The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Help making 100% whole wheat bread

Mark Roberts's picture
Mark Roberts

Help making 100% whole wheat bread

I hardly know where to start I am so frustrated.  I want to make 100% whole wheat bread.  I have a grain mill and am milling my own wheat.  I also have a bread maker, a Zojirushi model BBCQ-Q20 (older model).  In the past I have used the bread maker only for making dough.  I would then transfer the dough to a bread pan, let it rise for half an hour and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  In the past two days I have made three loaves of 100% whole wheat bread that have come out of the oven and straight into the trash.

The recipe I have for 100% whole wheat is as follows:

1 3/4 cups water

2 Tbsp olive oil

4 Tbsp sugar (brown or white) or honey

1 tsp salt

5 cups 100% wheat flour

4 Tbsp vital wheat gluten

3 tsp active dry yeast


The dough cycle on my bread machine is as follows:

25 minutes preheating

10 minutes first mixing/kneading cycle

50 minute first rising cycle

5 minute stir down

20 minute second rising cycle

I then take the dough out of the bread macine, shape it and place it in a bread baking pan, set it aside for 30 minutes to rise again, and then bake as noted above.

I don't know if we have an altitude problem, but we do live at about 1 mile high.

Thus far the dough has turned out different on both occasions.  One looked like the consistency of oatmeal and the other dough that was quite dry.  Just prior to baking the batches of dough appeared to have risen nicely.  When the bread came out of the oven, however, all the loaves were high around the sides and low in the cneter and all appeared to be semi-raw.

Can anyone help me?


spsq's picture

I have used my bread machine to knead for me, then bake on my own.  I have a couple comments, maybe.


Your bread machine holds 5 cups of flour?  that seems like a lot - maybe it can't mix properly.

I always try to override the preheat cycle.  I'm not sure how your machine works, but If mine registers that it needs a preheat, I let it heat for about 5 minutes, then cancel, then restart.  I find overheating dough too unpredictable -- probably causing too much activity initially, then unpredictability during the rest of the breadmaking process.


Also, measuring in cups can yield extremely different amounts of flour - scooped flour can yield up to 1/3 more flour than flour spooned into a meauring cup.  Open your bread machine and check the texture about halfway through first knead - should be soft, but not terribly sticky.  Also, ww absorbs more water, so err on the side of too soft.


Good luck!

clazar123's picture

I haven't baked at the altitude you are at but many times on The Fresh Loaf, people at altitude with a similar problem to what you are describing are told that  the yeast amount needs to be decreased or it will rise too quickly and ultimately fall before can set (as in tall sides and fallen doughy center). So do try that.

Another thing is that whole wheat needs some time to soak up all the liquid. After it is mixed, just let it sit for about 1 hour at room temp. Your loaf will improve in texture and flavor. At the beginning of the soak, the dough should be a little more moist than a white bread dough-a little sticky, in fact.If you touch it with a dry finger, a little dough should stick.After the rest, a dry finger will not stick. That's how much moisture all the bran bits have absorbed suring that time.

As spsq mentions, every time you scoop up flour, you can get a significantly different amount in the cup, depending on finely the flour granules pack together. It could be how hard you dipped or even the humidity level in the air that affects this. If you are going to use cups as measures than the recipe becomes more of a guideline and you have to be able to adjust-as-you-go, depending on the dough quality. Nothing wrong with that, just a different way of doing things.


Janetcook's picture

I also live about a mile above sea level.  I use the whole grain recipes in Peter's book and have had no problem with them at all.  The yeast can be decreased but my rising times generally fall within the times he specifies.

Not sure how his recipes would work in a bread machine as he uses 2 pre-ferments. One soaker and one biga.  

If you have a library near by i highly recommend checking his book out.

There is also another excellent book that has all whole grain recipes. Title is 'Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book'.  Author is Laurel Robertson.  I believe she does have a section in that book that has recipes to be used in bread machines.  She has been baking with whole grains for many decades so the book contains a wealth of knowledge....another one to check out at your library.

