The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Troubleshooting "Hot Cereal" Multi-grain bread

vrauls's picture

Troubleshooting "Hot Cereal" Multi-grain bread

This is my first post and I did spend some time looking through the archives, but there's a lot there. If this is a repeat, I apologize.

I'm obsessed with a bread recipe I saw on America's Test Kitchen and found on the Cooks Illustrated website. It's a sandwich loaf that starts by soaking 7-grain (or 9-grain or whatever) hot cereal in boiling water, then adding a mix of whole wheat and all purpose white flours, yeast, salt, etc. Sunflower or pumpkin seeds are mixed in and the dough is risen twice, the second time in bread pans. It's a straight dough, no starter, sponge, or overnighting.

Basically, I've been struggling with this recipe for weeks, turning out tasty but dense flat loaves (and occasional inediable bricks). I'm not a novice baker (I have my own wild-yeast starter and regularly turn out nice loaves of both artisan and sandwich bread) but this recipe is just not working for me.

The dough comes together nicely in my KitchenAid and looks great. It rises exceedingly well in a bowl for the first rise (I've tried both on the counter and in a warm oven) but isn't nearly as active for the second rise. While the TV show had the bread puffed way over the top of the bread pans before baking, mine rarely tops the edge. I've tried punching down the dough as well as barely handling it to shape it. When I bake, it either slowly deflates or (my best effort so far) puffs up and then deflates at the top. My last pair of loaves were the best, and they still clearly are too dense through the bottom half of the loaf and over-proofed on the top edge.

I've tried varying the rising temperature (in the warm oven) and switched out the all purpose for white bread flour. I've tried preheating the oven with the loaf and a pan of hot water in it. I've tried spraying the bread top with water. Yeast and flours are fresh, I rememberd the salt, the mixer kneads well. It's nothing obvious that I can figure out.

The flavor of this simple loaf is amazing and I want to make it work... it's become a personal challenge!

mrfrost's picture

Video for those interested, and maybe you can use it to review your technique. Seems you somehow ended up with the Monks' version(lol, jk).

Multigrain loaf recipe begins at about the 14 minute mark. If video is too fuzzy, click on "view HQ video" at top right of player(if the option is offered):

vrauls's picture

Thank you so much for the link. I reviewed the video and feel that I am probably overproofing the first rise as suggested below. I've been baking a lot of sourdough and heavy all wheat breads and am used to a much longer rising time.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

What is your cereal (dry weight) to your flour weight?


vrauls's picture

The recipe calls for 6.25 oz of cereal, 15 oz of all-purpose flour, and 7.5 oz of whole wheat. It also calls for 20 oz water.

Yerffej's picture

"It rises exceedingly well in a bowl for the first rise (I've tried both on the counter and in a warm oven) but isn't nearly as active for the second rise."

Based on this statement my guess is that you are letting the first rise go much too long and there is little energy left for the final proof.


vrauls's picture

Looking at the video link above, I think you might be right. I've been making a lot of sourdough recently and am used to much longer rising times. It seems I've been almost tripling the dough instead of doubling (I am a terrible judge of this by eye).

Occabeka's picture

It may be a good idea when making multi-grain bread to split the process into two stages.

First to knead the dough to a medium stage of gluten development before adding the soaked multi-grain and gently knead again till fully incorporated.

This tends not to tear the gluten strands too much.


vrauls's picture

This is a good idea. I like the ease of the recipe (fewer dirty bowls) but if I can't solve this with a shorter first rise, I may try your suggestion. Would you suggest adding the salt along with the cereal after autolyse?

pmccool's picture

First, I'll second Jeff's idea that the dough may be rising too long during the bulk ferment.

Second, how do your loaf pans compare (in size) to the ones used by Cook's Illustrated?  If your pans are larger than the ones used by CI, the bread might not fill them completely, even when properly risen.


vrauls's picture

I did think of this and it was good to review the video to check, but they are the same size as my larger pans. The dough also looks like it fills the pans the same amount before the second rise. This makes me think that you and others are right about the bulk rise.

subfuscpersona's picture

I agree with Jeff and PMCool.

> Too long a rise during bulk ferment   also...

> possibly insufficient gluten development

I think you were right to switch to bread flour rather than all-purpose flour originally called for.  Sounds like there are a lot of seeds and non-gluten-forming grains in the dough formula.

When you say

When I bake, it either slowly deflates or (my best effort so far) puffs up and then deflates at the top. My last pair of loaves were the best, and they still clearly are too dense through the bottom half of the loaf and over-proofed on the top edge.
that sounds like insufficient gluten development to me. Shaping could also be an issue.

