Oat (commonly mentioned with its plural form, oats) is a cereal grain that we usually consume it in the form of flakes, which are produced after crushing the whole grains through suitable rollers.
The flakes are usually eaten for breakfast, either as such mixed with yogurt, fruits, and nuts, or soaked in water or milk and cooked shortly to form a mash, known as porridge.
However, this post is not about oat flakes per se but about oat sourdough bread.
Before going directly to the recipe, let's first go through from some interesting nutrition facts about oats. The latter, like all whole grains, are very nutritious but they have two specific features that make them stand out from the rest of the cereals.
First, they are well tolerated by people with gluten sensitivities, many times even from celiac disease patients. Because of that, oats are often described as gluten-free grains, a property that is though controversial and confusing. The confusion is attributed to the fact that oats contain the equivalent of the wheat gliadin protein, which is the gluten component triggering an immune response and subsequently inflammation in people with celiac disease. Gliadin belongs to the prolamin family of proteins whose members contain a high number of proline and glutamine amino acid residues in their sequence. People with celiac disease cannot properly digest certain gliadin parts and their body initiates an autoimmune response to fight them, causing thus inflammation and intestine damage. The other gluten-containing cereal grains, rye and barley, contain the gliadin equivalents, namely secalin and hordein, respectively. These proteins are also known to be toxic for celiac disease patients. The analogous protein in oats is avenin, though its toxicity is much lower compared to its counterparts, sometimes to such levels that constitute oats well tolerated by celiacs (1,2).
Strictly speaking, the scientific literature does not fully support the gluten-free character of oats since there are still studies pointing to the opposite direction (3,4). However, even if there is direct (from avenin), or indirect (from wheat contamination) immune response in some celiac cases, there are no obvious indications for intestine damage after consuming oats in moderate amounts.
Whole grains are very good sources of fiber, but oat in particular is rich in beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber with a number of remarkable health benefits (5). Soluble fibers dissolve in water and form gel-like structures, helping the proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. Beta-glucan especially has been shown to improve gut health mainly by functioning as prebiotic, feeding thus the beneficial bacteria within the large intestine. Except for gut health, beta-glucan consumption has been linked with a more active immune system, lower blood cholesterol levels and enhanced heart health, better regulation of blood sugar levels, lower risk of obesity, and an array of anti-cancer properties.
I am used to eating oats pretty often, but always as flakes for breakfast. I have not though made an oat bread before. Without further thinking, last week (the first of 2021) I fed my sourdough culture with some oat flour that I obtained by milling whole oat grains in my electric mill, and I went on to assemble a bread dough. I included in the recipe both oat flour and flakes, together with a part of wheat bread flour so as to have some gluten development for structure and airiness in the baked bread.
Oat sourdough bread
Proofed and baked in a loaf tin (26x12x7cm)
200g whole oat flour*
100g oat flakes**
200g wheat bread flour***
100g active sourdough
* If oat flour is unavailable, you can omit it and use more oat flakes in the recipe, or substitute it with some other whole grain flour.
** I soaked half of the oat flakes in milk to prepare a kind of porridge, which I incorporated into the dough. I sprinkled the other half on top of the dough after shaping it.
*** In this recipe, I used type-1050 wheat flour
- Mix half of the oat flakes with an equal amount of hot milk and let them soak for a couple of hours, until a kind of porridge is formed.
- In the meantime, mix well in a bowl the two types of flour with salt and water until all flour is fully hydrated. Cover it and let it rest while flakes are soaking.
- Add onto the dough the active sourdough, and incorporate it well by kneading for a couple of minutes. Let the dough rest for 30 min.
- Add the oat porridge and fold it into the dough. Let the dough rest for another 30 min.
- Do a couple of more rounds (every 30 min) of stretching and folding the dough, until gluten looks well developed.
- Let the dough ferment and rise approximately 30-40% of its original volume. Depending on the exact conditions it might take between 4-6 hours from the moment the sourdough was added.
- Transfer the dough onto a very well-floured surface, shape it gently, and carefully transfer it into the loaf tin lined with baking paper.
- Sprinkle the other half of the oat flakes onto the dough, place the tin in a plastic bag, and transfer it to the fridge to proof overnight.
- Next day, bake the dough directly coming from the fridge in a pre-heated oven at 220°C for 50-60 min.
- Wait for the dough to cool down for at least a few hours before slicing.
1. Gilissen LJWJ, van der Meer IM, Smulders MJM. Why oats are safe and healthy for celiac disease patients. Med Sci (Basel) (2016);4(4):21
2. Kaukinen K, Collin P, Huhtala H, Maki M. Long-term consumption of oats in adult celiac disease patients. Nutrients (2013);5(11):4380
3. Thies F, Masson LF, Boffetta P, Kris-Etherton P. Oats and bowel disease: a systematic literature review. Br J Nutr (2014);112 Suppl 2:S31
4. Pure oats as part of the Canadian gluten-free diet in celiac disease: The need to revisit the issue. Can J Gastroenterol Hepatol (2016):1576360
5. El Khoury D, Cuda C, Luhovyy BL, Anderson GH. Beta glucan: Health benefits in obesity and metabolic syndrome. J Nutr Metab (2012);851362