Oatmeal Spelt No-Knead Sourdough Bread

My first attempt at making an oatmeal sourdough bread, based on a recipe in Sandor Katz’ wild fermentation, was an aggravating mess. Despite adding an absurd amount of flour (over 12 cups by the end), it remained stubbornly sticky and impossible to work with my hands. I even ended up cracking the cutting board in half in my attempts, since it stuck and lifted with the dough as I kneaded. Cooked oatmeal is intensely sticky stuff, starch hardening to cement the longer it sits, and it holds a lot of water. Needless to say, it offers some challenges to bread baking, but the reward can be a tender, exceptionally tasty loaf.

Since we have an electric mixer kicking around here, not all was lost, though the dough remained persistently sticky and wet and had to be scraped into the pans. In fact, it reminded me so much of making no-knead Bosnian bread, I got to thinking maybe that was the direction to go. How handy would it be to have a versatile sourdough recipe for busier days, requiring minimal effort and using up awkward amounts of leftover oatmeal?

I picked up a few tips on baking cooked oatmeal into a sourdough bread from The Perfect Loaf — along with the opportunity to gaze lustfully at bread porn and marvel at the passion and skill of an experienced bread baker analyzing crust and crumb… I’m just happy if my bread turns out edible, ideally not rock hard or gummy! Breadtopia, meanwhile, provided excellent guidance on how to make a no-knead sourdough bread. Putting those two together, I ended up with… an edible loaf that was squat and dense, but with a wonderfully crisp crust, tender inside (even the next day), and mellow tartness. Exciting to finally achieve the classic texture and taste I associate with sourdough. It just didn’t have much of a rise. I suspect the recipe may need a little tweaking to be a bit drier, but no doubt the fact that it turned out to be a very busy day and I wasn’t able to come back to the dough for almost 20 hours also contributed to the shortfall of this recipe. Excited to try it again soon… if nothing else it’s delicious!

UPDATE (2/9/17): Made this again, without the oatmeal, and a little less than 1 3/4 cups water, and just a 13 hour initial rise. The dough was so easy to handle and the bread was possibly the best I’ve made yet. I shortened the baking time slightly because I noticed the top was already quite golden when I took the lid off, so baked it only 10 minutes more, and turned out excellent!

Oatmeal Spelt No-Knead Sourdough
Makes 1 loaf

3 cups spelt flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup sourdough starter*
1 cup water (up to 3/4 more if necessary to incorporate flour, added by the tablespoon)
3/4 cup cooked oatmeal, cooled to room temperature (ideally cooked at medium low heat, covered, with twice as much water)

Mix together flours and salt, then stir starter into 1 cup warm water and incorporate into the flour, first with a spoon and then with floured hands to form a soft, sticky dough. Break up the clumps of oatmeal as much as possible with a spoon, then work it in as evenly as you can. Leave it to rest in the bowl, covered in a plastic bag or damp cloth, for 10-18 hours at room temperature.

Flour cutting board or baking sheet, and gently press dough out into a rectangle with floured fingers. (If it turns out too sticky, use a spatula to spread and fold it instead.) Fold in thirds lengthwise, then in half along the width to form a square of sorts. Leave to rest 15 minutes while you prepare a bowl for second rise — greased and coated with wheat bran or cornmeal. Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to bowl. Cover with a cloth and leave to rise about 1 1/2 hours (no more than 2). Check after an hour to make sure it has risen decently. If so, preheat oven and cast-iron dutch oven or ceramic cloche with lid to 500°F. When dough has nearly doubled, and depression from finger mostly remains, pull dutch oven or cloche out of oven, carefully invert loaf into it, quickly score it, then cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove cover and reduce heat to 450°F, then bake 15 minutes more. Remove from pan and let cool completely before cutting.

*The starter I use is equal parts flour to water

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