The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Reinhart Whole Grains -- heavy and gummy loaf?

razl's picture

Reinhart Whole Grains -- heavy and gummy loaf?

I've been trying to make Reinhart's 100% whole wheat sandwich bread. This is the first bread I've tried to bake outside a bread machine, so I don't have a good handle on what I should expect at each stage --- and whether Reinhart's dough should feel different than normal bread doughs. So I was hoping some of you could help me troubleshoot. :) Any suggestions or ideas would be much appreciated.

I've been getting a very dense and gummy loaf. It's 3.25" tall, so it just barely sticks out above the loaf pan.... the book says it's supposed to rise 1.5" above the pan. That said, it does have a sweet and complex flavor.

I've been trying to follow Reinhart as closely as I can. I measured by weight and used King Arthur White Wheat Flour; I had to substitute soy milk for milk. I mixed in the stand mixer where he says I can, and then I did some hand kneading as he indicates.

So I have a few ideas about what could have went wrong, please let me know which of these sound most plausible.

  1. Not enough baking time. At 350 degrees, I baked for 20 minutes, rotated, and baked another 20 minutes. I don't have a thermometer.
  2. Not enough proofing time. Reinhart says it's supposed to rise 1.5" above the pan. I think I got impatient after 50 minutes and just put it in the oven.
  3. Not enough rising time. Reinhart says to wait for it to double in size.... but I'm not sure what that means in a glass bowl. Double in height? Double in diameter? Double in volume?
  4. Not enough gluten development => not enough kneading? My dough always seemed very wet and sticky. I added flour to try and compensate, but I was watching some videos at Sourdough Home, and they say the dough should start out wet and sticky, but kneading should make it more smooth and subtle. Maybe I just didn't knead it enough? I also noticed that dough seems to look normal at first, but then after a few minutes in the stand mixer with the dough hook, it seems to get "wetter", if that makes any sense...

Or maybe it's some other problem entirely??  Anyway, any suggestions or ideas would be most welcome. I was thinking about maybe trying to bake some simpler breads first so that I have a better idea of what to expect.

Thank you,

clazar123's picture

I would say there are several things that may improve the outcome.

1.Double means double in volume (usually measured by height.)My suggestion would be to get a tall plastic container that would hold the doubled dough,put the dough in and pat down evenly and put a piece of tape at the height you are starting. When it is twice the height it is doubled. This is an important rise. It also gives the whole grain time to absorb water.

2.The proofing time can vary and is affected by the temp in the place the pan is placed.If it is cool, it will take longer.If it is warmer,less,of course. Mist a little water on the top of the dough and place in a large plastic bag so it doesn't dry out while proofing.Make sure it does rise as directed. I find mine take about 45-60 min if the dough hasn't been chilled/retarded in the refrigerator.

3.Get an instant or quick read thermometer (about $15-$20USD).It is invaluable with preventing what you just experienced. Interior temps for different breads vary somewhat but I'm happy if I'm 190-205F for most of the breads I make (including some whole wheat).

4.You should post the recipe used or at least the ingredients-it may be helpful. Your comment about the dough getting "wetter" is significant. Did this recipe call for milk?Or rye flour?

5.Simpler may be better to start with. Here is a video on handling a wet dough that folds into a silken dough by Richard Bertinet


try it with a simple recipe like this:

500g bread or good all purpose flour

325 g water

10 g salt

1 tsp instant yeast

Stretch and fold into shape, using Bertinets method


Rise to double


Proof,slash and bake

1 loaf

Good luck and post back



razl's picture

Thank you for the ideas!  I will definitely try them out and post back.

  1. I have a water pitcher that would be perfect for this, thanks for clearing that up.
  2. Ordered Taylor Analog Instant-Read Dial Thermometer. No more burned or undercooked loaves for me. :)
  3. No rye flour.  Some milk called for, but I used soy milk, and Reinhart uses the same recipe with 6 oz water instead of the 7 oz milk to make his whole wheat heart bread.  Is that significant?

    I followed the recipe from the book; it's also online here. I reproduced it here, with specifically what I did. I used the gram measurements.



    Ingredients Volume Ounces Grams
    KA White Whole Wheat flour 1 3/4 cups 8 227
    SAF instant yeast 1/4 tsp   1
    Brita water, at room temperature 3/4 cup 6 170


    Mix the biga ingredients to form a ball of dough. Using wet hands, knead the biga for about 2 minutes to be sure all of the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should feel very tacky. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then knead it again with wet hands for 1 minute. The dough will become smoother but still be tacky.


    Place the biga in a bowl and cover. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 3 days. Let the biga sit at room temperature for about 2 hours before using in the final dough.


    Ingredients Volume Ounces Grams
    KA White Whole Wheat flour 1 3/4 cups 8 227
    Sea salt 1 tsp .14 4
    Soy milk 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp 7 198
    Mix the soaker ingredients until evenly hydrated. Cover and leave at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours.

