The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

America's Test Kitchen's Amazing tasting yeasted whole wheat sandwich bread

probably34's picture

America's Test Kitchen's Amazing tasting yeasted whole wheat sandwich bread

Much like Reinhart's recipes in whole grain breads, this recipe uses a biga and a soaker. 2 loaves


11 oz bread flour

8 oz warm water

1/2 tsp instant yeast                    combine ingredients, let stand 8-24 hours


16.5 oz whole wheat flour

1/2 cup wheat germ

16 oz whole milk                          combine ingredients, knead until smooth, refrigerate overnight


1/4 cup honey

4 tsp salt

2 Tbsp Instant yeast

3 oz butter, soft

2 Tbsp veg. oil

soaker and biga              

Cut up the soaker and combine it with remaining ingredients in stand mixer. mix 2 min. on low to form cohesive  mass. Turn machine to medium and mix 8 to 10 minutes or until windowpane. Knead by hand to smooth out the dough for minute. Deposit intp oiled bowl or container.

Ferment 90 minutes, stretching and folding half way through.

Shape into two loaves. Preheat oven to 400F.

Proof 60-90 minutes or until almost doubled

Score loaves length wise down the center. LOad in the oven with steam

Bake, rotating halfway, 40- 50 minutes, or until the loaves register 200 F in center



cranbo's picture

i like whole wheat bread, and have been interested in trying a sammich loaf. I'll give it a shot. 

mrfrost's picture

Can you double check on the amount of yeast? 2 Tablespoons, in addition to the 1/2 tsp in the biga that's been fermenting for a good part of a day. Seems like a lot for 2 loaves?

Otherwise, looks like a goodie.

probably34's picture

I agree it is alot. I suppose they wanted a huge oven spring.

clazar123's picture

It seems that some of your ingredients are in volume (cups and tsp) and some are ounces so I'm not sure if you are weighing the flour (i.e. ounces of weight) or measuring it in a volumetric (fluid ounces) measuring cup. Please clarify which ingredients indicating "ounce" are by weight and which are by fluid measure.

I would guess/assume that the milk and water are fluid ounces?

probably34's picture

everything that says "oz" is by weight. Everything else volume

Russ's picture

Fluid ounces of milk and water conveniently weigh 1 oz each.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Two Tablespoons of yeast doesn't seem like too much when considering the amount of honey.  The salt is on target.  The dancing around with oz is an eye catcher.  Water in oz. and then honey in cups.  Germ (a dry ingredient) in a dry cup but why not oz. like the water and flour in the rest of the soaker?  

Since one would most probably put the mixer bowl on the scale to weigh out dough ingredients, the honey & germ would be better listed as weight or both.  I would expect more precision and consistency from a "test" kitchen.  

It looks more like all the various average measuring cups and scales were sitting in front of them and they grabbed whatever was handy at the moment either to measure or use as a container.  Anything under a cup got put into a volume measuring cup or spoons.  Actually the butter doesn't hold the pattern being in oz. instead of cups.  Did the scales not weigh anything accurately under 8 oz?  (I'm thinking the butter was cut off at the wrapper mark and not weighed.)  Just another way of looking at it.

probably34's picture

I converted the butter to oz because I'm used to working with one pound blocks of butter with no Tbsp markers. The recipe calls for 6 Tbsp butter. The recipe does have volume measurements for the flours, water, and milk, as well as the weights. I think the magazine is slightly geared towards the slightly more ambitious sally homemaker, who may or may not have a scale.Regardless of all the fussiness, the bread is delicious.

rayel's picture

Is honey an inhibitor of yeast? I don't get the connection.  Ray

cranbo's picture

When used in large quantities, all sugars and fats in breads are inhibitors of yeast growth.  

rayel's picture

Hi cranbo, thanks for your response. Your point is well taken, however 1/4 C honey doesn't seem like too large a qty. of sweetner for the amt of flour in America's Test Kitchen's bread. (mabey a little) A dough is considered to be sweet or high in sugar when it contains more than 1/2 cup sugar for every 4 cups of flour, according to Red Star Yeast. I think the 2 tablespoons plus is far more yeast than is needed for that particular recipe.   Ray

mrfrost's picture

Consider their(ATK) Multigrain bread recipe: similar amount of flour(and/or total grains), same amount of honey, for 2 large loaves.

