The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New to site and bread making - need advice

jbaudo's picture

New to site and bread making - need advice

I have recently been making all of our bread at home because our middle son has so many food intolerances that it is just safer (not to mention cheaper and tastier!) to make everything.  Also everything has to be dairy free because he is lactose intollerant.  I usually substitute rice milk and canola oil or extra virgin coconut oil for the milk and butter.  I have done pizza dough, pita, dinner rolls and hamburger buns all with excellent results.  My sandwich loaves are okay but I haven't been WOWed by them.  I usually try to do a long ferment with my sandwich loaves because I love the flavors that are created and the ease at which gluten is developed with less kneading.  BUT, I tend to have problems with large bubbles in the crust that mess up the whole loaf.  I have been slicing the tops to reduce this isn't truly fixing the problem - if I didn't slice then I would still have the large holes.  I probably need to knead the bread more of differently but I have trouble with my wrists and don't want to overdo it(for my sake).   I really want to make a whole wheat sandwich loaf that tastes good but can't seem to pull it off.  Maybe I haven't found the right recipe or technique yet.  Right now I am using half whole wheat half bread flour and also adding vital wheat gluten because if I use all whole wheat nobody wants to eat the bread! I could really use some good recipes and tips to help me make a good sandwich loaf for my family.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

What kind of yeast is in the dough?   Sometimes cutting back, using less yeast in the recipe helps or letting the dough bulk rise twice, before shaping into a loaf pan.


jbaudo's picture

I have been using Fleishhmann's active dry yeast.  Other than their instant yeast that is pretty much all I can find around here.  I bought the active dry because I got a big thing of it rather than little packets and it was cheaper.  Currently I am adding about a teaspoon of yeast per loaf.  Since I make the dough at night before going to bed and let it sit out all night on the counter this small amount is more than enough.  By morning I have a huge bowl of dough ready for shaping.  I have tried refridgerating it overnight but it takes so long to come to room temperature that I just leave it on the counter instead.



Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

" ...this small amount is more than enough."  

Try cutting it to 1/2 a teaspoon and see what happens.


Aprea's picture

I too am looking for a good sandwich bread for my family.  I have 4 kids and make lunches everyday - They are sick of the supermarket whole wheat and I want to make something that they can look forward to.



Wisecarver's picture
Wisecarver (not verified)
Yumarama's picture

You may be able to get around the bulk of the kneading problem by doing stretch and folds instead and/or getting yourself a good mixer that will do the kneading for you like a DLX, Bosch, good heavy duty home ones of this sort that won't fry from kneading. 

brakeforbread's picture

...Honey Bran Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread. I didn't have the full amount of White WW the recipe called for, so I swapped some organic dark rye. Aside from the fact that I probably should have checked the internal temp the first time I made it, it came out great. The recipe makes three loaves, I put two in the freezer and we'll use one this week.


davec's picture


Like you, I'm trying for a completely whole wheat sandwich loaf.  I finally hit on a recipe that works in my bread machine, although I hesitate to recommend a machine to someone who has mastered hand-made loaves.  Still, if kneading is a problem, this might be one way to go.  I bought mine several years ago at Costco, and I think it cost about $70.  My machine is an Oster.

Here's my recipe:

4 cups whole wheat flour

4 tsp vital wheat gluten

3 Tbs wheat germ (optional)

1 3/4 cups water

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

3 Tbs honey

3 Tbs oil (I use extra-virgin olive oil)

Because flours differ, and atmospheric humidity varies, I always watch the machine during the mixing cycle to adjust water or flour, if necessary.  This makes a loaf with a fairly tight crumb, which we like for sandwiches and toast.

I am still trying to find a good recipe for 100% whole wheat using sourdough, rather than yeast.  I've made Peter Reinhart's basic loaf from his book, "Whole Grain Bread", using a sourdough starter, but adding yeast for the final rise.  It made a very good loaf, with more flavor than my bread machine loaf.  I'll try it without the added yeast the next time.


jbaudo's picture

I tried using the stretching and folding instead of punching down and my old way of shaping.  I also made one big slit down the middle.  I watched a video from this site of a guy making his loaves this way and wanted to give it a try.  My loaves came out really nice considering I didn't knead it all that much last night.  I tend to make my dough on the wetter side anyway so kneading is pretty difficult.  I would post a photo but most of the bread has already been eaten!  I have a preferment going right now for a loaf that I am going to make tonight.  Is there really a difference in the final product?  I have avoided using a preferment because I didn't really understand the point but I am finally going to give it a try.

judyinnm's picture

Have you tried some non-diastatic malt powder to improve the taste?  It takes the (sour) edge off.

jbaudo's picture

I have never heard of that but will look for it the next time I am at the grocery store.  By "take the edge off" do you mean it mellows out the heavy whole wheat flavor?  I guess that it what my family really can't stand about 100% whole wheat bread.