Janetcook's picture

Just read the list of your ingredients and what struck me second time through was the amount of gluten you are using....way too much in my opinion.

I don't use gluten with my whole wheat loaves.  It has enough of it's own gluten in it already.  I only use it if I am baking with a grain that has minimal or no gluten.

The recommended amount is 1 TB per loaf of bread.  (Loaf size being equal to 6 cups of flour.)

A fun experiment using gluten might tell you if that is what the texture is telling you in your off loaves.  Take about a TB of gluten and mix it with a bit of water.  It should turn into a rubber ball....hence too much of it in a recipe results in a rubbery texture.

I am not sure how long you have been grinding your own grain but if it has just been freshly ground it has a lot more air in it so a cup of freshly ground flour isn't really a full cup.

A lot of the recipes/formulas here use weight measures.  It makes a huge difference when baking bread as volume amts are subject to variance.

 Small home scales are inexpensive  and very user friendly.  Most weigh in grams as will as lbs./ozs.  You might buy one out at a restaurant supply store or on Amazon.  


Chuck's picture

I heartily second this.

One of the many problems with volume measurements is it's very easy to mis-read or mis-write them: was that 'tsp' or 'tbsp', and is the recipe really correct or does it contains a transcription error?

Breadandwine's picture

Hi Mark

I sympathise with your plight - it must be very frustrating for you.

There are several things you could try:

By far the most important tip I can give you is to make sure there is enough moisture in the dough – and using cup measurements it is very hard to tell whether there is, or not. I go for roughly 70% water content – in other words, for every 100g of flour I use 70g of water (grams and ml – same thing). This makes a very sticky dough, which I knead for about 20 seconds, then leave for 10-20 minutes. I repeat this cycle 2, 3, or even 4 times – and each time I come back to it, the dough is dryer and easier to handle. Once I’m happy with it - still slightly sticky, but handleable - I’ll leave it for at least an hour – sometimes up to four – then shape it and put it to prove.

So – ditch the machine. If you’re keen enough to grind your own flour – something I’ve never done, I’m impressed! – you should be getting your hands in the dough from the beginning. By handling it, and feeling it every step of the way, you begin to build up a rapport with bread you can’t possibly achieve using a machine.

What else?

Certainly, cut out the extra gluten, as has been suggested, it’s not needed.

Does it have to be 100% wholewheat? I ask because, as much as I like wholewheat, it does tend to produce a very heavy loaf. I always add a percentage of white flour, just to give it that extra lift. My usual ratio is 600g wholewheat to 100g of white flour, but I’ve used 900g wholewheat to 100g of white with success.

About baking times - 100% wholewheat loaves are pretty dense, so take a little longer to bake than other loaves. Your times seem very short to me,

I would then transfer the dough to a bread pan, let it rise for half an hour and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. 

In my recipes I never give a time for the final proving stage. I always ask my students to judge when a loaf is ready to go into the oven. There are too many variables, IMO; how moist the dough is, how warm your kitchen is, how much yeast you’ve used, etc. So you need to know by the appearance of a loaf when it is ready to be baked.

And 30 minutes for a large loaf at 350 degrees seems very minimal. Are we talking Fahrenheit here? Or Centigrade? Whatever, I’m not surprised your bread is ‘semi-raw’.

Once again, appearance is a factor in deciding when a loaf if properly baked. I always look for colour underneath a loaf and have no qualms about putting it back in the oven, upside down (in the tin, using tinned loaves) until it is brown across the bottom.

Finally, have you considered the cloche method? Baking undercover gives a fabulous lift to your bread. Have a look at this info on my blog: 

There you’ll find how I’m using it ATM, but there’s also some links to other sites – including one back here to TFL!:)

I’ve gone on a bit longer than I intended!:-D

Best wishes, Paul

Ps. 4 tbs sugar? Why? You don't need sugar to make good bread!