The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

New to baking and already desperate for help!

Avid Amateur's picture
Avid Amateur

New to baking and already desperate for help!

Hello! I am brand new to baking, as well as to this site! We got a Nutrimill for Christmas, and I have already put it to work learning how to make wheat bread with fresh ground wheat. My mother makes wheat bread that is as light as white bread and very delicious. I am trying very hard to learn her recipe, but failing miserably! It has no spring once it gets into the oven, making the loaves very heavy and doughy on the inside. It cooks on the outside long before the inside can cook all the way. This is the fourth time we've made this particular recipe with the very same failure--my husband thinks we should switch to another recipe, but I know this one can work! Here it is:
5 C very warm water, divided
2 T yeast
1/2 C honey or brown sugar
3/4 C oil
2 T salt
2 C white flour
8-10 C hard white wheat flour
1/2 C flax seed (optional)
3 T gluten
2 T dough enhancer

Mix 3 C warm water with yeast and honey or brown sugar. Let yeast dissolve. Add the remaining ingredients and knead 8 min. total. Divide into loaf pans and rise until almost double. Bake at 325-350 degrees. Makes 3 large loaves and 1 small loaf.
It always seems to go wrong once we stick it in the oven. It rises to almost double, when we put it in the oven at 325 degrees. After that, it rises very little--maybe another fourth of an inch, when it ought to be rising at least two inches (approximately). The past three times we have been making it in a convection oven, but the fourth time we tried the conventional oven--with the same results. Our yeast is good, our dough enhancer and gluten are fresh, and we've been careful not to add too much flour. I just don't know what I'm doing wrong!!! Please contribute any ideas!



mrfrost's picture

Are you kneading by hand? Maybe that recipe was written with a stand mixer in mind. If you are kneading by hand, it will probably take a little longer.

It sometimes takes a lot of kneading to get the gluten developed sufficiently with whole wheat. It also may take a little experience to recognize when the dough is developed enough. It should be good and stretchy. At least more stretchy than has probably been the case so far.

(Pre)Soaking the whole wheat, in most of the liquid, for 30 to 40 minutes will also help with getting a jump start on the gluten developement.

I use to use a bread machine to knead my dough but it recently broke, so I'm just starting to knead by hand. I knead my whole wheat a good 20 minutes. Sometimes more.

clazar123's picture

I know it is your Mom's recipe but maybe you want to start with something a little smaller-6-7 c flour total (2 loaves) or even a single loaf size(3 cups flour,total).

Also, an 8 min knead for that large volume of dough does not seem to be enough if you are doing this all by hand. How does the dough feel by the end of the 8 minutes. I know you must be tired but is the dough elastic and smooth?

The 3rd thing I noticed is that there is no initial rise-just a mix-and a short rise before you bake. You will get a lighter loaf ,esp with whole wheat flour,if you rise til double,de-gas,shape and then rise in the pan before baking. Your dough really does not have any chance to develop much in the way of gas bubbles.Also,being whole wheat,that extra time allows the moisture to hydrate the bran and the gas bubbles to develop evenly in the dough.

So look for a basic Whole Wheat recipe (I'd share my recipe but they are all sourdough based-that's a whole different learning curve) with 3-7 cu flour (total),read the Handbook here on this site and have fun.

flournwater's picture

Do you have the courage to convert that recipe from bulk measure to weight?  With a list of ingredients that's as involved as that one you're open to a lot of very small errors in measuring (8 - 10 cups of hard white wheat flour could vary by as much as a cup or more when measuring it by the dip/level/pour method) and that could eliminate any chance you might otherwise have to be successful with this bread.

Personally, I'd begin working with a converted version and try to make my adjustments from that foundation where I can know for a certainty how much of what I have in the mix.  When is a cup not a cup?  When it weighs 5 ounces instead of 4.5 ounces (and that's easy to do).  You will also find that a a 4.5 ounce "cup" in one baker's kitchen is 5 ounces in another bake's kitchen, depending on who developed the formula.

