Oat Porridge Bread with Toasted Almonds

I love porridge breads. Their crumb has a creaminess that is just so damn good. I’ve made a few in the past and they were really good but it has honestly been three years since I had last attempted. What makes porridge bread so delicious is the subtle flavor of whatever porridge is added. Oat is most common, but you can use any kind of flaked grain or even cornmeal. The porridge is made separately, usually with a 2:1 ratio of water to grain. Then after you make your base dough, the porridge is added and mixed in. During your subsequent folds and bulking time, the available water in the porridge is released and reabsorbed into the dough resulting in a wetter and more supple final dough.

So I took a basic country white recipe and an oat porridge recipe and smashed the two together. Almonds weren’t on my radar yet, so I added some honey and anise to the oat porridge. The resulting dough was very wet. The base dough was at 76% hydration before adding the porridge in and my flour was not strong enough to withhold the release and reabsorption of water from the porridge. It was very hard to shape and didn’t have much elasticity and collapsed while baking. Although the flavor was really good and the texture was smooth as butter, it’s hard to put a liquid dough into rotation. So I adjusted my hydration down quite a bit. All the way to 70%. I followed the same recipe, just adjusting the hydration and when it was time to shape, it was still super liquid-y. And I had no idea why. I had lowered the hydration, made the porridge the same way, added the same amount of porridge, and….oh wait. I had one of those moments where you stop and go, you stupid person. You seriously did that?? So here’s what happened. Bakers use baker’s percentage to calculate recipes. All the ingredients are based on percentages of flour, that way you can make any size recipe and it’s still the same. And adjustments are easy. Just based off of flour, which is always 100% because it’s usually the largest ingredient in the recipe. So 70% water is 70 grams of 100 grams of flour. I will link a really good article explaining baker’s percentage way better than I ever could.

Baker’s Percentage

But essentially what I did was use 50% of porridge of the total dough weight. Which is a whole lot of porridge and a whole lot of extra water. It’s one of those rookie mistakes that you want to bury in the sand. So I tried the same recipe again, only this time, took the porridge percentage from the overall flour weight, and this dough was really nice. It was silky and not as extensible as I wanted, but it held together well. I covered it with oats while shaping and baked it very dark. The final loaf was tasty, had a wonderfully creamy crumb and the hint of anise was everything. I love anise. Let me put in everything I make. I was very happy with this recipe.

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Oat Porridge Loaf on the right, no almonds yet.

Then my boss comes to me and says, hey, put some almonds in that. Okay, can do, no problem. Lets try almonds and also almond oil, see what tastes better. So I take my same recipe, omitting the anise and honey, and added 12% toasted, sliced almonds. Dough feels good, shapes easy. After it’s baked, I slice it open, taste and it’s dry. And the almonds are chewy. Not an amazing texture. So the almonds soaked up a lot of the extra water from the porridge and the resulting dough was drier and the almonds then had a mealy texture due to the water. Okay, so more water in the base dough to compensate for that and let’s try to pulse the almonds.

I add the same 12% almonds, toasted and pulsed in a food processor and 3% more water. The bread’s texture is definitely more better, but I could definitely add some more water. And the almonds aren’t mealy and the nutty flavor is much better, but I can still feel the almonds and it’s not super pleasant. But maybe almond oil would make it better and lend a more complex flavor? So I kept everything the same but added 5% almond oil during the porridge fold-in. When I sliced open the finished loaf, it was not what I wanted but kind of what I expected. The oil lent a denser crumb and took away that fluffiness that I want in a porridge bread and the almond texture still wasn’t great. Ok, so scrap all thoughts of almond oil.

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Oat Porridge Loaf with Almond Oil and Sliced Almonds; you can see how the texture looks denser due to the oil addition

So I went back to the recipe before I added the oil and upped the hydration 3% again. And added 15% toasted and finely pulverized almonds. I upped the almond percentage because I wanted more nuttiness. Also, with more almonds, I could use some more salt to really pop all that porridge and nuts. So I increased salt from 2.5% to 2.8%. This dough shaped up nicely, held its structure, and baked evenly. The smell coming from the oven was incredible. Once it cooled, I sliced it open and it was perfect. The crumb was back to being creamy and the almonds didn’t lend any weird texture, but it’s flavor was toasty and delicious. I was very pleased.

Oat Porridge Bread with Almonds
Bread Flour 95%
Wheat Flour5%
Levain 20% (young; 2-4hrs old)
Water 76% (70% when making without almonds)
Salt 2.8%
Porridge 50%
Almonds, toasted finely ground 15%

Oat Porridge
Oats 50%
Water 100%
Salt to Taste

Porridge:
1. Cook oats and water over medium-low heat for approximately 15 minutes, stirring every 2-3 minutes. Porridge will become increasingly drier and harder to stir.
2. Scoop porridge out onto a sheet pan and spread evenly. Cover with plastic wrap and let cool at room temperature. If not using right away, wrap tightly and place in fridge. It can be used up to one week.

Almonds:
1. Toast almonds until light golden brown and fragrant.
2. Cool completely and chill.
3. Grind into a fine powder and declump if necessary.

Dough:
1. Autolyse flours and water (60F) for 45mins.
2. Mix in levain and bulk for 30 minutes.
3. Add salt and bulk for another 30 minutes.
4. Add room temperature porridge and almonds, declumping as you go. If you find clumps as you fold, smear the porridge into the dough during folds.
5. Fold and bulk ferment at 75-80F for 20 minutes.
6. Fold two more times every 20 minutes, then fold two more times every 30 minutes.
7. Bulk for another hour.
8. Bulk ferment in the fridge/retarder for 10-16 hours. Bring to room temperature, approximately
1.5-2 hours.

9. Preshape, rest for 30 minutes, and shape, coating top with oats.
10. Proof for 1.5-3 hours, score and bake.