This wholemeal bread recipe is the antithesis of the doughy supermarket loaf
This is my favourite wholemeal bread recipe and I go back to it time and time again. Humble ingredients combined to make a sumptuous loaf. A bread full of character and flavour that ages gracefully over several days. Better yet, it’s packed with quality nutrients. It’s the antithesis of the doughy supermarket loaf.
The secret is the oatmeal
The key to this bread’s awesome properties is soaked oatmeal. Adding soaked grains is a traditional bread making technique that improves the keeping qualities of a bread. The oatmeal retains moisture during baking, adds texture and creates the full flavour of this loaf. And oats are arguably the healthiest grain you can eat. But oats on their own lack the gluten to make a good leaven bread. They need a little help from wheat flour.
The combination of oatmeal and wholemeal flour makes this bread a true health food.
The unglamorous beginnings of this Wholemeal Bread Recipe
I’d like to tell you it’s a treasured ancient Celtic recipe handed down to me by an ageing mentor and master baker. But I can’t. Sorry. Instead, it was a pragmatic marriage of two sides of my old job, the cook and the penny-pinching pub landlord…
There’s a comforting atmosphere about a local pub, especially in winter. The wall of warmth as you step in and out of the late November rain. A hint of woodsmoke from an open fire. The burble and crash of relaxed conversation and laughter.
And good beer on tap.
But keeping draught beer in good condition is a wasteful business. The pipes connecting the keg to the tap fur up with yeast and impurities tainting the beer’s flavour. Keeping beer lines pristine is essential. But every routine clean starts by flushing the beer from the pipes and throwing it away. It’s an accepted loss in the hospitality industry known as ullage. But, as a beer drinker and Scot, it broke my heart. Pints and pints of good beer and profit tipped down the drain.
I asked the bar team to deliver the ullage to the kitchen instead. We’d find a use for it somehow. And in short order, all manner of beer-based dishes were auditioning for a spot on our menu – with very mixed results.
Eventually, a beer and oatmeal bloomer emerged. And this premium loaf was a runaway smash in the restaurant and a star of the cash register in our Deli. The supply of waste beer couldn’t keep up with demand. My broken heart was healed.
And I confirmed what I’ve always thought to be true.
- Some of the best recipes are born out of thrift. It’s true of traditional recipes from all over the world.
- Good food is simple and true to its roots. Oatmeal, beer and honey, it doesn’t get more Scottish.
- Trial and error is the nursery of every great recipe. Granted the failures outnumber the triumphs, but those successes last a lifetime.
Where’s the beer?
If you’ve already scanned the recipe you’ll have noticed there’s no beer. Cutting out the beer lowers the calories per slice. I’m a nutritionist and I could pretend I removed the beer to make the bread healthier. But the truth is, beer doesn’t go to waste in my house.
Cutting out the beer makes it a more home-kitchen friendly bread. Over time I’ve made a few minor tweaks to make up for the omission. Now it’s a bread that’s just as satisfying as the original loaf.
But if you want to try replacing some or all of the water with beer, go right ahead. Your results will be interesting as your bread’s flavour will reflect your choice of beer. (Tip- if you’re making the bread with beer, open the beer the day before and allow it to go flat)
Not a bread recipe for the novice
This isn’t a difficult bread recipe, but it can be a little intimidating to the novice bread maker. If that’s you, I recommend giving my Rustic White Loaf a couple of tries first. What you learn making that bread will set you in good stead for tackling this recipe.
If you’re unsure of any of the breadmaking techniques in this recipe there are step by step instructions in this article.
Healthy Scottish Oat and Wholemeal Bread
- 170 gram Strong wholemeal flour
- 120 millilitres water
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 pinch dried yeast
- 90 gram steel cut oatmeal
- 120 millilitres water
- 1 tsp salt
- Oatmeal soaker
- 290 gram Strong wholemeal flour
- 130 millilitres Water warm
- 25 gram Honey
- 1 tsp Dried yeast
- Weigh the flour into a large bowl
- Make a well in the centre
- Sprinkle the salt around the outside edge of the flour avoiding the well in the centre
- Add the pinch of yeast into the well
- Pour the water into the well
- Stir with a cutlery knife slowly incorporating the flour into the water
- When the two are mixed, knead briefly until the dough forms a ball
- Cover with cling film and leave overnight at room temperature
- Mix the water, oatmeal and salt together in a bowl
- Cover and leave overnight at room temperature
- Mix the honey and dried yeast into the warm water
- Weigh the flour into a bowl
- Add the oatmeal soaker and pre-ferment in walnut-sized pieces
- Add the water/honey/yeast mix
- Use your fingers to blend the dough together
- Scrape the dough from the bowl onto your kitchen table
- Knead the dough for 10 minutes
- Return the dough to the bowl, cover with oiled cling film and leave in a warm place to prove for 1 – 1½ hours
- Fold the dough and return it to the bowl, re-cover with cling film and leave to prove for 30-45 minutes
- Turn the dough out onto your table and pre-shape it
- Cover with cling film and leave to rest for 10 minutes on the worktop
- Shape your dough into your desired loaf – boule, bloomer or loaf tin
- Place on an oiled baking sheet or in your loaf tin
- Return to the warm place for final proving of ¾-1¼ hours
- Preheat your oven to 240˚C /465˚F.
- In the bottom of the oven preheat a heavy roasting tin
- 2 minutes before your bread goes in the oven moisten the oven with ice cubes
- Score your loaf
- Mist the loaf with water (a plant mister works well)
- Sprinkle the loaf with oatmeal
- Put the bread into the oven on a middle shelf and pour a cup of boiling water into the roasting tray before you close the door. (Take care to protect your hands and face, steam can scald)
- After 15 minutes your loaf should have started to colour and reached its maximum volume. Carefully remove the roasting tray.
- Don’t fully close the oven. Leave a tiny gap to vent the remaining steam and moisture as the loaf bakes.
- Bake for a further 25-30 minutes
- Remove and allow to cool on a wire rack.
Hi, I’m Ralph
I’m an Associate Registered Nutritionist with over 25 years’ experience as a professional chef.
My passion is helping individuals gain control of their diet to achieve food freedom and health in today’s broken nutrition environment.
I’m based in Edinburgh and provide 1-2-1 online nutrition coaching and support across the U.K.
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