2 loaves
Andy Sewell

In the spring of 2013 we headed to Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery School to do a two-day workshop with Chad Robertson from Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. Chad is perhaps the most influential baker in the world today. It was an inspiring experience. He is so connected with his ingredients, so gentle with his hands and he works in a very restrained way – hardly kneading the bread at all. We learnt so much from him.

Inspired by Chad’s porridge bread, this is my favourite bread recipe – it has a wonderful texture – custardy and creamy, yet chewy with lots of unrefined crunchy seeds in it. Beautiful just as it is, I also love it toasted and eaten with butter.

All the ingredients need to be very fresh, especially the nuts, otherwise the final result will take on a slightly rancid flavour. The bread should have a vibrant, nutty and clean flavour.


Quantity Ingredient

For the leaven (starter dough)

Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon To make a starter
200ml warm water, (at 25°C)
100g strong white bread flour
100g unrefined wholemeal bread flour

For the porridge mixture

Quantity Ingredient
50g unprocessed barley
50g unprocessed brown rice
100g pinhead oats
50g rolled oats
50g linseeds
50g sunflower seeds
50g brazil nuts, roughly chopped
a good pinch salt

For the bread

Quantity Ingredient
150g leaven
750ml water
27g salt
500g strong white bread flour, plus extra to dust
500g unrefined wholemeal bread flour
70g wheatgerm
500g cooked oat porridge
rice flour, to dust
rolled oats, for coating


  1. For the leaven, the night before making the bread, put the 1 tbsp starter into a container. Feed it with the warm water and the white and wholemeal flour. Mix together with your hands until you have a loose dough. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a cool room overnight (ideally at 18°C).
  2. The following morning, to test your leaven, place a spoonful in a bowl of tepid water (at ­37°C). If the leaven floats, it is ready to use; if it sinks, it is not and needs a little more time to ferment and ripen. At this stage you can speed up the process slightly by placing it in a warmer spot and checking it every half an hour. Once the leaven is ready, you can make your bread.
  3. For the porridge mixture, place all the grains, seeds and nuts in a bowl and pour on enough water to just cover them. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to soak in the fridge for 2 hours.
  4. Transfer the soaked grain mixture to a saucepan and add twice their volume of water and a good pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, over a medium-low heat for 5 minutes until the grains are just tender and the water is absorbed. Set aside to cool – as the mixture cools it will firm up and form a slight skin on the surface.
  5. To make the bread, put the leaven in a bowl with the water and salt. Combine the flours and wheatgerm and pile into a mound on a clean work surface. Make a hollow in the centre and pour in the leaven liquid, all at once, slowly and carefully. Gently draw handfuls of flour from the outside into the centre and mix together with your hands to combine all the wet and dry ingredients. Continue until you have a thick, cohesive dough.
  6. Now start kneading. The mixture will be very loose at this stage – it may seem too runny, but resist any temptation to add more flour. Simply keep kneading to develop the gluten and the dough will start to develop and come together as it should. This will take about ­30 minutes. (To save time and effort, you can knead it in a mixer instead, in which case it will take about 10 minutes.) At the end of this time the dough should still be soft and sticky.
  7. Dust the dough with a little flour, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rest on the work surface for a couple of hours. The cloth will have stuck to the sticky risen dough. To release it, spray with water using a spray bottle and leave for a couple of minutes, then peel off the cloth. It should come away cleanly. Fold the cooked oat porridge through the dough, kneading very gently once or twice.
  8. Divide the dough in half and shape each piece into a ball with a smooth, taut surface. Line two proving baskets with clean, dry cloths and dust generously with a mixture of rice and wheat flour. Coat the surface of the dough with rolled oats by rolling the smooth side in the oats. Now upturn the loaves into the cloth-lined proving baskets, so they are coated side down. Cover loosely with a clean, dry cloth and leave to prove in the fridge overnight.
  9. Preheat the oven to ­­220°C. Place two cast-iron ­24cm round bread pots with lids in the oven to get really hot. Flour the pots generously and then carefully tip the risen dough into them, so the oat-coated surface is uppermost. Put the lids on and bake for 40 minutes, removing the lids from the pots 10 minutes before the end of cooking to allow the crust to colour to a deep golden brown. (If your oven is not big enough you may have to cook the bread in two batches.) If the crust appears to be over darkening, lower the oven temperature slightly.
  10. To check that the loaves are ready, remove them from the pots and tap the base firmly with your knuckles; the bread should sound hollow.
  11. Transfer the loaves to a wire rack to cool completely and allow the crumb to open and the crust to harden before slicing and eating.
Skye Gyngell
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