Spelt Sourdough with an Oat Porridge/Soaker

Using Hamelman’s delicious, and highly recommended, 5 grain levain recipe as the structure for this bread here is a Wholegrain Spelt Sourdough with an Oat Porridge/Soaker recipe. Please forgive my explanations, instead of exact measurements in places, as I went by feel for some of the steps.

Levain Build 8-10 hours before the final dough: (I did 10 hours and while it appeared over mature it worked very well and produced lovely flavour. I’m putting 8-10 hours as a good range with 8 hours playing it safe but by all means go up to 10)

  • 21g starter
  • 134g water
  • 107g wholegrain spelt flour

This is 125% hydration and expect some separation as the levain ferments. This is normal. When mature the surface will be frothy and bubbly with a lovely aroma.

Porridge Soaker to be done the same time as building the levain: Toast 146g rolled oats. Either in a dry pan on a low heat while stirring till there’s a nice aroma. Or spread out on a tray and placed into a 350°F/176°C preheated oven for about ten minutes making sure not to burn the oats.

  • 146g toasted rolled oats
  • 3g salt
  • Enough boiling water so the oats soak it all up with a little excess (about 300ml/g)

Pour the boiling water over the oats, stir up well and cover with a towel till cooled. Then cover with plastic wrap or inside a plastic bag till ready to use. The oats will soak up the little excess water in the meantime.

Final Dough:

  • 321g whole spelt flour
  • Enough extra water to make a soft but manageable dough; about 60ml/g
  • 8g salt
  • Soaker/Porridge
  • 241g levain (note not all the levain is used; 21g is retained for the next bake)

1: to the soaker add the salt and levain; combine using some of the water till fully distributed.

2: add the flour and mix; all the while slowly adding more water till you get a soft but managable dough.

3: knead till full gluten formation; about 15-20 minutes.

Due to it being whole spelt and oat porridge you won’t get a strong dough but it’ll hold itself together well without gaining a lot of extensibility. At the beginning it might feel a bit sticky due to the gel from the oats but it will be easy to handle and become less sticky once the kneading is done.

4: bulk ferment for two hours. While not strictly necessary due to the nature of the dough but keeping in line with the original structure of this recipe you can perform one set of gentle stretch and folds half way.

5: there is no need to carefully shape following the usual methods. This dough will not benefit from keeping the gas bubbles in and a pre-shape, bench rest etc. Instead, with damp hands de-gas the dough and gently knead to gain back structure then shape into a log with some gentle folds and a little tightening up all done in the bowl. Then place into a prepared loaf pan. Either with damp hands or a wetted spoon/dough scraper fix any irregularities in the dough smoothing it over.

6: final proof for 45 min - 1 hour and bake in a preheated oven; making sure its baked through properly. The crust should be golden and tap hollow. This loaf does retain moisture so make sure its done well.

7: cool before cutting.

The high percentage and hydration of the levain will bring out a lovely tang to this bread. I think the oats help bring moisture which spelt breads struggle with and the nuttiness of both the toasted oats and spelt compliment each other. This bread has a soft crumb and complex flavour being both nutty and tangy.


Beautiful sandwich loaf Abe. I’ve made Hamelman’s 5 grain sourdough a few times, it took me several tries to get a decent result. Fortunately it is such a good tasting bread.

Thank you Benny. The 5 grain levain is one recipe worth getting right and revisiting time and time again. Hamelman’s recipes are consistently top of the game. It was his recipes that got me thinking, and questioning, certain beliefs when it came to sourdough. One in particular is the seemingly contradictory less starter = more flavour. It turns out its not seemingly contradictory - it is contradictory. High hydration levain to encourage lactic acid bacteria and using a high percentage in your dough will result in a flavoursome loaf.

Just been admiring your latest bake. What wonderful colour.

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Abe did you bake with steam?

I baked this in a pullman which had a lid. I would advise steam for the first 20 minutes if not baking inside a vessel.

Abe, that’s a gorgeous loaf. I bet the taste is just lovely.

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Thank you Hester. This one I was very pleased with. One of my better spelt loaves. Went down a treat. Hope you’re keeping well.

Hello Abe. Thanks for posting this recipe. I’m just getting back into baking sourdough bread and for a sandwich loaf, I’ve started with a slightly modified Peter Reinhardt recipe, which is turning out pretty well consistently. I love spelt and I’ve actually wanted to add some oats, so I can’t wait to try this! It looks absolutely delicious!

You said you baked it in a pullman with a lid…did you take the lid off part way through the bake to get that lovely crowned top?


Thank you Debra. Spelt is a lovely grain but not easy to get a soft crumb which isn’t dense or crumbly. The oat soaker does compliment the spelt in both flavour and giving it moisture. Toasting the oats was a nice touch.

When I bake in the Pullman I do remove the lid for the last five minutes to allow the crust to form on top. This also makes it easier to remove the loaf, when tipping it upside down, without spoiling it. After which I return the whole loaf to the oven for a nice all over golden crust.

Hope you enjoy the bake and let me know how it goes.

Well, I think it may take a few more tries to get this one right! Maybe my starter isn’t active enough. It seems great with white flour (and when I feed it), but even with my whole wheat/spelt standby loaf, the final rise in the bread pan takes 4+ hours. For this loaf, I did the bulk ferment for just a little over 2 hours and then the final rise in the loaf pan for another 2 hours. At that point it wasn’t up to the top of the pan, but I was hoping for oven spring :slight_smile: . The taste is good, but it’s a it’s pretty dense…I’m thinking 1) maybe I shouldn’t have added more flour when kneading and 2) a longer proof in the loaf pan before baking…ideas from others are welcome!

I think it looks great for a 100% spelt loaf with an added oat soaker. Spelt does not produce the most open of crumb at the best of times. And on top of that its got a high percentage of oats. You added more flour you say! How much? That could be an issue here. When one starts to add more flour to get it less sticky its easy to overdo it which will result in a denser loaf. Because you’re asking I’m nitpicking. Had you said nothing I would have passed that 100% spelt as a great bake.

One thing does jump out at me though… You’re final proof does seem a bit in the long side especially for the high amount of starter and it being spelt. Perhaps you’re over doing it. Spelt is not going to rise as much as bread flour and proofs quickly. I’d look at that.

Thanks for the quick reply, Abe! I’ll try again without the added flour during the kneading step. It’s interesting that you said spelt typically proofs quickly – I’ll try shortening that time up. I guess I always think I should see the dough close to the top of the pan before baking…that could be a false expectation…

Thanks again for the help/suggestions!

No problem Debra. As for proofing to the top of the pan it will depend on how much the dough fills the pan. Since spelt doesn’t rise as much then fill the pan more by making enough dough for the pan you’re using. Or a smaller pan if you have one. When a spelt has been bulk fermented well especially with a large % of levain you’re looking at about an hour but always watch the dough and not the clock.