You could try letting the dough only increase about 1 & 1/2 in volume (rather than the usual "doubles in bulk") for the bulk ferment.  I would also suggest not rushing the bulk ferment by placing the dough in a warm oven.

Best of luck. - SF


vrauls's picture

Thanks (to everyone who responded really, this is an amazing resource) for all the great suggestions. I appreciate the confirmation of replacing the all purpose with bread flour -- it certainly seemed logical. My next pair of loaves, I will reduce the first rise and report back. I also agree that warm proofing isn't the best way to develop flavor and will do the bulk rise on the counter.

dexter's picture

I have been looking for a recipe like the "Hot Cereal" multi grain bread for some time. Would you post it?

vrauls's picture

The reply just below yours had a link to a nice one from the King Arthur site and suggestions for tweaking it. And this link has the cook's illustrated recipe itself (and check out that video link above to watch them make it):

Hope that helps!

kbmcphe's picture

vrauls - maybe not as fun or rewarding as overcoming a challenging recipe, but here is a similiar bread recipe from King Arthur that has been fool-proof for me and a huge favorite at our house.

I make it without using a bread machine.  Substituting hot cereal mix for the cracked wheat and adding oats should be simple tweaks that don't dramatically affect the loaf(?) other than flavor.

Personally I would consider this to be a new front versus a surrender

rftsr's picture

I love this recipe and used 1.5 cups sourdough sponge. With 1 cup additonal water I ended up adding an additional 2 cups of bread flour than the recipe called for...still a fairly wet dough. Folded it after an hour and let proof overnight in my proofing box. 1st rise huge. Folded and shaped 2/3 into a boule and another into a small loaf. Let proof another 1/2 a day and it didn't rise nearly as much as the first time. Baked and got slight oven spring but the crumb was fairly open and quite sour. I've been using Glezer's firm starter for my sponges and am finding them quite sour since I'm not refreshing more than one time.

Yummy bread though!

vrauls's picture

Fun version of the recipe! If I can get the regular version working, I'll try to make a sourdough version.

vrauls's picture

This weekend, I made another batch of this bread. I did a very short first rise on the counter and then a somewhat longer second rise. The bread rose much better during the second rise and while I think I still overproofed a tiny bit at the end (there was a little deflation during baking) the bread came out much better.

Thank you to everyone who commented with such good advice. I really appreciate it.

ew's picture

I have used this same recipe several times.  The first time, two beautiful loaves emerged from the oven.  Ever since then, on the final rise in the loaf pans giant crevasses appear in the tops.  Does anyone have an idea how I can prevent this?  The bread is still delicious and risen but ugly.

rayel's picture

Hi Vrauls, I'd like to try this bread after viewing the all too easy looking video. One of the ingredient questions I have, has to do with the amt. of salt. 1 tablespoon seems too much salt for the grains and other flour's volume/weight. Other recipes I have looked at with similar ingredient qtys., seem to suggest a smaller amt. of salt. Is the larger amt. of salt given, intended for flavor, or some dough strengthening considerations? Also wondering if it could be having an adverse affect on the yeast, causing the deflating you describe, or just affecting the bread's size?

I would also like to know which of the hot cereals you chose to use? I haven't checked to see if both brands had identical mixes.

I like your idea of going to bread flour instead of all purpose. I am thinking of using KA's Sir Lancelot, which claims the highest gluten flour out there. I am also thinking of a smaller qty. of pumpkin seeds, and possibly using sunflower seeds instead. Any thoughts would be appreciated.  Ray

beauclerc's picture

     I googled multigrain bread and was led to this Q&A about the very bread that has given me trouble--this Test Kitchen Multi Grain. I made it yesterday.

     HORRIBLE!  All the oatmeal fell off the pale crust (a minor plaint, I know ...) and the inside was gluey, seemed wet, and even a lengthy time in the toaster produced not even a hint of tan.

     I had no trouble with the rising, altho it seemed abnormal (it bulged outward rather than upward and was hard to tell if it had risen at all.) The bulging outward is common with a loose, wet dough, but this was a very stiff (tho sticky) lump when set for its first rise. When placed in the bread-pan the dough was at least an inch above the pan's rim (4.5 x 8.5 inch pan). I let it rise for an hour, brushed it with butter and confetti'd it with oatmeal flakes, and misted the whole top with water. Then into the oven (with ice-cubes steaming at bottom) and away we went.

