The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

100% WW- how to fix dry crumblies

inlovewbread's picture

100% WW- how to fix dry crumblies

Yesterday, I made Reinhart's 100% whole grain sandwich loaf from Whole Grain Breads. I ground organic white wheat berries fresh for use in this loaf. I actually doubled the 8 1/2 x 41/2 loaf tin size to fit my 13x9 pullman. I was so thrilled with the flavor/ texture of this loaf that I announced to my family that this would be our "every day" type loaf for sandwiches, french toast and such.

Now, the next day- the bread is drier and crumbly. (I did wait for it to cool completely and then it has been stored in a ziploc.)You definately couldn't spread peanut butter on a slice of it. 

What can I do to prevent this? I am more of a purist and would hate to add something- but would Vital Wheat Gluten help? If so, how much to add- there seems to be some differing opinions out there on the amount. I don't know if this is totally what vwg is for since all talk about it seems to be that it makes the loaf "lighter" and "creates more oven spring"- don't know about if it prevents crumbly whole wheat bread...

Thanks in advance for help on this.

*Added by Edit: I should note that this formula used milk in soaking (overnight) 50% of the flour, and the other 50% of flour was pre-fermented (biga). 

clazar123's picture

This seems to have come up fairly regularly,lately. VWG does nothing for the moisture content of a loaf.It gives the crumb a chewier texture.If you mix vital wheat gluten with water, you end up with a thick,gummy,rubbery blob.It adds those same characterictics to your crumb.

Your home-milled whole wheat should have plenty of gluten in it.In fact, it may have too much and your loaf may benefit from using pastry flour (can be WW,also) for up to 1/3 of the total flour amount.(i.e.2 c WW and 1 c pastry, if your recipe calls for 3 c flour per loaf.)

I don't have Reinhart's book so I'm not sure what is in the recipe but the only way to make a soft loaf of WW is to hydrate the WW flour by starting out with a tackier(wetter) than usual dough and using a long,slow rise to allow the bran to absorb the water.Then if you want to make it soft AND stay that way for many days-it needs to be enriched with oil,egg,milk or any combination of all three.The pastry flour helps,too.It's not so chewy.It will keep for 5-7 days and still be nice and moist.

There are always tradeoffs. You just have to weight the benefits/risks. I would rather my family get the benefit of the whole wheat loaf than worry about them getting a little protein or fat along with it. And if there are allergies or you are vegan, there are perfectly acceptable substitutes so you are able to make delicious bread.





KenK's picture

I am less of a purist and dry potato flakes and Crisco shortening work for me.

mrfrost's picture

Vital wheat gluten is one aid(of several) many bakers use to enhance the softness, fluffiness, and freshness of baked goods. Below is one of many resouces one can link  to in researching vital what gluten. Decide for yourself whether or not it's properties merit your use of it:

"...Benefits of Vital Wheat Gluten:
  • Gluten absorbs nearly twice its weight in water and retains a portion of it in the final product, thus increasing the yield
  • The retained moisture delays staling, leading to longer shelf life
  • Adds to loaf volume of breads by trapping gases in dough
  • Dough elasticity and strength
  • Improves nutritional value (75% protein)
  • Improved crust color
  • Helps carry weight (bran, fiber, nuts, raisins)
  • Excellent binding capabilities
  • Enhanced taste

 Typical usage %:

  • Pizza crust (1-2%) - Provides durable pizza crust to withstand breaking
  • Buns (2-3%) - Strengthens hinges of pre-sliced buns
  • Pet food (3-4%) - Binds ingredients together, adds protein
  • Wheat Bran products (3-4%) - Provides volume and strength
  • Multigrain products (4-5%) - Helps carry weight
  • High Protein products (5-6%) - Adds protein and strength
  • High fiber, low calorie breads (8-12%) - Replaces flour..."
  •                                                           Yellow triangle, top right of box: v v

Edith Pilaf's picture
Edith Pilaf

I've made this bread several times now with Bob's Red Mill WW and "Shepherd's Grain" WW, which is locally milled.  It's always moist and tender, and keeps several days on the counter.  I use buttermilk for the liquid and honey and butter. With a soaker AND biga in this recipe, the flour is well-hydrated and should be moist.

It might be that white wheat is just drier and crumblier.  I've never used it.


clazar123's picture

They handle about the same in a recipe but the taste is totally different.White wheat is totally bland, in my opinion. As for dryness/crumbliness-it's still a whole wheat. It needs hydration and enrichment to achieve a soft,sandwich loaf that doesn't stale within 24 hours. That's what the aforementioned Crisco,potatoe flakes,buttermilk and butter do.

Gluten is essential for making a good dough and loaf. Hard white winter wheat usually has suffucient gluten to make an excellent loaf without any additional gluten. Improving the keeping qualities and producing a softer crumb using white whole wheat flour are affected by technique,hydration and enrichment.

