The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Sourdough Oat Bread

linder's picture

Sourdough Oat Bread

A friend of mine passed along a recipe he made about 15 years ago.  It hails from Arkansas.  I am going to convert the recipe from cups and spoons to grams.  I have some questions regarding the use of sourdough starter, yeast AND baking soda in this bread.  Does it really need all three?  What would baking soda 'bring to the party' aside from some leavening and isn't there enough with all the sourdough and yeast anyway?  Would it be wise to cut back on some of the salt in the recipe since baking soda might add a bit of saltiness to the loaf? 

In my quest to make the recipe more of a formula, I was thinking of starting out by adding up all the hydrating liquids/80% of the oil and 50% of the SD starter, assuming a 100% hydration starter.  Adding up all the 'cups' of liquid and translating to pounds and from pounds to grams (454 g./lb.)  then assuming an 80% hydration because the formula uses whole wheat flour AND oatmeal.  Once I have the amount of liquids in grams then using the 80% hydration factor I think I can extrapolate the whole wheat, oats and AP flour amounts.  From there I could use some general 'rules of thumb' to come up with yeast, diastatic malt and salt amounts. 

Does this approach seem reasonable?  My goal here is to have a formula that will be reliable (as opposed to 'add enough white flour 'til it feels right) and easily scaled up or down.  I don't want to make 7 loaves of bread in one go.  1 or 2 loaves would be plenty for my purposes since it's just me and my husband here and my freezer space is at a premium.

Any and all comments gratefully accepted.  Without further ado, here's the recipe as it stands to date -

Sourdough Oat Bread - “breakfast bread extraordinaire”

by Judy Watson, Clinton, AR

2c starter (@room temp)

4c warm milk (or part yogurt {or buttermilk?})

3c warm water {use potato water in summer}

3/4c oil

1tbsp diastatic malt (≈ 1/4c sugar)

3tbsp salt

2tbsp baking soda

2c ww flour

3c old fashioned oats

1pkg yeast

unbleached white flour to make kneadable

Prep: Mix all but white flour in a large bowl. Will foam up - allow to sit in covered bowl for 1 hr.

Stir down, and begin adding white flour, 1c at a time, and beat in well.

When stiff enough to handle, knead 6-10 min until smooth & elastic. Place in oiled bowl, cover with cotton towel. Allow to rise until doubled.

{punch down, rise to double again}

Grease 8” loaf pans - will make 6 or 7 loaves, allow to rise final time until nearly doubled. Top w/beaten egg + 1tbsp water, brush on loaf, sprinkle with oats

Bake in preheated 350∘oven 40 minutes, turn after 20 if hot spot/oven warrants.

Turn out of pan, cool 30-40 min on rack. Bag warm to keep soft.


diastatic malt

1c wheat berries, tepid water

In a wide-mouthed quart jar - soak berries overnight in water to cover. Next a.m. drain well (water great for plants!) and place jar on it’s side on a kitchen towel, leaving top open to allow air in. Keep in warm place and rinse twice/day, draining well.

When sprouts are the length of a grain, final rinse, drain well, spread on ungreased cookie sheet (or 2) and dry in 150∘oven until dry & crunchy, up to 8 hrs (usu. 3).

Grind in mill or blender until very fine. Store in dry, airtight container; keeps indefinitely in refrigerator - up to 1 year, or longer...

Use in yeast breads, 1tbsp ≈ 1/4c sweetener

PaddyL's picture

I find that baking soda, just a small amount, about 1/2 tsp., cuts the sourness of the bread.  It really isn't necessary if you love the sour taste.

clazar123's picture

Tis sounds like a real "stick -to-the-ribs" kind of breakfast bread that tastes great toasted.

One of the things I like about volume recipes (cups and TBSP) is that they are usually easy to cut in half. They just don't scale up so easily. This "recipe" probably hales from many years ago (poss.before standardized measuring cups) and finally someone wrote down what Grandma did to make her wonderful bread.  I have a number of recipes like that from my family. It is a challenge but can be done.

Have you tried the recipe as written?(But cut in half as it is a large recipe). Sometimes it gives you insights into  where you need to  go and what you need to do. I have found that converting these old recipes is not a one step process. It sometimes takes a number of tries before I get what I think is correct. Get out a notebook and write down exactly what you do with each try.


I would also assume a 100% (or even 125%) starter-a pancake batter consistency. It is just the easiest to stir up quickly and work with. Ladle some out-stir some more flour in. They didn't waste time with that kind of stuff. These days, my favorite sourdough method is using a preferment. Take some active starter (about 2-3 tbsp) and add it to 1 cup water/1 cup AP flour (I have the gram measurements, if you want them.). Let that sit in a warm place for 4-12 hours in order to develop a lot of activity. If it is active enough, you will not need yeast- but only for a single rise technique. A preferment also increases the flavor a lot.Use the preferment as the starter.