Yerffej's picture


I regularly make a 100% whole wheat bread from wheat that is home milled with a stone mill.  The flour is then truly whole grain with the bran and germ intact.  I use sourdough and no commercial yeast and the fermentation and proofing are all day processes.  The final product is a slighty dense, but not overly so, loaf that draws praise from bread eaters of all types.  For sandwiches I simply slice the bread very thin. 

The appeal to the wide range of tastes comes from the long slow sourdough only ferment.  If I add yeast the final taste is severely and negatively affected.

Flour, water, salt, (and sourdough starter) and long cool fermenting of a fairly sticky dough.  That's it.


jbaudo's picture


That sounds like exactly the kind of bread I am looking to make. Would you mind sharing your recipe with me?  I have never done a true sourdough before but I am willing to give it a try. Also, what kind of mill do you have?  I have been considering getting one but can't decide which one. 


Yerffej's picture


Here is the recipe.  I did not cover the topic of making sourdough as there exists a lot of good information on that topic right here at TFL.

100% Whole Grain Wheat Bread

Ingredients - by weight not volume except for the salt:

26 oz stone ground whole grain wheat flour
18 ½ oz filtered water- room temperature
2 ½ teaspoons celtic sea salt
8 oz 100% hydration rye sourdough starter at its peak of activity

Put the starter and water in a mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Add the salt to the flour and stir into the water/starter mixture in the bowl. Knead for 5 minutes. Rest the dough for 15 minutes and then knead for 10 minutes more. Adjust the dough with flour or water as necessary in the final knead.

Transfer dough to a glass bowl and leave to rise (3-6 hours) at room temperature until it is about 140% of its original size.

Very gently remove the dough from the bowl and shape using gentle hands so as to not deflate the dough anymore than absolutely necessary. I make one large boule as I find that, for me, it is the easiest shape to make with the least amount of handling. Transfer to parchment paper on a flat rimless cookie sheet and proof for about two hours in a slightly warmed and humid proofing environment. I use a glass bread pan ¼ filled with boiling water inside a closed space with the shaped dough. Let proof for about 60-90 minutes, the loaf will have gained some but little size during the proofing.

One hour before baking preheat the oven to 550° F with a baking stone on the middle or lower rack.

Score the proofed loaf and steam the oven. I use the broiler pan on the oven floor filled with 12 ounces of hot water. Slide the loaf onto the stone in the oven, turn the oven temperature down to 500° F, and bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the loaf in the oven, reduce the oven temperature to 475° F, and bake for another 30 minutes. The internal temperature of the finished loaf should be 200° F.

Cool on a rack.


That is the basic recipe and what follows are some things I have learned along the way with regard to this recipe.

Your choice of flour makes a world of difference in the final loaf. I have tried many brands of flour and many types of flour. Stone ground, coarse ground, fine ground, this brand, that brand and a few in between. My personal favorite is my own home milled hard red wheat milled with a stone mill that leaves the bran and germ intact. From one hard red wheat variety to another hard red wheat variety there is a substantial difference in the taste and character of the final loaf.

I have used spring water (that I collected at the source) and filtered tap water for this recipe and both seem to work just fine. I would not use chlorinated water without first removing the chlorine through filtration. I understand that reverse osmosis filtering works too well and removes all of the minerals from the water and this is not what you want. I filter my tap water through a charcoal filter, twice.

Celtic sea salt or any other unrefined sea salt carries about 80 essential trace minerals and has a flavor that is light years ahead of refined salt. Use unrefined sea salt.

I use rye starter for the flavor that it brings to the bread. You can use any flour you like for the starter but I found that rye makes the tastiest loaf. The rye adds another layer of character and depth to the bread. If you use a white flour starter instead of rye the small amount of white flour in the starter will make the final loaf ever so slightly less dense.
Sourdough starters seem to vary a bit in the way they work. Some are strong and fast while others are somewhat slow. Some seem to work better in the initial fermentation while others are apparently more effective in the proof. This is one reason why the initial fermentation has the wide range of 3-6 hours. The other factor in the wide timing range is ambient temperature. The deciding factor in the fermentation is the dough growing to 140% of its original size. Sourdough on a hot Summer day will act much more quickly than on a cold winter day. You need to "know" your particular starter and how it works so that you might develop predictable timing for any sourdough recipe. Sourdough at 4000 feet above sea level packs a whole lot more punch than sourdough at sea level. One thing all sourdough has in common is exceptional oven spring.

