The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Clayton's Buttermilk Whole Wheat Bread

pmccool's picture

Clayton's Buttermilk Whole Wheat Bread

Since the breads I made most recently were both sourdough ryes, I was looking for something different this time around that would work well for sandwiches. My first inclination was to haul out an old favorite, a honey whole wheat bread. While flipping through Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads, I happened across a buttermilk whole wheat recipe that I had not tried previously. Since I had all of the necessary materials on hand, I thought that I would give it a try. The recipe follows [with my notes]. I'll also include additional comments at the end

Buttermilk Whole Wheat Bread

from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads

makes 1 9"x5" or 2 8.5"x4.5" loaves


2 packages dry yeast [I used 2 teaspoons instant yeast]

3/4 cup warm water (105-115F)

1-1/4 cups buttermilk, room temperature (or 1-1/4 cups water and 4 tablespoons buttermilk powder)

1-1/2 cups bread flour, approximately

3 cups whole wheat flour, stone-ground preferred

1/4 cup shortening, room temperature

2 tablespoons brown sugar or molasses [I used molasses]

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

Step 1 - In a large mixing bowl sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and stir briefly to dissolve. Set aside while allowing the buttermilk to reach room temperature, about 15 minutes.

Step 2 - When at room temperature, pour the buttermilk, bread flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, shortening, brown sugar or molasses, baking powder, and salt into the yeast mixture. Blend with 50 strong strokes of a wooden spoon, or at low speed in a mixer until the flour and the dry ingredients are absorbed. With a wooden spoon or mixer flat beater stir in the remaining whole wheat flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and, when it becomes thick, work with the fingers. Allow 4 to 5 minutes for the whole wheat flour to fully absorb the liquid before adding more flour. The dough will be slightly sticky and soft. You may wish to add more bread flour to help control the stickiness.

Step 3 - Sprinkle flour on the work surface and turn out the soft dough. In the early stages of kneading, a metal spatula or dough blade will help turn and fold the dough. It will also scrape up the film of dough from the work surface. Knead with a strong push-turn-fold action, occasionally lifting the dough above the counter and banging it down hard. Knead for 8 minutes, buy hand or with a dough hook.

Step 4 - There is no "first" rising--the dough is put in the pans and set aside to rise. Divide the 2 pieces, if desired, and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Shape into balls; press the balls into ovals the length of the pans. Fold in half lengthwise, pinch the seam, and place in the pans with the seam under. Push the dough into the corners of the pans. Cover the pans with with wax paper and leave at room temperature until the dough has risen 1" to 2" above the level of the pan, about 50 minutes. (Rising times will be reduced if using instant yeast.)

Step 5 - Preheat oven to 425F 20 minutes before baking.

Step 6 - Bake the loaf or loaves in the oven until they are golden brown and loose in the pans, about 30-35 minutes. Cover with foil if the crusts are browning to rapidly. The loaves are baked if the sound is hard and hollow when thumped on the bottom crust.

Step 7 - Remove loaves from the oven and place on wire racks to cool.

My variation went like this:

Step 1 - Mix the warm water, the buttermilk, the whole wheat flour, the brown sugar or molasses, and the baking powder. Autolyse 60 minutes. (I actually had to run some errands and it was closer to 90 minutes before I got back to the autolysed dough.)

Step 2 - Stir in the instant yeast.

Step 3 - Stir in the salt.

Step 4 - Stir in the shortening.

Step 5 - Stir in bread flour, 1/2 cup at a time. (I wound up stirring in 1 cup, total. The balance was used for flouring the counter during kneading.)

Step 6 - Since the gluten was so thoroughly developed during the autolyse, I stopped kneading after 5 minutes, which was enough to ensure that everything was completely blended and distributed.

Step 7 - Clean and grease the mixing bowl. Place kneaded dough in bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to ferment at room temperature until doubled in volume.

Step 8 - Degas the dough slightly, shape into loaf or loaves, place in pan(s). Cover the pans loosely with with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature until the dough has risen 1" to 2" above the level of the pan, about 50 minutes.