Commercial yeast, in my opinion, just helps control/shorten the production time. I generally use 1/2-1 tsp yeast along with the preferment so that I can get my bake in before it gets too late in the day. In this recipe, it may help provide some soaking time for all those raw oats by giving the yeast the ability to do a double rise before proofing. Many sourdough doughs can't sustain a double rise and still raise the dough for the final proof adequately.


I  make multigrain WW and one thing I have learned is that the grains need to be adequately hydrated before it is bakes or it will rob the crumb of moisture after the bake. Perhaps you want to use some of the liquids to soak the oats before you add them all together.

Another very important factor in making a heavily grained bread is to develop the gluten and starch very well otherwise you get a very nice brick.

They will aslo make this a VERY sticky dough! Do NOT try to get rid of the stickiness by adding more flour. Handle it like a rye dough. My personal preference is using damp (not wet) hands and a wet bench scraper. Reaearch that a bit, if you haven't handled sticky doughs.

Baking Soda

I'm not sure what this brings to the party since it soaks for 1 hour bubbling away and essentially loses the leavening property. Perhaps it is neutralizing,as suggested, and adds a saltiness. Could this recipe have started out as a soda bread?I wonder if Grandma added starter to her biscuit or soda bread recipe and than just used whatever was in the pantry at that time and a star was born! Necessity is the mother of invention and nothing ever went to waste. That is why I like developing these recipes-it is fun to conjecture what thoughts went into it.

AP Flour

There must be at least 2-3 cups of AP flour in this recipe. I would make this dough by adding only enough AP to make a very loose dough, develop the gluten to almost windowpane and then add more AP. Remember the stickiness factor and don't try and get rid of that!.

***Pardon the "bold"text. The word processing function seems broke at the moment and I can't get the bold turned off without losing the text. Anyone else having issues with the word processing component of this beloved site?This is the second time I wrote this!

jcking's picture

You may wish to consider. Baking soda in the past was single acting creating bubbles when it meets a liquid. Todays double acting BS does the initial bubbles and again when it meets heat.

When figuring salt Hammelman says to treat the oats as flour when determining salt%. Since it adds yeast I'm wondering if it really was an SD starter or some other preferment.

Best of luck, hope to see your results.


Ford's picture

Hello Jim,

I believe you mean baking powder was single acting and now most are double acting. 

Baking soda is a compound called sodium bicarbonate now and was the same before.  It is NaHCO3 . 

Baking powder is a mixture of baking soda and some acidic compound such as cream of tarter (potassium bitartrate) or potassium dihydrogen phosphate, plus some corn starch.


clazar123's picture

jcking, baking soda is just the baking soda component of double acting baking powder so there is only 1 action. It bubbles til it is spent.

Baking powder has an acid component that is activated somewhat with the heat, allowing the soda component to  neutralize it and create bubbles.

Good explanation:

Baking ammonia predates both (hartshorn) and I'm not sure where it was available when the original recipe was made-I think mostly Northern Europe. I'm sure it came to the US with immigrants.

jcking's picture

My bad

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

The 'ol one cup of flour to one cup of water type starter.  190% hydration of the cups of starter as water.  238gwater  +125gflour  = 363g starter  (Some math involved to figure the water amount for two cups of starter.  Could mix some up and weigh a cup of starter then figure the water to flour amounts and multiply by two.  Once the amounts are known and  the complete recipe is changed to grams, switch the starter flour and water amounts with the main dough to get a starter at 100% hydration.  

Take 90% of the milk as water the other 10% goes into the dry ingredients.  

Malt weight is added to total flour weight along with the oats and flour and 10% dry milk solids.  Also add starter flour weight to figure salt.  

Subtract 80% of soda weight from salt weight (example: if you have 10g soda, subtract 8g from salt weight.)  

Oil is not water do not include in the hydration.

Just taking a wild guess, your white flour may end up between 3 and 4 cups which would be half the flour amount so aim for 70% hydration and increase water if needed.  (have the measured amount available for a higher hydration)

dabrownman's picture

190 hydration starter was awfully weak most of the time and prone to making hooch on top :-)  That said, It probably couldn't make any bread rise worth a darn in any sane amount of time.   The starter would have contributed the acid required to activate the baking soda.  The yeast was probably also required t0o make the bread proof in a reasonable time. 

If this was a really old recipe it would have had old dough or SD only since this was all that was available, so it isn't that old . -after 1850 for BS and after 1870 or so for commercial yeast if they were knew and were testing for the Fleischmann brothers when they were developing the first commercial yeast.   Clayton's Complete Book of Bread has an older SD recipe that has a small amount of BS added to it; 1/4 tsp, supposedly to take out the excess SD tang and not make the dough rise.  No where near the 2 T listed in this recipe.  I'm guessing some folks just put in what ever they had to get bread to rise when the SD was weak and cut the time down..  

Lots of recipes have commercial yeast added to SD breads for all kinds of reasons though. 

