The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

100% FAIL! on 100% Whole Wheat Boule/Bread

chiirioz's picture

100% FAIL! on 100% Whole Wheat Boule/Bread

SO. Today was the first time I've ever baked bread period AND used whole wheat flour so I'm still attempting to figure out the whole baking thing. (I'm mostly a cook, not so much a baker so these absolute proportions are something I'm still wrapping my head around HAHA).

Anyways, I pretty much ended up with what typical failures in WW baking look like....dry, dense-as-bricks bread.

I only used Whole Wheat Flour and Dark Rye Flour so to subsitute the lack of gluten? I added a bit of Vital Wheat Gluten.

Anyways, here's a rough of what I did:

SPONGE: 1c. dark rye flour, 2 c. WW Flour, 3 packets active dry yeast, 2 c. H2O, 2 tsp Honey,
The sponge was liquidy and rose for an hour and rose considerably.

DOUGH: I mixed the sponge and folded in about 1 c. WW, 1/2 c. Rye and 1.5 tbsp Vital Wheat Gluten (Along with some hemp,poppy, and flax seed)
I let it rise for 3 to 4 hours with a damp cloth in a sunny area. I may at this point have added too much flour. The dough did not rise too much but it did not rise that much (not like sponge) and it formed a little hard crust outside....

I ignored that, shaped and sliced the dough, basted it with a bit of egg, and sprinkled the top with seeds and flour.
Baked one at 400F for 10 minutes lowered the temp to 350 and baked for 30.
Second one baked for 30 - 40 min at 350.

What can I do to make a better crusty bread? (It was also incredibly bland-- I think I need to add some salt for that)

Do I HAVE to add unbleached flour to bread to make it a little fluffier but still maintain that nice rustic crust? It's a bit discouraging when I would love a high-fiber, 100% whole wheat bread that's crusty and similar to the artisan bread that I buy that my supermarket bakes the day of (from La Brea Brand and such).



I think my problems may be that I
1. Added too much flour
2. not enough honey for yeast
3. need more gluten!
4. kneaded too much although I barely kneaded it.....?

mdunham21's picture

Whole Wheat and Rye are meant to be a certain percentage of the total white flour in your recipe, based on the type of bread you're looking to make.  For example, if you were making pumpernickel you would use about 30-40% Rye of the total amount of white flour etc...

chiirioz's picture

Interesting... I guess I should incorporate some white unbleached flour into bread baking. A bit dissapointing considering that I would love to NOT use white flour because I'm a health-freak.

mdunham21's picture

I'd like to correct a part of my previous comment.  It seems like you can make a 100% WW loaf but the amount of water used is very high.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

But then why not follow a recipe?  Type all the ingredients (except poppy seed) into the search box and see what turns up.  Try it in other bread sites too.  It's a good way to find a recipe.  Then follow the directions. 

clazar123's picture

Wow! You started out with a steep learning curve! Whole wheat and rye!

The easiest recommendation is to add salt to reduce the blandness. About 1 teaspoon per 3 cups flour.

 Addressing the other issues gets more involved. First of all, start with a simpler recipe. By simpler, I mean one that has flour (one kind),water,salt and yeast. It can have some oil and sweetener,if you must. Use the search box  and the handbook and videos to learn about how to work with whole wheat. There is a lot to learn about techniques that will eventually yield a lighter loaf. Start by using a notebook with the recipe written down and make notes with each bake. Adjust things before the next bake and see how things go. It takes time.

chiirioz's picture

Thanks! I definitely will try just whole wheat flour next time although above response says I should use a combination of white and WW. I definitely wrote down what I did today and will be trying again soon. :)

clazar123's picture

Whether you use whole wheat or a combo of AP and whole wheat, you still need to learn how to work with whole wheat. It has some characterisitcs that must be addressed with some easy techniques in handling-even if WW is only part of the recipe.

It is easier to get a fluffier loaf with a AP and WW mix and that is as good a place as any to start learning how to make bread.

Part of the problem that your picture demonstrates is that the loaf was very underproofed.This means it did not raise to its optimal level before baking and contributes to a dense,moist loaf. Start with the search box and tutorial.

elcouisto's picture

I remember the first bread ever that I tried was the Ciabatta. I kept trying for like 4 months and never quite succeeded. Then I tried 2-3 other types of easier bread and all were a stunning success on first tries.

Then I tried more things and kept failing... Oh the horror...


Happy baking :)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

of the page and then go from there.  Things will fall into place and you will discover the answers to your questions soon enough.   Learn the basics first.


Mary Fisher's picture
Mary Fisher

I think, if we're honest, we've all made bread which we've considered failures. 

It's not a disaster, you can use the bread as toast, as crumbs, as bread puddings (both sweet and savoury), as stuffings for meat or simply as bread. 

Bread doesn't have to be perfect (whatever that is), please don't waste the ingredients and your work. 


csimmo64's picture


added too much flour:

Probably not, if you were still able to shape and handle the dough, you are fine.

not enough honey for yeast:

Yeast does not need honey, yeast feeds off of the sugars that are converted from starches in the flour. Enzymes start breaking the starch down the moment you mix in water

need more gluten:

You can make that recipe work, although it needs some tweaking. In fact, i don't even think you would need the added gluten. However, you need to use either a preferment or a sourdough with rye flour to make a good loaf. Use the search bar to read about why that is so.

Kneaded too much:

If you don't think you kneaded it enough, then you probably did not. Over kneading can reduce overall loaf volume, but underkneading can too. I'm assuming that you mixed it by hand, which takes quite some time to do. 8 or more minutes I think. Or an easier route is to let the dough do the work and just give it a few gentle folds every half hour. Once again, look up some other recipes and use the search feature.


Real problems[I believe]:

You didn't use a preferment or a sourdough culture. You didn't use salt [Its a must!!] You need a little more experience with easier breads before you tackle the hard ones.

Mylissa20's picture

Yes, you can make 100% whole wheat bread that is delicious and beautiful.  It is not very complicated, but it does take a little bit of practice to adjust to the nature of whole wheat.  You are headed in the right direction, especially for health reasons by going for a bread that requires a sponge (browse forums and internet for info on phytic acid).  The best sponge recipe I ever used was in Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, titled Yogurt Bread.  I recommend that book to anyone trying to make perfect whole wheat loaves.  She will take you through every step, explaining the exact consistency of your dough at each step.  The woman is a bread goddess.   I bought mine on Amazon for $3 after the library forced me to give theirs back. :)