Sour Dough Oatmeal Loaf

If you are looking to bake a sourdough bread you've undoubtedly read in many places that time, temperature, humidity and the natural yeast/bacteria in your kitchen are the important factors. You'll also note that proofing time is much longer than bread made with commercial yeast.  Don't be in a rush means that the bread takes a long time to proof; however, that does not mean you have to stop everything to bake this bread. I work full time and have other interests and have figured out strategies to fit the bread baking process into my schedule. So you don't need to be housebound to turn out a great sour dough loaf, you just need a bit of ingenuity about making the process work for you.

This recipe will assume you have a ripe sourdough starter: directions from BreadandBabka are just a click away. Otherwise, you can find starter instructions on the blog Sourdough Surprises , on the King Arthur Blog or any number of other baking blogs. A starter takes a week or 10 days to get going.

The recipe will also assume you have the patience of an angel and can walk away from the proofing dough and allow the wild yeast to work its magic. The more patience you have, the more fabulous the bread will be (which is a rule of thumb for many sourdough creations).

There are differences in the taste that will result from a warmer proofing environment (72- 75 degrees) and a cooler proofing period (68-70 degrees). If you want the dough to be sour, plan on a cool, slow rise. A warmer rise will still yield a great texture, just less "tang" to the dough.


  • Sourdough bread relies on having a ripe, recently fed starter. After that the bread may take up to 15- 17 hours to complete.  In order to fit making this bread on my schedule I mixed the mature starter with oatmeal and flour, went to my office and let it proof in a temperature controlled setting for about 11 hours. It may have been fine to let it proof for another hour or two. My kitchen is not well insulated and in the winter it's chilly (60- 65 degrees). I have a proofing box that can be set at a consistent temperature, but you can follow my friend Shelley's advice and use a warm utility room or use an oven that has been warmed (and shut off). 
  • Once the initial long proofing period was finished (sometimes you'll hear people call this a rising period), I mixed sugar, salt, oil, orange extract and a bit more flour into the dough. Sugar and salt are hygroscopic, meaning that they absorb water . They therefore, to some degree, compete for the water that the yeast and gluten require. Oil (and shortenings) also modify the dough environment and can interfere with yeast activity. Wild yeast is more sensitive to this interference than commercial yeast, so I held back these ingredients until the dough was proofed and well on it's way. You can learn a bit more about these interactions and chemistry  from the Sugar Association . 
  • The final amount of flour and water will be dictated by the texture of your starter. The amounts indicated are a guide. If you think the dough is too thin, you can add another ounce or two of flour. The same holds true for the final amount of water. 
  • After a shorter 2nd resting period I pulled and stretched the dough in the mixing bowl. This is similar to a stretch and fold on a bread board, but since the dough was sticky and wet and I didn't want to add that much more flour, I stretched it, using a flexible dough scraper while in the bowl and then let it rest for a short time.
  • Once those proofing periods were finished the process resembled the typical bread baking process. I divided the dough (it was gorgeous and stretchy), placed the halves into prepared pans and let them rise in place.  Since I couldn't roll out the dough and the dough was very sticky, I kept my hands very wet and patted the dough down to fill the prepared pans. 
  • The dough rested and rose in the loaf pans.  I then sprinkled them with old fashioned oats and spritzed with water. The loaves were baked in a steamy oven at 425 degrees. 
  • After removing from the oven, I allowed them to partially cool in the pans before turning them out onto a cooling rack.  Once they cooled we sliced and taste tested: the ratio of crumb to crust was wonderful, the crumb had beautiful irregular holes, it tasted was slightly tangy and the consistency was chewy.  
stand or hand mixer  with a large mixing bowl
kitchen scale 
measuring spoons, cups
flexible dough scraper, silicone spatula 
2 large loaf pans (or 8" round cake pans) 

For the initial dough:
8.2 oz (1 full cup) ripe sour dough starter 
14 oz water (you may need another ounce)- the water should be slightly warm, about 80-90 degrees 
6 oz (1 1/2 cup) whole wheat flour - I use King Arthur White Whole Wheat 
3.2 oz (1 cup) old fashioned oats 
12 oz (3 cups) all purpose flour 

For the final dough:
all of the initial dough
2 oz (1/2 cup loosely packed) brown sugar
1 Tbsp kosher salt
3 oz (a full 1/3 cup) vegetable oil 
1 tsp orange extract 
and if needed an additional:  1-2 oz flour or 1-2 oz water to achieve the consistency for a wet but substantial dough 

For preparing the pans:
spray oil
2-3 Tbsp flour for dusting the inside of the pans 

approximately 1 oz (1/3 cup) old fashioned oats 

1. Combine everything marked "initial dough" and mix at low speed until well blended and pulling away from       the side of the bowl. It will be substantial and very sticky. It will look a bit lumpy because of the oatmeal,             which will soften and partially disperse into the finished dough. This may take 4-5 minutes. 

2 . Cover loosely with plastic wrap and proof for 10-12 hours in a draft-free place that is 65-75 degrees. 
     My kitchen is chilly, so  I used a proofing box set at 72 degrees.  
3. It will not quite double, but will be bubbly and puffy. 

4. Add the sugar, salt, oil and extract to the proofed initial dough. Mix on low speed for 2-3 minutes.     Correct the water or flour so that you have a sticky dough that pulls away from the sides of the           bowl. You'll notice that the dough forms long stretchy strands. 


5. Cover and let rest again for about an hour.  Prepare the pans by spraying with oil and dusting with flour. 

6. After an hour, using the flexible bowl scraper, scoop the dough from the sides, bring the scraper 1/2 way         around the bowl and fold into the center. Repeat this process 3-4 times, you'll feel the dough starting to             become even more stretchy, although it will still be thick and sticky. 

7. At this point you can place the dough in the pans or allow to rest another 20-30 minutes.  
8. Using the flexible scraper, divide the dough in half and place into the prepared pans. 
9. Wet your hands and press the dough to fit the pans. 


10. Sprinkle the dough with oats. Place in a draft free place and let proof for anywhere between 
      45 and 90 minutes. The bread will increase about 1/3 - 1/2 in volume. 

11. While the dough is proofing in the pans, place a pan of hot water at the bottom of the oven. 
      I use a cast iron frying pan,which holds heat. Place the rack at the top third of the oven.  
      Pre-heat the oven to 450 degrees 
      My oven has cold spots and I've found that using a pizza stone in the oven and baking directly
      on the stone helps to create a more even baking environment. 
      Once the oven reaches temperature, let it continue to run for 10 minutes or so to make sure 
      that the entire oven is really hot enough. 

12. Spray the loaves with water and slip into the oven. Be careful about steam in the hot oven when you open the oven door. 
13. Lower the heat to 425 degrees and bake 30-40 minutes, until golden brown. If you like to measure
     internal temperature, the bread should be between 195-200 degrees. 
14. Cool for 15-30 minutes in the pan. Turn out onto a cooling rack and completely cool before 

With patience and coaxing you'll find you've baked an amazing sourdough loaf! 

If you like baking with starters, you may also like to try  Korn Bread  . 


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