When ever I do a scoop and level cup of flour it always weights 140 g with whole grains weigh more.  Even if I aerate with the spoon and then spoon it into a cup I get 138 g.  Depends on the size of the cup.

linder's picture

Thank you everyone for your insights.  Thanks, Mini, for steering me on the right path to capture hydration for the loaf and hence the flour amounts, etc.  It's going to be fun to 'play' with this recipe and see what comes up.  The friend who gave me the recipe made a batch and sent me pictures.  They looked kind of bricklike to me, but I have no crumb shots.  I'm up for making it a hopefully 'loftier' loaf.

I will experiment and report back in a week or so after I return from a weeklong family trip to New Jersey (neice is getting married, yay!).




linder's picture

So today, I am making my first batch of this bread - doing 1/2 of the recipe as written.  Here are my amounts by weight for this recipe

300 g sourdough starter at 100% hydration

478g warm milk

336g warm water

8g active dry yeast

21g salt

8g diastatic malt powder

68g vegetable oil

18g baking soda

176g whole wheat flour

160g rolled oats (not instant)

900g bread flour

1 egg + 1 TBSP water (eggwash)

extra rolled oats for the top of the bread

Per the recipe, I mixed everything EXCEPT the bread flour in a large bowl and let it sit for 1 hour.  It did foam up quite a bit.  I stirred down the foamy mass and then added the bread flour about 200g at a time.  I got a somewhat manageable dough after about 800g of flour and then turned it out on a bread board for kneading, adding an additional 100g of flour while on the board.  Once kneaded smooth and elastic, I placed it in a lightly oiled bowl to rise.  It is quite a mass of dough, 2.4k.  It will easily fill up 2 8 1/2 x 4 loaf pans(maybe even 9 x 5  pans?).  I'm not sure I will go for the second rise on this dough, but let it rise once, degas, shape, rise in pans and bake.  Stay tuned for more on this bread as it develops.  I may end up with matching brick bookends - but who knows.


linder's picture

Here is the first attempt at this bread using the formula, crumb shots will be posted once the bread has cooled.  

Changed the original recipe - Once kneaded smooth and elastic, I placed the bread dough in a lightly oiled bowl to rise. I let it rise for 1 hour at 74F then shaped into two loaves, rising for 1 hour again until about 1 inch above the loaf pan edges. Baked for 60 minutes.


linder's picture

Oh good grief, I just tasted a slice of this bread.  It tastes like Bisquick! I think the baking soda is the culprit here.  I wonder what the bread would taste like without the baking soda.  Kind of disappointing after all the build up this bread was given from my friend.  I may try it again but without the baking soda and use honey in place of the diastatic malt. 


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Bisquick, well, you mean buttery?  Wait 24 hrs and taste again.   I would leave in the active malt at least for the next round.  Reduce to one loaf recipe and change only one thing at a time.  

Who knows, maybe this was a quick bread recipe at one time and didn't make the conversion completely.   Or a soda bread with a twist.  Who knows where Bisquick got their ideas from?    I know you can make it work out for yourself eventually.   Reformulate the salt if you leave out the soda.  You certainly got volume. Another way to get some great qualities out of the oats is to cook them first with lots of the water (just bring close to boiling and remove or measure out boiling water and then throw in the oats and stir often, allow to cool )  can even toast in butter and then boil them.  (way in the future also great browned with onions for thickening beef soup)   How does the bread toast?


clazar123's picture

Well, they certainly LOOK better! I know I'm a bit late but how did they taste as they "aged"? How was the texture. I definitely concur with Mini to change only one thing at a time.

linder's picture


The loaves made with the baking soada never lost their biscuity taste.  My husband took the loaves to work where they were devoured.  I made a second batch minus the baking soda, added some orange peel/zest , used honey in place of the diastatic malt and put in 100g more oatmeal for an equal amount of flour.  The bread was bland.  It did develop some hints of orange flavor as it sat around, but the bread was not my husband's favorite.  He's been spoiled by Peter Reinhart's 100% whole wheat sandwich bread from Whole Grain Breads.  I make it using a whole wheat sourdough starter in place of the biga per PR's formula and it is the tastiest bread in the morning with homemade Seville orange marmalade.  The bread makes great sandwiches too.  So I think I'm leaving th oat formula alone for a while. Maybe I'll come back to it at some point but it's just not my favorite and I can't see wasting time trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, as the saying goes.  Sometimes you get a winner and sometimes you don't.  I think the next iteration would be to turn this into a somewhat sweet breakfast loaf and add a swirl of cinnamon sugar and nuts.  That should fix it for sure.


clazar123's picture

I recently tried a high percentage oat bread and I do concur-the flavor is just bland. My oat bread did not seem to develop any of the flavor nuances that my wheat bread develops-even tho I did use a preferment which usually takes care of that. It tasted like a bowl  of oatmeal in my mouth after a few chews.

On to tastier endeavors!