So try another loaf,keeping track of what you changed, and see what the outcome is.Post the results-there is always so much to learn.


utahcpalady's picture

Now, before finding TFL I thought I knew a lot about bread baking, not so when you consider artisan style breads and sourdough starter.  I am a food storage fanatic, have 4 children and haven't bought bread for probably5-6 years.  Other than the occasional loaf during tax season (I am a cpa).  So, this is the recipe that I use.  I buy my white wheat from Montana Milling (high protien content) and grind it in my ultramill wheat grinder.  Now, I am sure you could just buy wheat flour at the store, provided it has a good high protien content.  Even though I feel I buy the best white wheat out there, I still add VWG.

Here is my recipe. This was before I knew about weighing my ingredients.

2 cups warm water (110-120deg)

2 T sugar

1 T active dry yeast 

dissolve together,

then add

1 T salt, dissolve. 

Then add 3 1/2 cups wheat flour and

1/2 cup gluten,

mix all together (I use my kitchen aid for this), let rise for 45 minutes

Then mix together (I use a 2 cup pyrex)

2/3 cup warm water,

1/2 cup brown sugar,

3-4 T safflower oil (you can use other types of oil, but this has a nutty taste that i like). 

Take oil mixture and add to the yeast/flour mixture, slowly in the kitchen aid (it has a tendency to slosh out if you do it fast),

then mix in 1 egg. 

Add 3 1/2 cups of wheat flour, let knead in KitchenAid until a nice dough ball forms.  Let rise 45 minutes. 

Punch down and divide into 3 loaves, put in greased loaf pans (I use stoneware pans from PampChef) and let rise for 90 minutes or so.  Bake for 27 minutes at 350 degrees. 

It is a perfect sandwich loaf. Even for peanut butter.

Gardenwife's picture

This sounds wonderful. The thing is, my husband and I don't have any kids, so three loaves is too much for me to make at one time.

If I were to scale down this recipe to a single loaf, how much yeast would I use?

Alternatively, could the remaining dough be refrigerated until I'm ready to bake a fresh loaf? If so, would I let it go through all the rises and form it into loaves before refrigerating it? Would I pop it in the fridge before it goes into a final rise like I would normally allow it before baking? How long will dough remain good in the fridge?

Have I asked enough questions? ;D

utahcpalady's picture


Well, on the refridgeration part, honestly I don't know.  I haven't tried it, but you are only out some ingredients if it doesn't work.  The bread does freeze pretty good, and if I store the baked loaf in the fridge, it lasts for a week or more.  So, try the dough in the fridge, but there are a couple other options for you. 

Scaling back is also a good idea, if you wanted just one loaf, just cut everything by 1/3.  On the yeast, I might weigh the 1 T of yeast (by grams) and then take 1/3 of it by weight. 

Ohh, let me know how it turns out.  I haven't really know many other bread bakers and so no one has tried my recipe.  This was originally given to me by a friend, but she did it 1/2 and 1/2 with white flour, didn't use safflower oil, had more flour, and no gluten.  I adapted it over the years and I think it has gotten even better. 

Good luck!


inlovewbread's picture

Thanks utahcpalady! You and I sound very similar!

I will give your recipe a go and will report back with results when I try your bread. I have a couple of other recipes in the queue to try as well and we'll see if I can't get a nice 100% whole wheat sandwich loaf. 

One thing though- 1/2 cup of Vital Wheat Gluten?!?!? That seems like a lot to me. I thought I read like 1 teaspoon for every one pound of flour. Could be mistaken- I will try it your way and see how it comes out.


mrfrost's picture

It varies. Different brands may have different protein percentages. Even at that, Bob's Red Mill, which has one of the highest protein levels I've seen, prescribes 1 tablespoon per cup of flour. Compared to the shot above, where Hodgson's directs 4 teaspoons per loaf. Go figure.

utahcpalady's picture

Well, I used to only put in 1/4 of a cup.  I was advised the the head baker at Kitchen Kneads in Ogden, Utah that you should use 1/4 - 1/3 per 3 loaves.  The texture was pretty good with 1/4, but then in experimenting (knowing the amount of peanut butter put on our bread) I increased it to 1/2 and am happy with the results.  Just play around with it, I suppose it will depend on your wheat, the amount you let it rise at the final stage, and also your kneading. 

Oh, and I buy my gluten in bulk, it would kill me $ to buy it at the grocery store.

utahcpalady's picture

Here is a site I like too.  She is a food storage guru.  I haven't tried her bread, but she has some good tips.


lynnebiz's picture

... or, ascorbic acid (same thing) - I was just talking to my son about this! I used to use it in my breads years ago to keep them from going stale. Did it work? I can't remember! (on the other hand, with four young kids, I don't think I had any that lasted too long...) I'm going to try this myself - can't remember how much to use, but that's never stopped me before.


*Edit: How did we ever survive before Google?

says that French bakers use it as a preservative (to me, dryness indicates the start of getting stale)... only a pinch (1/8 teaspoon per recipe).

TheVillageBaker's picture

I attribute the occasional dryness in my whole-wheat bread, by which I mean a crumbly texture, to inadequate kneading, even though I use the dough hook, rather than my hands. Maybe I should test this empirically by making several batches with different measured kneading times for each batch.

I used to add up to 20% semolina flour with my softer biodynamic wheat to improve the texture, but have not included it for some months now.
I always use freshly milled wheat berries, but have started including olive oil for a softer crumb as this is gentler on my gums.