    Final dough

    Ingredients Volume Ounces Grams
    all of the biga, cut into small pieces
    all of the soaker, cut into small pieces
    KA White Whole Wheat flour 7 tbsp 2 57
    Sea salt 1/2 tbsp .18 5
    SAF instant yeast 2 1/4 tsp .25 7
    honey 2 1/4 tbsp 1.5 43
    Canola Oil 1 tbsp .5 14
    Mix with paddle hook for 1 minute all of the ingredients until evenly incorporated.  Switch to dough hook and mix on medium-low speed for 2 to 3 minutes.  Add flower/water as needed until the dough is soft and slightly sticky.
    3 to 4 minutes, until the dough feels soft and tacky, but not sticky.
    5 minutes
    1 minute to further strengthen the gluten
    Bulk Ferment
    45 to 60 minutes at room temperature in a lightly oiled bowl, or until 1 1/2 times its size
    loaf pan shape, in a greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pan
    Preheat Oven
    Final Proof
    45 to 60 minutes at room temperature, or until 1 1/2 times its size
    Lower the temperature immediately to 350ºF/177ºC. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the loaf if necessary and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes, until the loaf registers 195ºF/91ºC in the center.
    At least 1 hour

preacher1120's picture

At 350 degrees, 40 minutes is probably not enough time to get past 185 degrees in a 800-900 gram loaf.  I think that's your main culprit.  It appears to me from the photo that you got good and even gas production in the loaf.  Perhaps you might have let it rise a bit more, but Reinhart (if memory serves) shoots for a 1.5X rise and not doubling.  clazar is right: find a container with STRAIGHT sides (not a bowl shape) and you will find that gauging volume increases is much more accurate.  Without doubt, an instant read thermometer will be $10-$12 well spent.  Next, if you don't have a scale then I highly recommend one.  It totally changed my baking life for the better.  No more guesswork!

This Reinhart recipe is not supposed to be a very slack dough.  Did you use a biga or starter as your preferment?  I sometimes find that using a starter produces a slacker dough.  Reinhart even mentions that you might need to add up to a cup of additional flour (again, if memory serves) while kneading.

beeman1's picture

I have made that loaf many times following Reinharts recipe to the letter. I did use milk rather than soy milk. I have had no problems with it . I shoot for about 195F.

razl's picture

So I will try again on Wednesday with


  • A thermometer to make sure I'm not underbaking.
  • A tall plastic container to make sure it's rising properly.
  • The patience to wait for the proofing to reach 1.5" above the tin. :)
Any thoughts on the gluten development?  The dough had this weird property where it would stick to the dough hook and climb up, leaving a sticky mess on the bottom of the stand mixer bowl.  Maybe that's normal, I'm not sure.  I'll take some pictures of some of the mixing and maybe that'll be more informative.
Finally, I had one question that I forgot to ask.  Reinhart doesn't say to punch down the dough before proofing.  He says just "transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and form it into a loaf".  Is that right?  I thought punching it down was one of the key bread-baking steps, to mix up the yeast and dough so it would rise again during the proof?
Thanks all for the suggestions, Daniel


preacher1120's picture

I do indeed degas the dough pretty well for this recipe.  Since this is a sandwich loaf, I am looking for a pretty tight crumb to hold mayo or other condiments inside the sandwich.  I degas, then roll out to a rectangle.  Then, I roll the dough up and seal the seam well before panning with the seam side down.

davec's picture


I've been working on my own modification of this loaf, using only sourdough starter.  Otherwise, I use Renhart's exact formula, just different methods.  I followed his recipe exactly the first time, to give me a baseline against which to measure the results of my modifications. 

I think most of the above comments are right on.  40 minutes wasn't enough baking time for me, either, even though my oven was running hot, and I had to turn it down to avoid burning the crust.  I added another 10 minutes, and another 180-degree rotation in the oven.  I believe yours was gummy because it wasn't sufficiently cooked.

Your crumb looks good, to me.  Mine had some larger holes, so I plan to degass the dough more thoroughly next time before the final rise.  My final proof went six hours (remember, I did not add yeast), and the loaf only rose to the top of the loaf pan, and got very little oven spring.  However, the bread was very light, so I believe that rise is just fine.

I am mixing by hand, and not kneading at all.  I just use a series of stretch-and-folds.  I am getting excellent gluten development.

Here's a very good description and illustration of the stretch-and fold:

There are others here, too, if you search for them.

razl's picture

So I just baked it again, and it turned out pretty much the same -- maybe 3.5" tall instead of 3.25" tall.

(Click to enlarge.)

I used the thermometer, which reached 195 degrees.  I suspect I can't be underbaking it because the bread seems uniform across the whole loaf; the ends tasted the same as the middle.  I did the bulk ferment in a tall plastic container, and in fact this time the dough doubled in volume (not just 1.5 times the volume), after 45 or 50 minutes.  I let it proof for a bit longer, and it was at least an inch above the pan -- but after baking, it only ended up slightly taller than my previous attempt.  Maybe last time there was more oven spring, so it balanced out.

So I'm starting to wonder if this is just the way this bread is supposed to be. There's another thread Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads - do the techniques make better bread? where people say, "Reinhart breads seem much denser than Laurel's" or "I admit I'm not so fond of the "muffin" like texture of the crumb. I crave something a little fluffier." I find myself agreeing here.