Even shorter rising times, for 2 relatively huge looking loaves(video link in thread), on (effectively)almost one third the yeast(2 & 1/2 teaspoons).

cranbo's picture

please correct me if my math is wrong, but let's run some numbers here:

11oz = 312g biga flour
16.5oz = 468g soaker flour
Total: 780g combined flour weight

1 tsp of dry yeast weighs 3.156g (7.1g in a packet, approx 2.25 tsp per packet)
2 tbsp = 6 tsp = 18.936g yeast

18.936g / 780g = 2.42% of total flour weight in yeast

Other stats from this recipe:

  • 3oz butter = 85g = 10.9% of total flour weight in butter
  • .25c of honey = 85g = 10.9% of total flour weight in honey (I got this conversion figure from another web site, so can't be sure of accuracy)

2.42% for yeast doesn't seem unusual in a soft sandwich bread with a relatively quick, unrefrigerated rise with over 10% butter and over 10% honey. I routinely make tasty, fluffy sandwich bread and burger buns with well over 3% yeast with sugar at 10% and butter at 25%. I also think it probably helps provide extra lift, given the amount of WW flour.

rayel's picture

Hi cranbo, I make a buttermilk bread which is very similar to a whole milk bread recipe, using 1/4 C honey and from 2 to 4 Tbls. butter, 830 grams whole wheat flour, 2 tsp. salt, with one packet of active dry yeast (have subd instant yeast), plus one extra rise, and the rise and spring is really good. I usually make the straight dough version, but have also used a preferment version. Check out jmonkey's buttermilk with biga experiment. He adapted it from Laurel's Kitchen Breadbook.  Ray

cranbo's picture

Hi Ray,

Your recipe sounds good, and I'm happy it works for you.

I'm not debating that bread your bread won't rise with that amount of yeast. According to your recipe, you're using about 0.86% of active dry or instant yeast. 

According to DiMuzio in "Bread Baking", 


A lean dough leavened with...instant yeast at an ambient temperature of about 77F may exhibit the following peak fermentation times:

0.3%: 3-4 hours

0.4 - 0.5%: 1.5 - 2 hours

0.7%: - 1 hour

1%: 30-45 minutes


He goes on to say that

differences in weather, room temperature, humidity, enzyme activity...and even elevation above sea level can affect the rate at which your dough reaches peak fermentation.

It's a really great book, I highly recommend it.

Ray, I wonder what your rise times are for your recipe, and at what temperature you ferment your dough? Do they fit in with these figures? 

My guess is that the higher amount of yeast in the ATK recipe was used so that it works well across the widest spectrum of situations. I'm guessing the ATK folks figured having higher yeast levels can help compensate and produce better results, whether the cook is in cold high-altitude Colorado, low humid Florida, or dry and hot Arizona, and with a variety of ingredients and flours. 

My point is that while 2.4% yeast might be high, it's just not that surprising or unusual. 

rayel's picture

I have Di Muzio's bread baking An Artisan's Perspective. I have not read it cover to cover, but agree it is a useful book. My dough temp is around 78, ist rise 90 min. (about) @ 80, 2nd rise about 44 min. @same temp. final proof 85 degrees or warmer, for around 40 min.  I rely on the finger press for final proof, whether it feels soft, or a bit longer for spongy, depending on how brave I feel at the time.

 I agree the ATK recipe is one for all seasons and widest spectrum of situations, including folks that prefer to sit on their bread while it rises. That amt of yeast could possibly accommodate that. Kidding of course, small joke, very small.

