The Fruits of Advice and Experimentation

The Fruits of Advice and Experimentation

Submitted by Reynard on August 26, 2015 – 4:27pm.

As the porridge bread received the thumbs up from the parental unit, I thought I’d have another crack at it for this week’s bake. With sound advice in my head and a better sense of timing than starting to make bread at stupid o’clock in the evening, I set to it. I started out with the same recipe, scaled it up by half to give me two medium loaves and made a few minor tweaks to the ingredients, namely ditching the dried active yeast entirely, swapping the spelt in the soaker for wholegrain rye and reducing the water in the dough.


113g porridge oats

113g rye flour

300g water just off the boil


75g rye starter

135g water

135g white bread flour


soaker + levain

16g salt

420g white bread flour

175g tepid water

Methodwise, I began by making my levain in the morning. At the same time, I made my soaker, but instead of just pouring the boiling water over the mix of flour and oats, I actually cooked the mixture, covered it and left it to cool.

After supper, I made the dough. The oat and rye mixture from the soaker was pretty stiff and gelatinous – not the easiest to work into the rest of the ingredients. It needed some heavy-duty squishing to distribute it evenly throughout. In terms of water, I measured out 215g (as scaled up from my initial attempt) but instead of dumping it in wholesale, I added it a bit at the time until it felt that the dough didn’t need any more. As it turned out, I used 40g *less* i.e. 175. The dough was still on the sticky side, but easier to work. Gave it the usual 15 minute hand knead before letting it rest. Over the next couple of hours I gave it four stretch and folds before covering the bowl and sticking it in the fridge overnight – could really feel the dough changing in texture each time.

The next morning, I removed the dough from the fridge and let it warm up a bit before dividing it in two and shaping. One half went into an 8×4 tin, while the other half was turned into a batard and plonked into a banneton. I wanted to see which method would be better – and to see if the changes in ingredients had cured the frisbee tendencies of my first attempt…

Both were given two and a half hour proof at room temperature. The tin went into a preheated oven 230C on my pizza stone and covered by a stock pot. The other loaf went into the fridge. After 25 mins off came the pot and the oven temperature reduced to 200. Gave it 20 mins more, the last 5 of those out of the tin to finish the crust. When this loaf was almost done, the other came out of the fridge and was tipped into greased and floured chicken brick. The oven was turned back up to 230, then in went the chicken brick for the same 45 mins; 25 at higher temp with lid on, and 20 at lower temp with lid off.

Am actually quite pleased with the results 🙂

The batard had a small crack on the bottom – probably where muggins didn’t seal the seam properly, but it certainly didn’t do a frisbee on me. And I think I also got a better crust than last time… At this lower hydration, there doesn’t seem to be any appreciable difference between baking it in a tin and baking it in the brick. At a higher hydration, then yes, I think the tin might be the way to go.

While I was on a bread making roll, I had a play around with my wholegrain SD recipe to see how far I could push the add-ins… The changes I made was: 1) swapping wholewheat flour for whole rye to give me around a 60 % rye loaf, 2) adding a soaker of muesli, sunflower seed, pumpkin seed and milled linseed (100g dry ingredients, 100g water), 3) making up a mix of around 100g of dried fruit to go in the bread (raisins, sultanas, chopped dates, apricots and cranberries) which I soaked for a little while in Earl Grey tea, and 4) when making up the dough, instead of using water, I used the tea in which I’d soaked the fruit. I also added in a dab of yeast as something of a house brick preventer…

Method was pretty well much the same as the oat bread. Sole exception was that the fruit was steeped in tea about half an hour before making up the dough. Have to admit that it was a sticky, slippery and rather messy process with all that fruit, muesli and rye., but I got there in the end. As with the oat bread, the stretch & folds really did make a difference. Proof time at room temperature was the same as above, though this one got the longest stay in the fridge as I can only bake one loaf at the time with my current set-up. Then into the chicken brick it went for 25 mins at 230C with the lid on. I found that once the lid came off, the crust started to brown really quickly, so after about 10 mins I turned the oven down from 200 to 180 to stop the bread from burning.

The aroma from this loaf was amazing – you could smell it out on the street while it was baking, and I reckon the neighbours must’ve been cursing me something chronic. It did stick to the chicken brick though – well, the bits of fruit did, but nothing a palette knife couldn’t solve. Next time I’ll use cornmeal instead of flour, I think…

The verdict…

The tin baked oat loaf went to the friend who supplies me with eggs, and she was really pleased with it. I kept the batard for myself. It had a better crust than last time, and the crust had a better flavour and bite. The crumb was less open than my initial attempt, but at a lower hydration, that’s to be expected. It was still bouncy and glossy with a lovely texture and a wonderful creamy, nutty flavour. The only disappointment was that the sour tang I had the first time round was mostly absent, but I suspect that was because my levain didn’t get the hot water bath hurry-up treatment. Maybe this is something I can explore in future. Will be easier when I have the heating on, as I can snuggle the levain up to a radiator…

The fruited rye was an absolute revelation. At 60% rye and with all that fruit in it, I wasn’t expecting mad oven spring, but it still did ok I think. The crust is very chewy with an almost caramel flavour, the crumb is soft, moist and packed with the fruit, while the sunflower and pumpkin seeds give a pleasant crunch. And it’s nowhere nearly as sweet as I thought it would be. Actually, it isn’t that sweet at all, but has an intense flavour that is redolent of rye, fruit and tea. The tea works so well with the high percentage of rye that I might even try a plain rye made with tea – though I think I’d have to swap the floral Earl Grey for a more robust English Breakfast.

In terms of eating, the oat bread was spectacular with Serrano ham, whereas the fruited rye is just meant to be the right partner for butter and mature Gouda cheese…

Am so, so making both of these again 🙂 And want to say a BIG thank you to everyone who gave me such brilliant advice and inspiration – you know who you are 🙂

Left to right: oat porridge sourdough, fruited tea rye

As the rain’s been coming down in stair rods here in dear old Blighty for the last few days, both Poppy and Lexi have been spending time indoors supervising the bread making more closely than usual. Poppy is an old hand at sleeping through bad weather, but Lexi seems to think it’s my fault that I can’t turn the rain off… Consequently I’ve had to make do with a couple of proudly presented spiders in terms of culinary contributions.

But the mood here chez Casa Witty has been somewhat subdued following the events at Pocono on Sunday night… I saw Justin come up through the lower formulae here in the UK and make his F1 bow, as a race fan first and then, later as a photographer down on the fence line. I only knew him in passing – and that a long, long time ago, but he was a close friend to quite a few of my own friends on the racing scene. It brings comfort to know that through his passing he saved six lives by donating his organs. Through that, he lives on by giving others a beautiful gift. Rest easy, Justin…