Step 9 - Preheat oven to 425F 20 minutes before baking.

Step 10 - Bake the loaf or loaves in the oven until they are golden brown and loose in the pans, about 30-35 minutes. Cover with foil if the crusts are browning to rapidly. The loaves are baked if the sound is hard and hollow when thumped on the bottom crust.

Step 11 - Remove loaves from the oven and place on wire racks to cool.

The effects of the autolyse were phenomenal. The dough texture looked as though it had been worked for 8-10 minutes, even though it had been stirred just enough to moisten the dry ingredients. After stirring in the bread flour, it was almost the the silky smooth texture that I usually associate with a well-kneaded white bread. The other thing that I should mention was that I was using Wheat Montana's Bronze Chief flour, a finely milled high-protein whole wheat containing 4 grams of protein in a 30-gram sample. For all practical purposes, it's bread flour that still has the bran in it. One of these days I'll have to try a 100% whole wheat bread with this flour.

Overall, I'm very happy with the results of this bread, using this approach and this flour. The loaves were some of the prettiest that I've ever pulled out of the oven, equalling the loftiness of a typical white bread. Here's a picture of the finished loaves:

Buttermilk whole wheat loaves

The crumb was close-textured and even; not at all crumbly or dry. No bricks this time:

Buttermilk whole wheat crumb

Oh, and it tastes really good, too!

And, while I was baking bread, my wife was attending a book signing by Giada De Laurentiis, as evidenced by the photo below:



cthecow's picture

Yesterday I stumbled across this site and your variation on this recipe while searching for a buttermilk & whole wheat bread recipe.  Lucky me!  I had ingredients on hand and got busy.  I used a Dakota Maid 100% whole wheat (stone ground) flour and a Gold Medal Harvest King bread flour, with a whole packet of RapidRise and followed your variation (w/60 minute autolyse and a probably 3/4 c. flour while kneading.  This recipe made EXACTLY the kind of bread that I was looking for, and I will make it again and again.  It's just outstanding -- the dough kneads and rises beautifully, and the loaf is moist, has a dense, fine texture but is not too heavy or thick -- great flavor -- I just can't say enough wonderful things about it.  THANK YOU.

pmccool's picture


I'm glad you enjoyed the bread.  Mr. Clayton puts out some pretty good recipes, doesn't he?  The addition of an autolyze step really seems to help smooth out the dough, quite possibly because it gives the bran in the flour time to absorb moisture and soften, as well as helping the gluten develop.

I should thank you for reminding me of this.  Once the travel demands of my job quiet down, I want to make this again.


discochef's picture

I made this recipe today, with high hopes for the bread.   It sounded delicious.  I followed the recipe to the letter, except that after autolyse-ing the dough, and added the yeast, salt, shortening, and flour, I found that 1 1/2 cups of flour left the dough far too wet.  I had to add another 1/2 cup of flour to get the dough to form a ball and clean the sides of the bowl.  Still, however, after letting the dough rise, and panning the bread, rising again, and then baking, the loaf immediately flattened out on the crown, a sure sign that there was far too much moisture in the dough.  Next time, I think I will try following the recipe as-is, instead of incorporating the proposed variation.   Also, there is no substitute for one's own intuition.  If the dough feels too wet and sticky, it probably is, even if you have used more flour than the recipe calls for!

pmccool's picture

Since the Wheat Montana flour that I used has a high protein content, it may have absorbed more liquid than a flour with a lower protein content.  Then again, maybe you have a lighter hand when measuring flour by the cup than do I.  The autolyse wouldn't be my first suspect, since that gives the flour additional time to thoroughly absorb the moisture.