Probably the most critical phase of this recipe is the feel of the mixed dough. This cannot be simply stated in terms of hydration as flours vary greatly in the amount of moisture that they carry and not all flours result in the same dough given the same hydration. The only way to know that the dough is right is to learn the feel of the dough. The final dough will be somewhat wet and sticky but strong enough so that it does not slump completely when formed into a ball. If it holds its ball shape strong and firmly then the dough is too dry. If it slumps into a disc after being formed into a ball then it is too wet. If it just relaxes a bit and sags a little after being formed into a ball then it is just about right. It should not be so wet that you cannot handle it but it is definitely sticky enough to stick to itself, the work surface, and your hands if you hold it too long. Experience will tell you when you have the exact right amount of water in the dough. Too dry and you will bake a doorstop. Too wet and it will slump into a rather flat loaf. There is a sweet spot in hydration that is the key to a great loaf. Also the dough will stiffen up just a little as it ferments and continues to soak up water. If you want to bake in a bread pan the hydration of the final dough is a little less critical as you can lean a tiny bit towards a wetter dough and let the pan hold it all together.

I mix my dough using a KA Mixer and I have learned to recognize what the dough should look like in the mixing bowl. I did not begin using a mixer until I had mixed and kneaded dough by hand for years as I think that learning the proper feel of dough is vital to baking great bread of any type.

The fermenting and proofing times are also very important as you want to catch the sourdough at the apex of its rising power so that when the proofed loaf hits the hot stone you get the full benefit of that wonderful oven spring that sourdough can deliver. It is better that the loaf be just a bit under proofed rather than over proofed. While a slightly over proofed loaf will not rise and sink in the oven you will miss the optimum point for full oven spring so lean some towards under proofed. Oven spring is a substantial component in getting a whole grain loaf that is lighter in texture.

In the baking, as in the proofing, a little bit can make a big difference only here it is better to over bake by a little rather than under bake at all. A few minutes too little in the baking will be detectable by all and a few minutes extra baking will be noticed by almost no one. I used an instant read thermometer until I got to know the oven and the bread really well. I still use the thermometer when I am trying a new recipe.

White flour is forgiving but whole grain is not. That is, if you make a white flour dough that is a bit too dry or too wet in the end the loaf will likely be quite acceptable if not down right good, for a white flour bread that is. Whole grain is quite different in that you do not have that latitude for error because every inch off the bullseye shows up in the final loaf. So if you find yourself struggling with 100% whole grain then substitute some white flour for a portion of the whole grain and slowly work your way to 100% whole grain by using less and less white flour with each loaf. This is a very effective method for teaching yourself to bake with all whole grain.

This recipe is written so that you can start the dough in the morning and have a baked loaf later in the day. You can also make the dough and then refrigerate it overnight for a long cold ferment which will add another dimension of flavor to the bread. In fact the overnight fermentation makes a truly superior loaf of bread.

The final loaf is a result of 90% technique and 10% recipe. Every little thing you do from the moment flour meets water until the baked loaf is cooled will be reflected in the bread. In addition to using high quality ingredients, paying close attention to each and every detail is the path to great whole grain bread.

One final note, should it occur to you to try this recipe with yeast rather than sourdough I would say, don't bother as the bread will simply be lacking.

Happy Baking,   Jeff




Yerffej's picture
Yerffej the mill that I use.  I have the stone mill and there is also a steel burr mill option.

I recently had the opportunity to compare the flour from my mill with commercially milled whole wheat flour from the very same batch of wheat.  There is simply no comparison or I should say it would be like comparing a Sachertorte to a hostess cupcake.  Were I to again buy a grain mill I would, without a moments hesitation, buy another stone mill.

Jennifer I have to write up the recipe for you and I will very soon,



johnster's picture

I've had a life-long love affair with the lean white water breads, and I recently had an epiphany (perhaps because I'll turn forty in less than a month??).  if I'm going to be baking the majority of the bread that my family eats, why not make my new obsession "the perfect healthy whole grain loaf" instead of "the perfect boule or baguette"?  (Methinks this beats the heck out of buying a sports car and dying my hair!)  ;)



ema2two's picture

My kids (not to mention me and my husband) have taken very well to several multigrain loaves I've tried.  None are 100% whole grain, but they have substantial whole grains and lots of flavor.

Hamelman's 5 Grain Bread (the straight dough version, though I'm told the sourdough version is also good)

Murray's Kashi Bread from Greenstein's Secrets of a Jewish Baker

Struan (I made the version from Brother Juniper's Bread Book, but Peter Rheinhart has versions in several of his books)

Each uses a soaker of multiple whole grains, added to a bread dough of a combination of whole wheat, rye and white flours.  I made each largely as written (substituted soy milk powder for the nonfat dry milk in the Kashi bread).  Might be able to increase the whole grains by using some white whole wheat for some or all of the white flours, thogh might need to add some vital wheat gluten it the amount of whole wheat flour gets high enough.

jbaudo's picture

I'll have to give those a try.  Maybe my library has those books.  I have never tried soy milk in bread because that can also trigger allergies in sensitive people but I have used rice milk and oat milk and they both work great.  The oat milk is much creamier but also twice as expensive so I typically use rice.