Soaking Oat Groats

I should have entitled this post Patience & the Art of Bread Making. Yes, patience is required to produce this oat loaf. Although…it isn’t as tasking as creating sourdough bread from scratch if beginning with the creation of a sour dough starter. My oat bread uses what David Leader in his fabulous book, Local Breads, calls a poolish starter, a kind of soured sponge.

oat_bread_making

However, the beginning of this bread isn’t with the poolish starter, but with the oat groats. Do you know the truism that the wise [cook] learns from his/her mistakes? After experimenting with oat groats in a soup instead of barley, I realised – around the time I was suffering from heartburn – that simply cooking oat groats doesn’t make them digestible. Fermenting or soaking the grains, however, produces wholesome, softened and throughly digestible whole grains.

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Oat Bread
A multi-staged production! Begin at least 1 to 2 days before you want to make the bread. This produces a soft, fine crumb bread perfect for sandwiches.

Groats

  • 1/2 cup oat groats
  • whey/water to cover (approximately 1 cup)

oat_groats_prep

At least 24 hours and up to to 48 hours before baking the bread, put the oat groats in a bowl and cover with the liquid. Using whey instead of water actively aids in making the groats more digestible. Although, if you don’t have whey, you could add a dash of vinegar or lemon juice to the soaking water. You can tell if the grains have begun to ferment by the bubbles forming on top of the liquid.

Poolish Starter (Sponge)

  • 1 cup fine ground oats
  • 1 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 1 cup liquid (whey or water)

oat_sponge_prep

The evening before you want to make the bread, mix the ingredients for the poolish starter together in a bowl. Cover and let sit at room temperature overnight – at least 10 hours. The oat flour will swell, absorbing much of the liquid and the yeast will activate to produce a spongy mixture.

Bread

  • Sponge (above)
  • Soaked groats (above), drained
  • 3 cups strong (bread) flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried yeast
  • 1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup liquid – whey or water
  • Corn meal or polenta, for sprinkling

Put the poolish sponge, drained groats, bread flour, brown sugar, yeast and sea salt into a mixer with a bread hook. Warm the liquid to body temperature. Begin to mix on low and slowly add the liquid to the mixer. Turn up the speed on the mixer once the liquid has been absorbed. The dough should become wrapped around the hook, but not stick to the bottom. Continue this mechanical kneading of the dough for a few minutes. The dough may be a little sticky, but will be a single mass that can be lifted out. It should be slightly stretchy.

oat_bread_prep1

When finished “kneading” in the mixer, place in an oiled bowl, turning it over so that it is coated completely. Cover the bowl with cling film (= Saran Wrap) and let it sit in a warm place for an hour or two while it doubles in volume.

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Punch the dough down and place it on a lightly floured surface. Pat the down down and then roll it into shape, pinching the seam closed. Meanwhile, dust off your proving basket. I used my new banneton which I got from Shipton Mill.

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Place the shaped dough into the banneton seam side up. Cover and let rest for about 30 minutes to 1 hour, letting it rise again.

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Dust a handful of corn meal or polenta onto a baking tray and invert the banneton onto this. Carefully, remove the basket and let the bread sit while the oven preheats to 425 degrees F (I use my fan assisted oven). The bread may spread a bit, but should still retain its neat loaf shape. Note: You may wish to slash a relieving slit down the center of the bread – something I forgot to do for this loaf.

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When the oven reaches temperature, bake for 25 minutes. The bread will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a rack completely before cutting.

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30 May 2014
 
Update on Soaking Oat Groats
 
Note on preferment starters: Preferments in bread making terms are sponges created with water and a small amount of flour and leavening agent (such as yeast or sourdough). They are generally left to proof before using to make the bread and can vary in the amount of hydration (from firm to almost liquid). There are types of preferment: sponge (English), pate fermentee, (French) biga, (Italian), and poolish (Polish/Austrian). They are generally considered to improve the flavor of the bread.
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20 comments

    • It is fabulous, but those darn groats need to be soaked – a process sometimes called malting or fermenting. The bread is nice and soft, but not the squishy sort you get with commercial loaves of bread. My husband is in love with it, which is a good thing since he usually gets slices of it for his sandwiches on the days he trundles into the department.

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    • I’d been looking for one of these for years and thought I would have to travel to France to get one. But, when shopping online at Shipton Mill for flour, there it was! They are great in forming the loaf. I have a larger, circular one as well which I have yet to use. But, I know how you feel…I’ve been drooling over Indonesian ulegs which an Australian blogger posted. I’ve never seen the like here in the UK.

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  1. What an amazing loaf. Bread making is definitely an exercise in patience! I don’t have any oat groats but will now be looking out for them. I don’t mind breads that take days to put together as it often takes me a long time to get my sourdough starter to the right stage anyway. Thank you

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    • The groats still have a bite to them. Soaking (even up to 48 hours) did not reduce them to mush. Yes, a lot of time invested in producing the loaf, but actually not much more work than baking a normal loaf of bread.

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  2. Hmmm… I wonder if that’s like the bread I used to get in central Europe. How heavy is it?

    (Also, try looking up injera sometime. It might be right up your alley.)

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    • Not heavy at all – more a British bread than a central European bread. I love injera, but getting teff flour is difficult, so have never made it. I did make an oat variation – a traditional yeasty oat “pancake” from northern England that reminded me of injera. Have a look – http://wp.me/p3Uj0i-1zJ

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  3. Gorgeous loaf and a timely post as I just bought some groats last week. Haven’t used any yet but now I have the wisdom of your experience re soaking.

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    • I read somewhere that the oat groats are generally sold with the hulls still on – and that grain hulls contained an enzyme inhibitor that prevented easy digestion. I think it has something to do with the plant’s survival techniques, since the groats are, after all, the seeds of the plants. Soaking/fermenting apparently breaks down those enzyme inhibitors. It certainly worked for me!

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  4. This is a first for me. Though I’d heard of groats, I’d no idea what they were nor that they could be used when baking bread. They sure did give you a beautiful loaf, though, and that crumb is perfect for butter slathering, my favorite pastime when I remove a freshly baked loaf from the oven. Thanks for today’s bread baking lesson. πŸ™‚

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  5. After the pasta hanger now i want the bread basket/banneton! …most of whole grains need to be soaked a long time… I’m experimenti with farro monococco!
    Loved your bread with poolish… Long work and patience but it was worth it!

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