     Looked lovely when removed.

     But, as I say, HORRIBLE. Maybe there's a problem with the temp of the water and cereal? I took the temp of the dough as it was going into its first rise and the dough was 96F. I'm sure I've read somewhere that if the temp of the dough after kneading is greater than 90 it will produce some off-tastes.

     Anyway, there seems to be quite a knowledgeable crew hooked into this site and I'd appreciate some help (or a different recipe).  Thank you.


clazar123's picture

"When placed in the bread-pan the dough was at least an inch above the pan's rim (4.5 x 8.5 inch pan)."

This sounds like you take the once-risen and shaped dough and place it in the bread pan and it is 1" above the rim of the pan before it is proofed. Is that what you mean? If yes, than the pan is WAY overfilled. Fill it only 1/2-2/3 full and use the remaining dough to make another loaf or rolls.Proof for about 1 hour (or more) and bake.

 If the following link is the recipe you are talking about, it is to fill  2   9x5 pans.


" I had no trouble with the rising, altho it seemed abnormal (it bulged outward rather than upward and was hard to tell if it had risen at all.)"

Did you do the initial rise on a flat surface? You may get better structure for a shaped loaf if you rise it in a bowl/container and handle the resultant dough very gently when shaping-do NOT punch it down! I use an oiled plastic,covered container.It also allows me to see when it is  1.5 or doubled.If an initial rise is done on a flat surface, it is very difficult to see if the dough is properly risen. Hard to distinguish under-risen,properly-risen or over-risen.

Multigrain,seeded dough usually needs longer rise times than plain loafs and also the ambient temperature has a great influence on the rise times. The rise times in a recipe are guidelines only.If your room is a few degrees warmer, it is easy for the dough to overise,fall and not have enough power left in the yeast for the final proof-resulting in a dense loaf. If your room is cooler, than it may result in an underrisen and underproofed loaf-again dense but for different reasons.

Try again with some of the suggestions here.

beauclerc's picture

Thanks Clazar123

     No, formula used wasn't for two and--altho pan over-filled--the resultant loaf was not top-heavy but more-or-less proportional. I thought the pan was overfilled because the recipe called for a slightly larger pan, so I just went ahead. (recipe I used came out of The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book).

     Initial rising was done in a bowl and wasn't punched down; it was dumped out onto the bench, made into a rectangle, two sides folded into middle, and then the whole thing was rolled up tightly with the ends tucked under.

     I must say that it was a handsome loaf . . . to look at. Taste, texture, mouth-feel--these areas are where it fell down. After a few chews it was indistinguishable from some rustic porridge that hadn't been cooked long enough: it felt like a mouth-ful of grit and glue. And, as I said, it wouldn't toast! 

     I left it out all night and through the day, hoping some of the moisture would evaporate, but it's still dense, damp,and heavy. 

     I'm not sold on this loaf (by a long-shot!) so if anyone has a  tried-and-true formula for a decent multi-grain bread I'd like to hear about it.

     Whoops! I'd hate to think that this is the source of the problem but . . .  I didn't have 7-grain hot cereal, but I DID have Ed's Red Mill SIX-grain cereal, and went ahead with it thinking surely there couldn't be much if any difference?? Wha-?


clazar123's picture

If you click on the Struan Bread in the left column,you should find a multigrain recipe that gets rave reviews here, tho I haven't tried it myself.


ralph127's picture

I just saw this recipe on TV last week. I've a question about when to add the salt. I just started using the stretch and fold method and I've been pleased with my results. When the dough just starts to come together I let it rest for 30 to 60 minutes before the first stretch and fold. I found the dough is less sticky to fold and stretch after this rest. The American Test Kitchen calls this an autolyse but they add the salt after the rest. I've been adding the salt when I make the dough. Does it make a difference when the salt is add and if so why.

Trader Joe's sells a rye, barley oats and wheat multigrain hot cereal mix. All the grains are "rolled" so when making porridge it cooks as quickly as rolled oats. I'm going to try substituting this multigrain mix for bread recipes that call for rolled oats on a one for one basis, hence no need to make a porridge first. I don't know when I'll get around to it. The only complaint I have with this blog is that it gives me more ideas of breads to try then I've time to bake.

caseymcm's picture

I use the TJ's (can't remember the actual brand) multigrain mix for Hamelmans's five grain levain (one of my favorite breads) and also for buttermilk "oatmeal" pancakes where I soak all the flour (all white wholewheat) and 2/3 of the multigrain mix at room temp in the buttermilk overnight; they are awesome.

