dough, the crust was on the pale side and hardly any oven spring to speak of. In addition there was almost no openness to the crumb — a rather dense product.
Yikes that’s ugly! I followed the Tartine No. 3 Oat Porridge Bread recipe nearly exactly, except for two deviations: I only had Bob’s Red Mill Thick Rolled Oats on hand (this is what I typically eat for breakfast) instead of traditional rolled oats which are much thinner, and I upped the levain amount by 25g (to a total of 175g).
Using thick oats and cooking them uncovered at medium heat most definitely overcooked them and dried them out to the point where they became stiff & hard to integrate into the dough. These stiff pockets of oats were scattered throughout the final loaf and were both unsightly and not very pleasant to bite into.
For this attempt I also only performed a 40 minute autolyse and the resulting dough was not extensible enough, adding to the difficult task of mixing in the dry and stiff porridge.
Key Lessons Learned from Attempt #1
- Don’t use thick rolled oats, instead opt for traditional rolled oats
- Dough needs at least a 1 hour autolyse to increase extensibility
- Mix in the porridge until it’s fully incorporated
- Cook porridge covered to prevent it from drying out
Attempt #2 – The Hydrated Surprise
For my second go at this recipe I vowed to rectify the stiff porridge by using regular rolled oats and upping the amount of water used during cooking. Instead of 500g for the porridge I ended up using 800g, added in 100g increments after the 500g at the start. This was cooked again at medium heat in an uncovered saucepan.
In addition to adding more water to the porridge, I also increased the autolyse time to a full 1 hour. This did help to increase extensibility in the dough to make oat incorporation easier; a much needed improvement.
When it came to adding in the porridge everything was looking good: the dough was rather tight and strength was there but there was some good extensibility thanks to the increased autolyse. A few turn sets into the bulk fermentation and that’s when I noticed things were starting to go south on me… The dough became extremely slack and was failing to hold any shape after stretching and folding. It was quickly turning into a nightmare scenario where hydration levels are pushed too far for the flour to handle. Cooked oats can absorb a significantly large amount of water, about 84% by weight, and that water is coaxed out of the grain later as bulk fermentation progresses. I ended up cobbling together some decently shaped boules but at hydration that must have exceeded 100% I was seriously having trouble.
The end result was again very poor. The crust was pale, displaying almost no caramelization during the bake and little dynamic oven spring.
The crumb was marginally open but it was far too wet. After cutting into the bread it actually had a shine to it that almost looked damp to me. The actual taste of it was not that bad, but it needed a good solid run through the toaster to firm things up, perhaps the loaf needed a little bit more baking time.
Key Lessons Learned from Attempt #2
- Do not add excessive water to the porridge. Shoot for the 500g outlined in the successful recipe above
- Cook the oats on medium-low heat to prevent burning and rapid cooking
- The oat porridge was incorporated more thoroughly but not quite enough, we’ll need to do more pinching and folding
- Because of the extremely high hydration here there was not enough strength in the dough, causing poor oven spring
- 1 hour autolyse time is right on the money
Attempt #3 – Oh The Beautiful Crust
My hopes and energies were high at the start of my third attempt. I felt like I had successfully flanked the two sides of this bread: one side was under hydrated with a stiff porridge, and the other side was way over hydrated with an almost soupy mess of porridge and flours. At this point I surely could find the middle point and create something magnificent.
I reduced the amount of water in the porridge down to 500g but cooked it on medium-low heat, covered, for 18 minutes. The result was a more creamy porridge which was much easier to fold into the dough and thoroughly incorporate. There was still some work to do here though, I needed to continue to pinch any oat pockets found during subsequent stretch and folds to break them up and do a more intensive job of incorporating.
As I lifted the top part of the Dutch oven off, I noticed the oven spring for this attempt was respectable but it did not hit my self-imposed goal. Crumb, well, there was some good openness to it, but it was still far too tight more deep holes and pockets please.
I was happily surprised at the wonderful color and caramelization of the crust when baking these loaves. Nice dark colors at the edges and light centers where the scissors had left their marks. Gorgeous.
All-in-all it was a solid attempt with some excellent improvements on the outward appearance. With notes scribbled down in my notebook I was determined to adjust a few parameters and give this another shot.
Key Lessons Learned from Attempt #3
- Cover the oat porridge while cooking to prevent burning and water evaporation
- Wait as long as possible before cutting into the baked loaves, at least 1 (seriously!) hour and preferably overnight
- Oats were incorporated much more uniformly, but still had some room for improvement here
Attempt #4 – Just Roll With It
I was eager, excited, and confident at the start. Eager to cook the oats to the correct creamy consistency, excited to get the hydration level spot on, and confident the end result was going to be what I had been searching for the previous attempts. So. Close. Oh so close. My results had much promise, but there still were a few tweaks needed.
I found that the key is to cook the oats at the lower end of medium-low for a full 16 minutes, and covered. 500g is the correct amount of water for 250g of oats and you want to add the pinch of salt at the beginning of the cook, right when you put the water and oats together.
The crumb for this attempt was actually really splendid! I think things could have opened up a bit more with larger pockets given additional proof time. Since the levain was reduced to a meager 150g I should have realized the proof time should have been extended until I noticed things were moving along far enough.
The crust on this loaf came out absolutely gorgeous, yet again. Perfect caramelization, dynamic movement from the excellent oven spring and the scissor snips again showed a great zig-zag all the way down with dark colors on one side and light on the other.
Key Lessons Learned from Attempt #4
- Cook oats covered on low end of medium-low for 16 minutes, you want a creamy consistency
- Add porridge before first turn of bulk, incorporate well
- Dough will become pretty slack, do vigorous turns
- The 50g you hold back should be used cautiously. If your dough starts to feel slack don’t add it all in.
- Pre-shape tight and shape tight
- Ensure fully proofed
And so that’s all we have, folks. Many attempts led up to what I believe was the best loaf yet. I know there will be more and more improvements as I continue to bake this bread, and don’t worry, those will be chronicled and entered into a future post if the loaf improves sufficiently.
Even though some of these bakes were not encouraging, especially at the outset, this craft is one that takes patience and persistence. Sometimes I almost forget this axiom but then I’m reminded I always have something exceptional to eat, and my troubled thoughts vanish as I take the first bite. I think it was best said by Hamelman:
Experiment, play, realize that failure isn’t really failure, it’s an edible part of your evolution as a baker.Jeffrey Hamelman