Avid Amateur's picture
Avid Amateur

Wow, thanks for all the great advice! I am kneading it mostly in a Bosch Mixer--I'm pretty sure the recipe was written with that in mind--and then doing a little bit by hand while shaping the loaves. The pointers on the texture are great!

We tried halving the recipe this last time, and it actually turned out a little bit better--testing on a smaller recipe is much smarter!

I think this next time I'll try rising it twice--that's a very good idea!

I'm sure all your comments will help a great deal! Keep them coming, and I'll let you know how it goes!



frenchcreek baker's picture
frenchcreek baker

Hello there,

All of the ideas people have shared are good ones. 

I know you want to learn how to exactly duplicate your mother's loaf. However, here is another idea for the interim. Why not make the ratio of white to wheat 50-50? 

Mix your dough, then let it rise in your mixer bowl for 2 hours covered with a plastic bag. Then put the whole bowl, still covered in the refrigerator overnight. 

Take the dough out in the morning. Divide dough in loaf portions and preshape lightly into loafs then let sit for 10 to 15 minutes on a lightly floured surface, dough covered with plastic (you can lightly spray/spread the side of the plastic that is touching the dough with canola or other oil to prevent sticking). After 10-15 minutes resting, shape them into your final loaves and let rise for one to one and a half hours at 75 degrees room temperature.  (In the winter I always need one and a half hours.)

You can make steam to help the bread rise by various means. Some people use lava rocks in a pan heated in the oven and then pour water on them. some people put a cast iron fry pan in the lower level while oven is heating and then add water to make steam as soon as you put in loaves. Add water to make steam twice during the first 15 minutes to help rise the loaf. Or someone on the forum had the idea of putting a towel in a pan and pouring water on it, a technique I have not tried but you can read more if you do a search on this site. 

Try heating your oven for at least an hour before baking. You can also try baking the loaf at 450 for first 20 minutes then lower the temperature of your oven to 420 for the next 20 minutes. (And you may want to get a cheap oven thermometer to test your oven and make sure it is correct. You would be surprised how often home ovens are not spot on as far as temperature.)

Try a batch with these adjustments and see if it works. I have made fantastic wholewheat bread from Hamelman's "Bread" cookbook using these techniques. 

Hope these suggestions get you closer to your goal!

Happy baking,


jpchisari's picture

Hi Avid Amateur,

I completely agree with trying to convert any bread type recipe to a formula. Measuring inredients by weight rather than volume is much more accurate and practically foolproof.Your recipe says very warm water! Water over 110 or so degrees is warm enough. 140deg water will almost kill off most of your yeast. What type of yeast are you using? If it is fresh and you are using a mixer your dough temperature could well exceed 100 or more deg when dough is through mixing. Same goes for Active dry yeast. Also doughs should ferment or rise once before they are put into pans, and then let to proof or rise again before baking. A little steam is not a bad idea, but not the solution.

Try this Wheat bread formula.

Do yourself a favor and invest in a kitchen scale. This will eliminate the guesswork and insure you will have good results as long as you follow good baking practices.


Water:                  1.18 lbs  Approx 60-65 deg.

Fresh Yeast:          .075 lbs          Active Dry:    .04 lbs            Instant:   .03 lbs

Bread Flour:           1.18 lbs

Whole Wheat Flour:  .79 lbs

Salt:                          .05 lbs

Sugar:                       .07 lbs

NFMS:                       .10 lbs         (Dry Milk) Non Fat Milk Solids

Shortening                .05 lbs

If you are using fresh yeast or Active dry, dissolve in water before mixing. Add instant yeast directly to mixer with flour and other ingredients. Scale all other ingredients and mix for approx 8-10 minutes at medium speed This is approx since every mixer is different. It might take a little longer) Final mixed temperature should be ablout 80 deg. Allow to ferment for 1 1/2 hrs covered so it will not dry out. Punch down dough after 1 1/2 hrs and let rest for 10 minutes before dividing and shaping. Divide, shape and place in pans. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to proof for approx 1 hour or until doubled in bulk. Brush tops of loaves with melted margarine  to keep tops of loaves soft. Bake at 400 deg. Time will vary with size of loaves and individual ovens.

I'll be happy to answer any questions or concerns you might have.