Of course, maybe I'm still making Reinhart's bread wrong. After kneading, it was still pretty sticky... preferring to stick to the table or to me rather than to itself. Maybe I didn't knead well enough? This review says:

If it weren't for Reinhart's "windowpane test," which has you test the gluten development of a bread by gently stretching the dough and seeing if you can stretch until it's somewhat translucent (illustrative photos are included), we wouldn't have known that the difference in airiness between the loaves we made was entirely due to kneading. But because he armed his readers with that knowledge, we were able to make a loaf of super-high-fiber oat bran bread that was fluffy. Yes, I did indeed just describe a whole grain high-fiber bread as fluffy.

I think my dough formed a windowpane. But I definitely would not describe my loaf as fluffy, so maybe I didn't knead enough.

Confused.  Maybe I'll try one of King Arthur's 100% WW bread recipes instead.

Ideas?  Thoughts?  Would you describe Reinhart's bread as "fluffy"?

ericb's picture


In my opinion, 100% whole wheat bread is never going to be the same consistency as white bread. They are simply two different animals. Whole wheat loaves taste, look, and feel entirely different from, for example, French or Italian bread. Both are delicious, but entirely different. Apples and oranges, you know?

They shouldn't be gummy, but they will be dense. It's just the way whole wheat is.

That being said, you might want to try the "transitional" breads that are scattered throughout the book. These are made with a percentage of white flour, so they're a bit lighter. Also, it might help to find a recipe without oil or honey, at least until you get used to what whole grain dough feels like in your hands. Reinhart's book has a recipe for a transitional hearth loaf, p. 156. I really think you should give it a try.

Finally, I have never personally been a fan of white whole wheat flour. It has a lower protein content, plus it just tastes weird to me. That's just my opinion, though.

I really believe that you can make some wonderful 100% whole wheat loaves with Reinhart's book. Just follow his directions perfectly and keep at it. 

Good luck.



davec's picture


I think eric makes some excellent points.  Your photos look like exactly the target I am aiming for in my own whole wheat sandwich loaf.  My model is a loaf I have been making for years in my bread machine.  It took me a long time to develop a recipe that worked without adding refined flours.  I love the result, particularly for toast, but it is definitely more dense than white sandwich loaves.

In following Reinhart's formulas and techniques, I am trying to come up with a sourdough loaf that is 100% whole wheat, that needs no added wheat gluten, and that meets my own expectations for a sandwich loaf.  So far, my results are tastier and a little bit lighter than my usual bread machine loaf.  I think the flavor is due to the long preferment and soak, and I suspect the lightness is due to the milk.  I don't know whether soy milk will have the same effect.


clazar123's picture

Do you mist/moisten the dough when you put it in the pan before the final proof? The gas distribution looks correct but it looks like the moisture inside the loaf is just not escaping as it should. This can be for several reasons but you may need some more expert opinion.

Anything that will cause the dough top to dry out and "skin" up to form a barrier  prevents the escape of internal moisture.

    This can happen when proofing-just oil or mist the top of the loaf to prevent drying and put it in a proofing box or bag.

    If the oven heat is too low the same thing happens-the outside dries out and forms a barrier so that the steam cannot escape to dry out the crumb.I wonder if your oven thermostat is really creating a 350 oven? Buy a cheap oven thermometer and see what the temp is in the middle of the oven when you set it for 350.

    It can also happen if the heat is uneven in the oven and the top cooks sooner than the rest of the loaf. Where is the element in your oven? HAve you ever checked the oven temp for correctness or uneveness inside the oven itself? Do other foods cook evenly?

    Whole wheat generally needs to be able to breathe for a while while it bakes so I don't think whole wheat loaves generally do as well at high temps, so the preheat to 450 should prob be skipped.I wonder if you tried at 375, if it would make a difference?

Anything that causes the dough to skin up either before baking or during the bake will cause the inside to be moist.

Some things to try.

razl's picture

I did notice that the bread actually tastes really good after a bit of toasting.  So maybe the moisture is the problem.  I cover the loaf with lightly oiled plastic wrap during proofing.  The first time I made the bread, I did wet the top of the loaf a bit with a wet hand before baking, but it discolored the top of the loaf, so I'd abandoned that. :)

I tried making King Arthur's 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread this weekend, and this loaf actually turned out really well! Soft, light, fluffy --- but it has quite a bit of sugar, butter, and milk in it. I wonder if I can achieve this texture in a 100% whole wheat loaf without any of the butter and milk --- my wife is allergic to dairy.

After that loaf, I tried making another Reinhart loaf with milk (instead of soy milk) and without the preheating to 425 degrees as you suggested. I also tented some aluminum foil over the loaf after 10 minutes like the King Arthur loaf. Still a little gummy, but I think I might be getting close here! The bread tastes good toasted, so I think that's suggestive. :) Reinhart suggests going to some effort to steam the oven, though he says it's optional for sandwich loaves.

(click to enlarge either photo)