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