Honey Oatmeal Bread Made with Love

I made this loaf using wild yeast levain (aka sourdough starter) instead of store bought yeast.

My grandma’s oatmeal bread recipe is a family favorite.

When I was a little girl, I remember waking up to the smell of fresh bread that my mother had baked that morning. She would cut me a thick slice, still warm, and generously smear butter on it. This loaf of bread would not stay around long because when I wanted a snack, I would eat this every time.

I watched my mom make this bread, but it wasn’t until I was an adult that my grandma taught me how to make bread of any kind. Her yeast rolls are what my family requests me to bring to our large Thanksgiving dinners, though we haven’t met during this pandemic.

Because of the pandemic, I was forced to find an alternative to using store bought yeast for this recipe because I simply couldn’t buy it. After much research, I developed my own wild yeast levain, also known as sourdough starter. After building it up through regular feedings, I could make bread.

While I built up my starter, I did research on how to use it to make bread. Since my starter is made with all-purpose flour and not rye flour, it has a sweeter taste to it, so it is much less sour than normal sourdough, but it does contribute some of that lovely flavor. Here is the recipe I follow.

Honey Oatmeal Bread Recipe

Print this recipe, which also has the original version using store-bought yeast.

Start with a poolish mix — Mixture 1

A poolish mix is used to give your wild yeast stamina and strength. This is the equivalent to dissolving your store-bought yeast in warm water and adding a bit of sugar to make it start rising. While store bought yeast does this within minutes, it takes several hours for the poolish mix to develop. 

It is worth the wait.

Before I begin making the poolish mix, I make sure I have fed my starter that morning, usually about 4 to 6 hours before. This insures that the yeast is highly active, which makes the poolie more robust.

Poolish Ingredients

⅓ cup (75 grams) water
½ cup (75 grams) flour
⅔ cup (150 grams) wild yeast starter, fed within the last 8 hours

In a 3-cup bowl, mix the starter and water. Stir in the flour until it is well combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 4 to 6 hours. During this time, you will see it rise to about double its original height. If you want, you can start this before you go to bed and let it rise overnight.

Create your oat base — Mixture 2

As this is oatmeal bread, this part of the recipe is the star. You want to use rolled oats, not instant, as they hold up better, absorb less water, and give the bread a better texture. I use Quaker Old Fashioned rolled oats, but you can use whatever brand you prefer.

Oatmeal base ingredients

1 ¾ cups (413 grams) boiling water
1 cup (80 grams) rolled oats
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter

Mix water, oats and butter in a large bowl and let stand for 30 minutes before adding the remaining ingredients.

2 ½ teaspoons (15 grams) kosher salt
½ cup (168 grams) honey (or molasses or raisins)

Mix together until well combined.

Mix it all together

Stir the poolish mix (mixture 1) into the oat mix (mixture 2.) Continue to stir until thoroughly mixed together before beginning to add the flour.

Remaining ingredient

5 ¼ cups (746 grams) flour

Begin adding flour gradually, mixing a half cup at a time until the dough is soft and not too sticky. Reserve 1 ½ to 2 cups (220–300 grams) from the total amount of flour (5 ¼ cups) for kneading.

At this point the dough will be very tacky, so you will need to use the reserved flour on the counter and your hands before you start to knead the bread. Spread about ¼ to ½ cup of flour on your counter. If you have a marble or stone surface to knead the dough, use it. It works great.

Knead the dough — this is not scary, I promise!

Scrape the dough from your bowl onto the floured surface. Fold the dough toward you and press down firmly with the ball of your hand, pushing away from you. The dough will feel somewhat resistant to being pushed. Lift the dough and rotate ¼ turn, then repeat the fold and push technique.

When the dough sticks to your countertop, use a bench scraper to help you lift it, if you have one. Then, spread another ¼ cup of flour onto your counter. Also, sprinkle some of the flour on top of the dough so your hands don’t stick too much.

Keep turning and pushing until the dough becomes soft, doesn’t stick to the countertop easily, and can be formed into a boulle. I find that this takes about 10 minutes. It is okay if you do not use up all your reserved flour. Too much flour makes the bread dense and not rise.

