One of the first cookbooks I ever owned was called Great Breads. It introduced me to the world of sourdough baking and it was love at first sight! I’ve baked most of the recipes in the book and this is one of my favorites. Cornmeal Oat Sourdough Bread is amazing for toast and grilled cheese because the grains add so much texture.
Two Basic Types of Bread
Most bread recipes are variations of the same basic formula and sourdough is no different. You can bake plain bread made with flour, water, salt, and yeast or sourdough starter. Or you can make enriched bread with butter or some form of fat, eggs, sweetener, or milk added. An enriched dough will be softer and more like traditional sandwich bread.
This bread is a plain bread made with a good amount of cornmeal and rolled oats for a heartier texture. If you only added the cornmeal or the oats you would get a totally different bread. One thing I love about baking bread is that there are endless variations. You never get bored!
Cornmeal Oat Sourdough Bread Recipe
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup sourdough starter
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3-4 cups all-purpose flour
In a large bowl or container combine the water and sourdough starter. I use these plastic buckets from Sam’s Club. Go ahead and feed your starter and set it aside for a bit. You can find my sourdough starter method here. Add the cornmeal and the rolled oats to the water and starter in your bowl.
Stir to combine and cover. This is called a “sponge” and is basically a quick starter. Lots of traditional European breads use a sponge and it’s great for grainy type recipes. Here it gives the cornmeal and oats a chance to soften up in the water. Let it sit for about an hour until it’s bubbly. Below you can see the sponge right after I mixed it and then an hour later.
Mixing the Dough
Now it’s time to add the flour and salt. I like to lightly stir the salt into the flour to make sure it’s more evenly incorporated. Again, this isn’t critical but I find it handy.
After you give it a good mix, making sure there are no pockets of flour hanging out on the bottom, cover the bowl and let it rest. This is called autolyse and it allows the dough to rest and absorb the liquid. The rests and stretch and fold method I use for my breads allows the gluten to activate without lots of kneading. Another advantage of this method is that the flavors in the bread develop because the dough is sitting for a longer time. Here is a post for my Basic Sourdough Bread that goes into more detail about this method that may be helpful.
Below you can see the dough before and after the autolyse. The flour and grains have fully absorbed the water and it’s ready for the stretch and folds.
Stretch and Folds for Cornmeal Oat Sourdough Bread
Like all my sourdough breads, I give this dough 3 stretch and fold sessions. Each time the dough is smoother and more elastic as the gluten starts doing it’s thing. Between each stretch and fold session the dough rests for about 30 minutes. Below you can see the change after each session. The dough becomes tighter and more elastic as it’s worked and then rested.
After the third session cover the dough then let it rise for the bulk ferment. Most doughs will almost double in size and be puffy with some big air bubbles. The time here depends on how active the dough is and the temperature of your kitchen. Typically I plan for 2 hours for this step. Sometimes it’s ready in an hour and other times it’s super slow and might take 4 or 5 hours.
This is also when you can have flexibilty with bread baking. If you can’t finish the bread that day just put the whole thing in the fridge until you are ready to bake it. You can keep it in the fridge for up to 4 days if you need to.
After the bulk ferment, turn the dough out on the countertop for the bench rest. I fold the dough a few times to make a ball and cover it with a kitchen towel for 15 or 20 minutes. This gives the gluten a chance to relax before the final shaping. This is also when you can prep your basket or bowl for the bread to rise. I dust a cloth napkin and paper towel with flour and cornmeal to keep the dough from sticking.
Shaping the Bread
To shape the dough I turn it over and alternately pull the sides in almost like a braid. Next I turn the dough over to the smooth side and cup my hands on the far side of it to gently pull it toward myself. This pulls the dough into a ball and tightens up the outside into what’s called a “gluten cloak”. This will be the crust of the bread after it’s baked. After I shape the dough I put it in a banneton basket in the dusted napkin and paper towel set-up.
Now it’s time for the final rise. I put the basket and dough into a plastic shopping bag to rise. It’s important to keep the dough from drying out or it won’t rise and bake as well as it should. You can cover it with a big bowl or pot. Sometimes I put it in the cold oven with the light on if my kitchen is cold. This is another stage where you can put the dough in the fridge and bake it later it that’s better for your schedule.
About 30 minutes before the dough is ready, start your oven and heat up the dutch oven or whatever you are using to bake the bread in. The oven should be at 450 degrees and the dutch oven should be very hot.
Baking Cornmeal Oat Sourdough Bread
After the dough is airy and puffy, I turn it out onto a sheet of parchment and remove the napkin and paper towels. I carefully and quickly slash the dough so it can expand easily in the hot oven.
Now carefully remove your hot dutch oven or pan from the oven and transfer the dough to the hot pan. Cover with the lid and return it to the oven. Bake for 25 minutes then remove the lid. Lower the oven temperature to 425 degrees and bake for 25 more minutes. Remove it from the oven and let the bread cool. You can cool it completely in the pot or set it on a wire cooling rack. The crust will be a bit softer if you cool it in the pan.
Serve Cornmeal Oat Sourdough Bread with a soup or stew, make grilled cheese sandwiches or toast, or use part for the best croutons you’ve ever had!