The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Some reassurance needed!

Baker Bevis's picture
Baker Bevis

Some reassurance needed!


I find baking with wholemeal or mutligrain flours a little bit frustrating. When I use 100% of wholemeal / multigrain flour I always end up with rather dense bread, too dense if you ask me, although I've been told that bread made with this type of flour is supposed to be dense.

But really though, is it? How dense is okay? And is it actually possible to make a light and soft wholemeal loaf or am I just being daft?

 I now tend to mix about 70% white to 30% wholemeal flour, which gives a lot of the taste of wholemeal without it being so dense and heavy!

Any tips or advice would be most welcome :)


Ruralidle's picture

Hi Baker Bevis

I have experienced the same problem and come to a similar solution.  I use no more than 50% wholegrain flour and that gives the flavour but rises better than all wholegrain.  I also give it a hand with up to 1% ascorbic acid.  My favourite is Shipton Mill's 3 malt and sunflower mix which I mix 50/50 with their white unbleached organic flour that I buy in 16kg bags (£15.50 incl delivery).  I sometimes add 75g of their 5 seed flour to give more crunch.

Sorry I can't suggest a different solution - but at least you aren't the only one who experiences the results you describe.


Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

I'd encourage you to continue with whole grains.  I've spent several months with a minimum number of recipes and now am getting consistent results with 75% to 100% whole wheat loaves.  I'd suggest Peter Reinhart's recipes in "Whole Grain Breads: New Techniques, Extraordinary Flavor".  I first had success with his 100% whole wheat sandwich bread in another book Artisan Breads Every Day but saw improvemets when I used a soaker and a sponge.  That lead to trying his soaker/biga approach or a slight variation on it.  I now have his book and will be working with the original recipes.

I can add more to this later.


Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

Also, JMonkey here in this thread:

Offers some very usefull advice:

....But I have learned a few tricks that have helped me out:

  • Try soaking part or all of the flour overnight, by itself, as a preferment, or both. The Bob's Red Mill Cookbook has an overnight soaker recipe where he puts it in the fridge, and in the BBA, Peter Reinhart uses a soaker and preferment technique in his whole wheat bread. If you leave a soaker on the counter, it's not a bad idea to some salt so it doesn't become too gloopy. When you're ready, add any other ingredients and then knead it all up. Should only take 5-10 minutes, at best, to get it to windowpane well.
  • If you don't soak, do an autolyse. With whole wheat, I like a long autolyse of about an hour. It really helps develop the gluten.
  • If you're not soaking or autolysing, knead 300 strokes per loaf. That's 600 strokes or about 20 minutes for a typical two-loaf recipe.
  • Fold the dough once or twice during the bulk rise. It really helps. A lot.
  • With sourdough, make sure the final rise is at about 80-85 degrees F. I've seen a tremendous difference (for the better) in the rise and flavor of my sourdoughs since I started proofing my loaves in my makeshift proof-box (a picnic cooler with 1 cup hot water poured in the bottom).
  • For sandwich breads, adding dairy products (1 Tbs butter per loaf, dry milk, milk or buttermilk for all or part of the water) helps. I'm no chemist, but from what I've read, dairy products help strengthen the gluten strands so that the air bubbles are less likely to pop. Whatever the reason, dairy doughs rise higher, in my experience.
  • Preshape the dough, wait 10 minutes, then make the final shape. For example, when I'm making sandwich loaves, I first preshape each loaf as a rough batard, and, then, 10 minutes later, roll it up into a sandwich loaf. It helps to increase the surface tension, which is critical to a good rise.

I hope that helps. If anything's not clear, let me know and I'll try to expand.

For what it's worth, I've been one of the (many, many) testers on Peter Reinhart's upcoming whole grains book, and I've learned an awful lot. I think a lot of folks with give whole grain breads another shot -- and another look -- once it's finally published.

louie brown's picture
louie brown

... has another whole grain book coming? 

Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

I was confusing, I guess (it's a gift).  I was referring to his previous whole grain book.   I've been using a recipe from a flour source based on this book and I just now purchased it.  The difference between the recipe I'm using and the techniques in the whole grain book is primarily in the amount of yeast used in the preferment.  My recipe uses about 40% of the total yeast, while the recipes I've looked at so far in Reinhart's book call for 1 g out of a total of 8 (per pound of flour) or 12.5%.  I've guessing that being in the fridge, that won't make much difference.


Mary Clare's picture
Mary Clare

I second all the advice above.  Also....

1) I like an egg, too, for good flavor and extra rise.  

2) Q couple of tablespoons of potato flour per loaf does a great job in keeping the bread moist.

3) A grain soaked in hot water, like coarse cornmeal (my favorite) or oats is wonderful. Also, of course, cooked mashed potato.  If I don't have time for that, I'll use a couple of tablespoons of potato flour per loaf, it does wonders.

 I have made 100% whole grain and it's good, but I mostly make about 75% or 80% whole grain.

Best of luck!

Mary Clare in MO

Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

.....or a reasonable facsimile of.  I did not rest the soaker and biga for the recommended 8 to 24 hours, but only for 1 hour.  This is the best tasting bread I've made yet.  I left the salt out of the soaker to increase enzyme action and used molasses instead of the recommended sweetners.  When I have more time, I'll follow the recipe exactly.  Please excuse the quality of the second photo.


midwest baker's picture
midwest baker

I have made 100% whole wheat from PR's "Whole Grain Breads" book many times. It's wonderful and light. I use buttermilk for the liquid. It's certainly my favorite 100% bread.


Baker Bevis's picture
Baker Bevis


Cor blimey, there's a lot of very good advice, thank you all very much for taking the time to help me out. It's very much appreciated :)

You've given me the boost I needed to keep on trying!

Also, beautiful pictures of bread, Midwest Baker and Frequent Flyer, thanks for sharing them.

Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

I see you are new to the board, but not to blogging or baking breads.  I like the blog.


swtgran's picture

I found the best 100% whole wheat bread recipe for soft, light sandwich bread, buns and cinnamon rolls at 

Vicki has described the recipe very well and included picture directions.

I have made this bread, several times, using home ground white whole wheat and it has been great everytime.  Terry