We also eat it as oatmeal in the morning sometimes with slivered almonds, raisins thrown in near the end end of the boil, a little maple syrup, plus cinnamon and sometimes ginger and cardamom, then add some milk.  It's funny though, I've recently decided I think it's a little too "hull-ey"/grassy for my tastes as breakfast cereal. Maybe it's the rye?  So I may switch to plain oats for breakfast for a while.  For bread and pancakes though, I'll definitely keep using the TJ's mix.

angelajls's picture

I saw the same episode and started baking the bread. It works wonderfully. We love it. Here is my write up about it. Perhaps our rising recommendations will help. Follow the * for my special tips.



marney's picture

Just baked a brick myself.  Used a bit of Bob's 6 grain cereal, and oops-ed on the amount of oatmeal (tried to half the recipe) and doubled the oatmeat by accident.  The house smeels fantastic, but the loaves did not rise above the 8x4 inch pans.  I waited an extra half hour for the second rising :(  Even though the loaf is smaller than my complete white flour recipe, I am thinking I have some hope still for my next try.

Oh well.  Could use some suggestions on how to raise the multi-grain loaves above the edge of the pan.  Did not use hard flour (just about 1/3 ww, and the rest regular white).  Keep me posted.  Thanks.


clazar123's picture

The one thing that will influence the success of this loaf the most is that you develop the gluten.  And remember that this will be a sticky dough. Do not be tempted to add much bench flour when kneading. Do a search on handling sticky doughs or rye doughs. Find a method that works for you.

It helps to think of these multigrain doughs as a wheat matrix with the grains incorporated (like nuts and fruit). So develop a good whole wheat base dough and then incorporate the grains. The trick is getting the proper consistency,of course,esp if you soften the grains being added by soaking or cooking.

Scroll down to Multigrain Bread2 for the recipe I use now. It is a great loaf. I had all the individual grains in my pantry but a multicereal would easily substitute.




MommaB12's picture

My first attempt at this recipe was terrible.  But I found the comments on Dec 21, 2010 very helpful and my loaves turned out perfect the 2nd time.  See their website

Using a warm and humid microwave made my dough rise beautifully.  I did not use pumpkin seeds, but I used a 9 grain cereal (Rogers) and an organic whole grain all purpose and pastry flour (Nunweilers) and active dry yeast.  I live in Canada so I don't know if you can get these products in the states.

I also did not let my dough rise more than 45 minutes the first rise, then another 50 minutes for the second rise in the pans (in the heated microwave).  Baked 40 minutes and voila! 

This is delicious multigrain bread. 

hlieboff59's picture

Tried the America's test kitchen 7 Grain Recipe from above and it came out delicious. Best bread I've made so far. Had my family try it and they love it. Nice and healthy. Put in 3 tsp of yeast instead of  2 1/2. Take a lookie:

rayel's picture

Hi hieboff59, Thought you might like to see this bread, my version of the 7 grain hot cereal bread. I haven't retried this bread recently, so many other sandwich breads intervene. Ray

hlieboff59's picture

Ray, very nice. To make the bread alittle bit browner

I spray water on the loaves every 10 minutes while in the oven.

Also, you really need like 2-3 hours to cool so it can set. But we couldn't wait,

because it smelled so good in our house.

rayel's picture

Tried to show the crumb shot last night but couldn't quite get it to appear.

The rosy color of the loaves is a result of  halogen lighting  from our ceiling lamps. The real  color is actually quite normal.

I usually let the bread  bake undisturbed, and open the oven door when removing the bread.  Ray


Leamlass's picture

I have been looking for a recipe using the 7-grain cereal as above, but with the addition of sourdough starter.  Can anyone tell me how to incorporate sourdough starter into this recipe ?  Thanks for the help.


clazar123's picture

Try this thread:


and see if it helps. Just substitute the 7 grain cereal for the total amount of the whole grains in the recipe I posted. The trick to success is plenty of hydration and time for the grains to absorb it (a rest or autolyse) and good development of the gluten. THe grains make it a sticky loaf but more flour should NOT be added. Read both threads through to get the idea.

