The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Whole wheat questions.

goer's picture

Whole wheat questions.

Did the Basic Whole Wheat recipe out of The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book today and have some questions. I used our Kitchen Aid even though I read somewhere it struggles with two pounds of dough. I don't know if it struggle, but the motor heated up nicely. After 20 or more minutes, I was unimpressed with it's efforts so decided to hand kneed. Here's where the question comes in. Is it difficult to get gluten to form with whole wheat? I kneeded and kneeded and never got it where I wanted it. I finally decided to call it a low to no kneed bread and let it rise. I got good gas production. Final loaves were a little small and could have risen more to make me happy, but flavor and text where great. I put the loaf pans on a pizza stone in the oven and introduced some steam by pouring what in a cast iron skillet in the bottom of the oven. Overall it was a great day, but wondering if you can get to the window pane trick with whole wheat.

Mary Clare's picture
Mary Clare

The windowpane won't be quite the same as an all-white flour dough, but you can certainly get it to windowpane.  A few suggestions:

Make sure your dough has enough water.  (I'm assuming you want sandwich bread, or something similar.)  The dough should be soft and supple.  Stiff dough is also harder on your mixer.

Let the dough rest at least 30 minutes up to an hour after you've added everything together.  Some wait until after this rest to add the salt and yeast (this way is called an autolyse) -- I've done it both ways.  This allows the whole wheat flour to hydrate more fully.  After the rest, adjust the hydration before kneading.  Another wonderful thing is the rest time gets the gluten formation going, resulting in less kneading time...which is easier on the mixer, too.

The recipes in Laurel's book use less yeast and an additional rise...I like that.  

Make sure you are using high-protein whole wheat flour.  

Best of luck in your bread adventures!

Mary Clare



clazar123's picture

If your KA was struggling, it may be that the dough needed additional water so it is not so thick. I make WW in my 35 year old KA all the time and it heats up but handles all manner of dough. I have a 5 qt bowl and a K5A mixer.

The additional hydration would only benefit a WW loaf,also, or you could end up with a rather crumbly loaf. I'm not familiar with Laurel's recipe but Mary Clare's suggestion to autolyse is also necessary to produce a softer,moiter crumb. WW needs time for the water to be absorbed by all the bran particles or it robs the moisture from the crumb later.


Postal Grunt's picture
Postal Grunt

I'd like to suggest that if your local library can loan you a copy, you should spend some time with Peter Reinhart's "Whole Grain Breads". I had to borrow it a couple of times but I think I finally got enough from it to really raise the quality of my breads that use whole wheat flour. I found there's much to be gained by pre-soaking whole wheat flour before mixing dough. There are hot soaks and cold soaks and they both work in many situations. You might also spend some time looking up posts here about soakers. Just use the search button at the top left of the page. Spend a little time and save yourself some frustration.

emmsf's picture

I think you've gotten some good advice here on hydration, autolyse, etc. so I won't repeat.  But I did want to comment on the time you knead the bread.  It seems to me that 20 minutes is extremely long.  I understand that you continued to knead because you weren't getting the gluten development you wanted.  But 3 or 4 minutes of mixing on 1st speed, a rest of 30 minutes or so, followed by 4 or 5 minutes of kneading on 2nd  or 3rd speed should be plenty.  There's some benefit in minimal mixing to improve the final crumb.  One last thing - you can make the process a bit easier if you use bread flour in addition to the whole wheat.  Unless you're intent on making a 100% whole wheat loaf, the white flour will get you to a nice windowpane faster.

Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

I have the Laurel's Kichen book as well as Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads book.  Laurel's method calls for long kneading while Reinhart's calls for soaking the grain overnight.  I have much better luck with Reinhart's method.  It calls for mixing roughly half the whole wheat and half the water with a little less than half of the salt, and leaving at room temp. overnight.  The other half of the whole wheat and water is mixed with a pinch of yeast and refrigerated overnight.  When the final dough is made, a windowpane can be formed in 6 to 8 minutes of mixing and kneading.


Janetcook's picture

Peter Reinhart's, Whole Grain Breads.  It has revolutionized my bread baking and I only use whole grains.

 I used to use Laurel's whole wheat recipe exclusively when my children were young but once I found PR's book my loaves are a totally different 'species'.

With Laurel's they were dense and heavy.  I sometimes even had to add gluten which I prefer not to.

PR's turn out much softer and rise a lot higher.

 Although he method has more steps involved, once I got used to the rhythm of it I found it to be less time consuming and more flexible to use with my busy schedule.

I first borrowed it from the library as suggested above.  I knew I wanted to own it so I went ahead and ordered a copy off of Amazon.  I have NO regrets.

If you do a search here you can find 100% whole wheat recipes that turn out much like sandwich loaves. You might check out Txfarmer's 100% whole wheat oatmeal sourdough sandwich loaf and see how that works out for you.  No cost of a book and you get a great outcome. 

Happy Baking!




yy's picture

I agree that Peter Reinhart's methods make it much easier to get good gluten development. However, for his "master recipe" whole wheat dough, his instructions say to combine all the ingredients together on the second day at once and mix away. Adding the oil/butter at the same time as the other ingredients tends to push the texture toward cakey and dry. I'd recommend withholding the fat until you get decent development - kind of like you'd do with brioche.

Frequent Flyer's picture
Frequent Flyer

I'll give that a try.