Seriously though, the 2nd rise, Laurel's method, has bailed me out of under mixing/kneading, too much or too little hydration, where small adjustments can  be made after 1st rise, and smaller still adj. after 2nd rise. by shaping time it's pretty much good to go. I have not yet experienced the smaller amt. of yeast tiring, or not being up to it.



kattalover's picture

Hi everybody,

I've made bread using this recipe twice now and both times ended up with very tasty but very misshapen loaves. The first time I used King Arthur's White Whole Wheat Flour, the second time King Arthur's Whole Wheat Flour. These are the problems I encountered:

1. The biga was much drier than in the video; I had difficulties incorporating all the flour. The first time I added water, the second time I didn't.

2. The soaker was much moister than in the video; it was extremely sticky and impossible to knead. The first time I simply left it in the bowl overnight, the second time I kneaded a little bit but had to add quite a bit of flour to keep it from sticking to the counter and my hands.

3. Both times, after combining the biga and the soaker, the final dough seemed stickier than in the video and didn't deflate after its first rise. There didn't seem to be any gas escaping when I poked it. It just maintained its shape during the folding and pressing down.

4. After the final rise in the pans, when trying to cut the dough lengthwise, the first bread deflated and sank quite a bit in the pan. In my second attempt, the dough was so elastic that it was hard to cut and the cutmarks disappeared quickly.

4. For the first bread, I used a USA Pullman loaf pan, for the second attempt two Anchor 9x5 glass dishes, all liberally greased. I don't have a baking stone, so I placed the first loaf straight on a cookie sheet on the middle rack of my gas range. For the second attempt I turned the cookie tray upside down. The first time I did not preheat the oven, the second time I did.

Results: The loaf in the Pullman pan spilled over and was difficult to remove from the pan; it ended up extremely soft and nearly impossible to cut. - The loaves in the Anchor dishes sunk in the middle and their tops stuck to the pans; they were a little easier to remove and are not quite as soft as the Pullman loaf.

Conclusion: I think I'll stick with Pepin's No-Knead recipe (featured here: It is easier, MUCH less time consuming, can be made with different types of flour (including rye), and produces loaves with a nice crust and an enjoyable texture.

Just thought I'd share this with you all. - Any advice as to how to overcome my issues with the ATK recipe would be appreciated, though, because the bread tastes phenomenal! :)

cranbo's picture

Thanks for sharing your results!

Some observations: 

1. According to the recipe listed here, the biga is on the dry-ish side for a preferment, around 72% hydration, which is still ballpark correct for a biga. You are using plain white flour (not WW) for the biga, right? If you use WW here, then the biga would be quite dry, because WW soaks up water much more. 

2. The soaker is going to be close to a batter, at nearly 97% hydration. No real need to knead the soaker, just stir it until all flour is incorporated and there are no obvious dry spots/lumps in it. Here, the WW and wheat germ will absorb lots of milk, so even though 97% now, after an overnight soak it will be somewhat more dry. (see my comment below: I think you should hold back some of the milk)

Overall hydration (780g combined flour weights, 680g combined liquid weights) gives you a theoretical hydration of around 87% which would be very wet and tough to handle. Maybe the recipe is written wrong? I would suggest holding back 3-4oz of milk from the soaker, and then add the reserved milk back if your dough seems too dry during kneading. 

If your dough sank a lot when you cut it, it was probably overproofed. Don't let it rise as long, it should barely sink, if at all, when cut. Likewise, if the dough is super wet, it's very difficult to cut. 

For better release of your breads from pans, I always not only grease  but lightly flour my bread pans, shaking out the excess. Never any problems with release this way. 

kattalover's picture

Thank you so much for your reply! I'll give the recipe another go and follow your tips.

I used King Arthur's all purpose flour for the biga. Should I try bread flour instead?

Also, does the weather make a difference? It's very hot and humid where I live, but the AC keeps the house at 79F.

cranbo's picture

The allpurpose flour should be fine, although you will get somewhat more gluten development with bread flour. 

Weather does make a difference. The heat will cause things to rise much more quickly. The humidity will affect the amount of water inherent in your flour and thus the hydration of your ingredients. However, weighing your ingredients will help balance this out somewhat.