Leamlass's picture

Thank you so much for your help, I will try this next time.

chapmanvet's picture

I know that this is reviving an old thread, but maybe someone is still tracking it.... I just tried this recipe for the first time and I'm on the final shaped rise. However, I’m not sure about the measurements. I always prefer to cook by weights rather than volumes. King Arthur Flour say that 1 cup of their All Purpose flour is 4.25 ounces and Whole Wheat is 4 ounces. That gives 12.75 ounces (3 cups )and 6 ounces (1.5 cups) respectively, which is quite a difference from the 15 ounces and 8.25 ounces that is given in the recipe. I actually convert all my weights to grams and was double-checking my math when I picked up the disparity. I went for the low end and the dough was quite sticky so I may add more next time. If any of you are still baking this recipe then how much flour do you use?

mrfrost's picture

This recipe was developed by ATK/CI(America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Illustrated).

In general, for ATK/CI recipes, a cup of AP/Bread flour weighs 5 ounces. Pretty sure of the same for whole wheat. So even if you are using KA flours, you need to follow the ATK weights.

Don't know if the video linked earlier in the thread is still available, but the final dough consistency shown is what one should seek to attain. It did not look like a very "sticky dough".

beauclerc's picture

Plough on monsieur Chapmanvet, it will be worth it in the end. Here is where I've ended up with this challenging loaf. 

      And it is challenging! This loaf isn't the walk-in-the-park that our friends at ATK suggest. First of all, I moved to Bob's Red Mill 10-grain cereal, but I didn't like the bread's mouth feel (same as produced by the 7-grain) – within 3 or 4 chews the bite of bread reduced to a small mouthful of gravel. I managed to correct this by simmering the cereal on my stove-top for aproximately 5 minutes and then leaving it overnight. This softened the grains but didn't help the almost immediate reduction of the bread to cereal in the mouth. So, I began a series of reductions of cereal, combined with additions of WholeWheat flour. I won't lead you through the whole song-and-dance but, instead, try to describe where I'm at right now. Let me just run off the recipe in its current manifestation:

 Simmer 4 1/2oz grains in 575 ml water 5 minutes. Then turn off element; leave pan on stove until cool. Allow to sit overnight.

Place grains-and-water in mixing bowl. Add 1/3C water. 17oz All Purpose, 7oz WholeWheat, 2T Lecithin, 2T Vital Gluten1/3C honey, 2oz melted butter, 2t yeast, 2t salt (salt after autolyse)

      (A note here, C'vet: I found the extra water necessary. I added the Lecithin to extend shelf-life, and I added the Vital Gluten to help with the bread's structure, it just wasn't rising well enough and I think that was because the grains were shortening the gluten strands. Adding the Viatal Gluten seemed a better solution than increasing the yeast; in fact I've reduced the yeast from the original quantity.) Further to the rising of the loaves – when mixing the final dough I make sure most of the water has been added before I add the melted butter (since the butter, added earlier, would interfere with the development of gluten).

       After the autolyse (min 20 minutes, but as long as I need if I need more time) add salt, and machine knead (#4 Kitchen Aid mixer)  After 6 minutes machine kneading, the dough  lifted from the bottom. Dough was then hand-kneaded (mainly to shape it into a ball) and placed in a buttered bowl.

     – and away we go from there.

(A question, monsieur: Do you SCALE your ingredients or calculate them. Just wondering because of your comments on flour amounts. The weight of flour (and other ingredients) will often rise or fall with the ambient humidity. Anyway, I'm very happy to hear that someone else is still banging away at a multi-grain loaf; I've been makng two loaves a week for a few months now. My family really likes it, but I know it can be better.

                                                         Bon chance, Chapmanvet





chapmanvet's picture

Thanks for the suggestions. I will definitely follow up on your mods! See further coments on flour weight below!

beauclerc's picture

      Whether in ATK's lab or Mr. Frost's kitchen a cup of any kind of flour will not weigh the same on a rainy day as it does on a sunny day. The weight equivalencies of volumes of flour (from 1 cup to a 100 lb sack) are just approximations. To test this out simply purchase a digital kitchen scale (less than $20) and weigh a succession of cups of flour as you cook.

    After that, since you have a scale, weigh your flour; use the cup to transfer the flour from bag to scale.

    (Re  ATK's multi-grain loaf: if the ATK recipe is followed closely the resultant loaf will be sticky to the point where kneading by hand is next to impossible. ATK recipes – like all formulas – provide super starting points and often less than excellent end results. Accept their gifts, and shape 'em to your own taste.)




chapmanvet's picture

I understand your comment and I only ever cook with a scale (digital). I am a brit and the American attachment to measuring by volume strikes me as deeply scientifically flawed! I just raised the question because the measurements in this recipe did not seem to match up with what I thought they should be. I will just ignore the cups from now on!