Let it rise

On the top, you can see how my unrisen dough holds its shape in a boulle. On the bottom, you can see that it has doubled in size.

Now it is time for the bulk rise, when you allow all the dough to rise in one large batch. I usually wash the large bowl that I mixed the bread in for this. Before putting the dough into the bowl, generously grease it with Crisco. Set the dough into the bowl, press it down, and then flip it over to coat both sides.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. This keeps the dough from drying out. You want the bulk rise to take 8 to 10 hours, so place the bowl in a cool place (72°F to 75°F.) Because wild yeast is less robust than store-bought, it takes much longer to double in size, which is what it needs to do.

Form and proof the loaves

Once the dough has doubled in size, it is time to form the loaves. I found that it is best to treat the dough gently from this point forward. Do not punch down the dough or press all the air out of it. Because wild yeast is delicate, you will want to keep as much of the rise in the dough as you can.

Spread about 2 tablespoons of flour on your work surface or countertop. Gently tip the bowl to allow the dough to roll onto the floured surface. This recipe makes two loaves, so you will need a knife or bench scraper to divide the dough into two halves. Set one half aside while you work with the other.

Gently stretch the dough into a rectangle that is about the same width as your loaf pan. My loaf pan is 9″ long, so my rectangle is roughly 12″ long by 9″ wide. Be sure you have generously greased your loaf pans with shortening.

Begin rolling away from you, with the 9″ side facing you.

With the 9″ side (width of your pan) facing you, begin rolling the dough into a log, pushing away as you roll the dough. With the seam side down, gently tuck under the ends as you lift the log and scoop it into your loaf pan.

Repeat this process with the remainder of your dough. Cover the loaves with plastic wrap and allow them to proof for 4 to 10 hours.They should double in size. The slower they proof, the better the flavor. You can prepare them at night and let them proof while you sleep and bake in the morning.

The loaves on the top are ready to proof and the loaves on the bottom have proofed for 4 hours in my oven.

There are two options for proofing the bread. The first, and in my opinion the easiest, is to form the loaves before going to bed and letting them proof overnight. This allows the bread to be baked first thing in the morning. It’s lovely to have fresh bread for breakfast.

The second option is to form the loaves in the morning and proof them in your oven. If you don’t have a proofing oven, simply place a pan of boiling water in the bottom of your full-sized oven and turn on the interior light. This will allow the bread to rise within 2 to 4 hours. Then bake as usual.

Bake the bread

Preheat your oven to 325°F. Be sure to remove the plastic wrap from your loaf pans before baking the bread. Before you bake your bread, you will want to split the top using a sharp knife or a bread lame and brush it with a tablespoon of melted butter to help it brown.

Split the top of the loaf using a sharp knife or lame. Angle the knife/lame at a 45° angle and score it quickly.

I like to put a pan of boiling water in the bottom of my oven for the first 30 minutes of the baking time. Remove the water for the last half. This helps create a crispy crust on the bread. Bake the bread for 45 minutes to 1 hour. After 45 minutes, begin to test the interior temperature of your bread. Once it reaches 200°F, it is done. 

If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, thump the top of the loaf with your fingers. (Like your mom used to do to your ear when you were misbehaving in a store.) If it sounds hollow and the top and sides are browned, it is done.

Don’t be afraid of making bread at home

I know that many people are intimidated by making bread at home. I promise, with a little practice, you will find success. Using the wild yeast is a little bit more advanced than using store-bought yeast, so try my original recipe while you learn. Then, once you are more confident, give the converted recipe a try.

If at first you don’t succeed, try try again. Don’t forget to print this converted recipe and original version.

Bon Appetit!


Print my free handy-dandy list of ingredient weights to help you cook with consistency!

Pat Davis, a retired teacher and editor of Simply Living and Living Simply, lives with her husband and neurotic cat, Neko. She loves to read, write, travel, bake, garden, sew, and craft. Top writer in Food and Cooking on Medium.