This is my first attempt at porridge bread, a method of cooking grains, such as barley, oats and rye, into a porridge that gets folded into the dough. Porridge breads add a depth of flavor and a lighter texture to whole-grain breads. More importantly, it has been an ongoing pursuit (or obsession) on my part to increase the nutrient density of the food we eat. This is one way to add a larger percentage of whole grains in a loaf of bread. I just bought Chad Robertson's latest book Tartine No. 3 after baking a variety of country breads, with some successes, from an earlier book, Tartine Bread. A big bag of rolled oats has been sitting idly in my pantry for a while. When I came across the oat porridge recipe in Tartine No. 3, I knew instantly that this was the first bread to experiment.
If you are familiar with the process and procedures in baking Tartine country breads (which has taken me a few months to master or to get comfortable with), making porridge bread involves just one extra step of preparing the rolled oats. Nothing complicated. Although I had to add more water (three parts rather than two parts) that the master recipe called for in making the porridge.
- The cheat sheet below outlines the necessary ingredients, the step-by-step procedures, and the timeline of the entire process. It is more than a recipe. Why? Timeline is an important aid for bread-making. I want to be able to structure the work flow so that I could be more efficient in and out of the kitchen. Although the actual time involved working on the dough is not that long, there is definitely an extended time commitment when it comes to baby-sitting the dough through the fermentation process. In addition, there are always the unexpected. The clock may suggest that time is up, but the dough may say otherwise. I've learnt to be patient; bread-making feeds and is good for my soul!
- I made one loaf or 50% of the original Tartine recipe. The amount of the various ingredients I used are highlighted in green under the 50% "scaling" column in the cheat sheet. Feel free to apply any percentage to the "weight" column of the original recipe to derive at the amount of ingredients you need for your project. Scaling the recipe up or down is such a useful tool in adjusting to your particular baking needs. I always scale down the recipe for my small family and up when I entertain a bigger crowd. Using grams is the best way to go; it's more accurate. Volume in units of cups or teaspoons are not scalable. Fraction of an ounce is often not small enough for certain ingredient, such as dry yeast, when accuracy is key. Go metric; it works better for baking.
Starting with feeding the sourdough starter twice on day 1, on day 2 I prepared the leaven in the morning and mixed the dough later in the day. After four hours of bulk fermentation, I proceeded with the shaping and then let the dough finish its final and slow rise in the refrigerator overnight. The oat porridge loaf was ready to be baked in the morning on day 3. The loaf was transferred to a preheated cast-iron Dutch oven, covered to create a steam-saturated chamber, and placed in a 500°F oven. Please see the cheat sheet for more details.
The sweet heavenly aroma wafted from the oven after I removed the lid (or the pan using the inverted Dutch oven technique discussed in an earlier post) of the Dutch oven was both satisfying and affirming. This three-day workout was well worth the time and effort after all. If I could bottle this particular aroma, I would. It’s like nothing I’ve smelled before!
The crust and crumb structure of the bread was everything I’d have expected from any Tartine bread recipe: airy and open. The porridge gave the bread a lighter and softer texture. The oat flavor was hardly present, although the oat porridge was 50% the amount of flour. Yes, the crumb can be a bit more open. (My techniques needed more work!) One thing I know for sure: I’m on the right track in this healthful whole-grain journey and there is no going back.