The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Oatmeal Bread on a busy day

bryoria's picture

Oatmeal Bread on a busy day

This is what happens when one tries to make the Oatmeal Bread from the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book on a day that turned out to be too busy to make bread! 

The night before, I had cooked 1 1/3 cups of Roger's Porridge Oats* in 2 cups of boiling water, adding 1 Tbsp of salt once the porridge was off the heat.  I left the porridge to cool overnight in a glass bowl covered with plastic wrap. 

*Roger's Porridge Oats are a blend of rolled oats, oat bran, wheat bran and flax

In the morning, not as early as I'd hoped, I ground some fresh whole wheat flour and mixed up the dough as per the recipe.  The flour was straight out of the grinder, still warm.  I found I had to add more water than the recipe called for to make the dough come together.  The dough was still extremely stiff, but because the recipe insisted that the dough would absorb moisture from the oatmeal as it was kneaded, I didn't add more.

Right after mixing, I unexpectedly had to leave the house for a couple of hours.  I hadn't had time to knead the dough (by hand) for more than 2 minutes, and I never did add more water to soften it up.  I put the stiff ball into a bowl, covered it with plastic wrap, and left it on the counter.  The house temp was 17 degrees C.

When I got back a couple of hours later I only had a few minutes before I had to leave again.  The dough had risen about one and a half times.  I put the dough on a board, flattened it gently, folded it a couple of times, made a ball and put it back in the bowl.  It was so stiff that there was no stretching and folding possible - just a patting out, then folding to the middle.

When I came home again 2 hours later, the dough had risen to about one and a half times again and it was almost supper time.  I had no idea how to fix or amend the dough at this point, so I figured I'd get it ready for baking and see what happened.  I divided the dough into two and kneaded each piece briefly.  It tore pretty easily.  It was still quite stiff.  I don't know if that's what I should expect from 100% whole wheat loaves or if the dough does eventually get stretchy if it is handled properly.  I let the two pieces rest for 15 minutes or so, then formed them into loaves and placed them into two loaf pans brushed with pan grease. 

I put the bread to rise in the oven with the lights on and a pan of hot water.  It had been sitting in a cold, dry house all day and I thought I'd finally give it some warmth.  Once it was just over the edge of the pan, I brushed the loaves with warm milk and topped them with more porridge oats that had been soaked in milk for a few minutes.  I removed the steam pan, turned the oven to 400F, and baked the loaves with the cold oven method for 45 minutes, turning the heat to 350 after 20 minutes or so.

The loaves never did rise very well, but the bread turned out very moist and flavourful - way better than I was expecting after having to abandon it for most of the day.  It makes delicious toast.

 Things I was left wondering:

  • Should the dough have been softer?  It was so stiff that kneading was a real chore.
  • If I had kneaded it for more than the 2 minutes I had available, would it have ended up stretchy and gluteny and stopped tearing, or is that too much to expect from a whole grain dough?
  • Did sitting all day help, or hinder, the dough?
  • Could I have amended the dough after it sat all day, when I finally came home for the evening?
  • Can the seeds in the oatmeal actually cut the gluten strands during kneading and ruin them?  Should I use plain oats next time?
  • What can you tell about my bread from looking at the crumb in the photo above?  I don't know anything about "crumb" and that's what I find most intimidating about this site.  Can you experienced bakers take one look at my sliced bread above and shudder and know everything I did wrong in a mere glance? 


hanseata's picture

the crumb doesn't look too bad, Bryoria. It is certainly fairly dense.

Not knowing the ratio porridge mix/whole wheat flour I can answer that question only in general. The higher the porridge percentage the stiffer the dough will be. Whole wheat dough is not by itself stiff, only if it's too dry.

I would not trust the recipe instruction too much: the author doesn't know that you used a porridge mix that included also bran and flaxseed - both (especially the whole seeds) absorb more water than rolled oats alone.

I'm sure the dough was too dry, and would not have become more stretchy if you had more time to knead it.

The dough definitely benefited from sitting all day in a cool environment. It is pretty good, that it was able to rise 1 1/2 time its original size even though it was rather dry.

It would have been hard to incorporate more water into the dough after it was already so firm. Handling it with wet hands helps a bit, though.

I use a lot of seeds (flax, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, millet) in breads - never had any problems with the gluten development (see my Leinsamenbrot ( and other TFL posts. I add them right away, since I don't knead my doughs long (working with pre-doughs or S & F). But if you don't use autolyse, and knead for a longer time, you should add them during the last minutes.

Whole flaxseeds should always be soaked for at least 12 hours, so that they can swell and soften, otherwise they only add fiber to your bread, but can't be digested. With your long process you gave your flaxseeds time to soak.

No reason at all to shudder. Your bread is a bit dense, but the dough did rise, and it tasted good. Next time go by your feeling and add more water, no matter what the book says. Your porridge mixture is very nice and much healthier than rolled oats alone.

Happy Baking,



aloomis's picture

The dough shouldn't be all that stiff.  It is easier to knead if you use rolled oats and pulverize them in the food processor before cooking them.  Otherwise, the oats will eventually disintegrate during kneading, but it's a lot of work. 

It does take longer for this dough to come together as you mix it than Laurel's other recipes.  I haven't had it rise nearly as well as the buttermilk bread.  However, I shortchange the kneading terribly and mostly stretch and fold.  Some other members here have examples of this bread looking downright puffy.

Whole wheat dough should feel elasticky, just like white dough.  I've been baking whole wheat bread on and off for 10 years, and I finally can make a nice loaf consistantly.  The only reason I couldn't in the past was too little water.  I always added too much flour during the kneading, which makes kneading difficult and the bread dry.  After reading through this site, I can consistantly turn out 100% whole wheat loaves.  The recipes in Laurel are great, and, at least if you measure by weight, the hydration is correct.  You might start with one of Laurel's easier loaves though.  Lots of people swear by the loaf for learning, but my favorite is the buttermilk bread.  You can practically skip kneading it altogether and get a perfectly nice loaf.

ETA: I'm baking this this morning.  I used half buttermilk in the oatmeal, and I did need to add some water during kneading to get the dough to the right consistancy.  Before I added water, squeezing a blob of dough (or trying to knead it) felt hard.  It felt like working with clay.  With enough water, when you squeeze the dough it gives way.  I followed Laurel's instructions and waited to add water until after plenty of kneading and resting (which made for an exhausting round of kneading).  The dough did become softer with work, but not enough.  When I first mixed it, I swore I would never get all the flour encorporated.  It eventually came together, but like I said, it was still kind of clay like.  

bryoria's picture

I can't believe how helpful you all are - thank you so much.  It's like having a crowd of mentors in my kitchen!  Can't wait to post my next experiment.

aloomis's picture

I baked freeform loaves, so I can't judge volume.  But, my crumb looked similar.  I don't mind the lack of volume since the crumb is moist and soft.  I know other people have gotten much better rises out of this bread, but I am trying to bake with a curious toddler running around.  I can't spend gobs of time kneading.  Next time I bake this, I'm going ot try adding about 30ml more water initially.  I'm hoping to make the initial kneading more productive.  This bread is so clay-like initially, that the kneading is just miserable.