Clayton's original recipe notes that more flour may be required if the dough is too sticky.  Sounds like your initial reading of the dough was accurate.  Do try it again; it's a lovely whole-wheat bread.


merlie's picture

This is a regular in our house as it is my husband's favourite. It can be sliced very thinly too if required. I have always substituted olive oil for the shortening and use molasses instead of sugar. Sometimes it takes a spoonful or two of extra flour to control the stickiness but not always.  It is such a quick easy bread to make as there is only one rise. NOW I must try it with an autolyse !


SylviaH's picture

Thank you, Paul for this recipe!  Gorgeous  loaf!  I almost missed this..nice's late and I'll read all the blog in the morning.  Nice photo of Giada..I love her tv show.


Gauri Jayaram's picture
Gauri Jayaram

Hi !! I've started baking breads recently and now want to try out a recipe from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads. Now my issue is that all his recipes have te yeast measure in 'packages' for eg 5-6 cups flour, 3 tbsp sugar, 2 tsp salt and 1 package yeast. What does 1 package yeast equal to??? Please help. Thank you

pmccool's picture

Mr. Clayton wrote his books for a U.S. audience, so he references materials readily available in the U.S. at the time of the book's publication.  Active dry yeast and instant dry yeast are commonly sold in 7 gram packages, which are the packages that Mr. Clayton refers to in the book you mention.   If the dry yeast available to you comes in some other size (I've found 10 gram packages here in South Africa), you will want to measure 7 grams of yeast for each package that the recipe calls for.  If you don't have a scale, a scant tablespoon of dry yeast will be a close enough approximation.

I hope that helps you.


Gauri Jayaram's picture
Gauri Jayaram

Hello Paul,

Thank you. That is very helpful. I hope now I'll be able to
do some bread baking from Mr. Clayton's book.

Curdmor's picture

Hello,  Yesterday, I baked this recipe in both the variations you mention on your blog.  I did not use the instant yeast but I did proof my yeast in both instances.  No matter what I did; the bread would not rise enough to come 1 or 2 inches over the pan.  Now, the bread smells divine when it's cooking and the taste of the bread is wonderful and the texture is OK but the loaves are no higher than about 3.5 inches.  The second "Clayton" method worked best but I think I could have gotten the result I wanted with a first rising.  When I tried the one rise method of the original recipe; it did not work.  Whereas, the first rising of "Clayton's" method would have sufficed............ if I had put the loaves in the pan directly after kneading.

I've been baking bread for decades and I really want this recipe to work but I'm stymied on how it can be worked through unless I use instant yeast (as you say you do).  I think perhaps the recipe calls for too much baking soda and one teaspoon might be enough.  Also, the salt should not inhibit the rising power of the dough.  I've baked thousands of bread loaves and usually salt is added.  This has never happened to me.  I would like to work it out so I can bake this bread again with confidence.  Cheers, and keep up the good work! 

pmccool's picture

I'm so sorry to hear that the bread did not turn out the way you wanted, Curdmor.  All the more so since you tried it two different ways!

Some thoughts: the variety of yeast ought not matter, especially since you proofed yours and know that it is viable.  I'm not sure I understand your reference to salt.  The recipe does include salt and, no, it does not inhibit the yeast from leavening the dough.  Feel free to experiment with the quantity of baking powder (not soda).  If you did use baking soda instead of baking powder, it is possible that your bread did not expand as much as it should have because of the change in ingredients.  

A question for you: what are the dimensions of your bread pans?  If, perchance, they are larger than the ones recommended by Mr. Clayton, the bread will still fill the same volume but the loaves will be wider or longer, and not as high.

And another: what is the texture and the protein content of the whole wheat flour you used?  A coarser grind and/or a lower protein content would also contribute to a squattier loaf.  I referenced that I had used a flour that was very finely milled and had a high protein content, which no doubt contributed to the outcome I had.

Best wishes for your future bakes.


dabrownman's picture

WW bread Paul.  I see that this recipe hasn't changed from his 1973 edition.  The crust and crumb of your bread is great.  I have made it converted to SD but never with yeast.  The yeast version looks near perfect.  Nice bake Paul.  I really like his Sour Cream Rye Bread too.

pmccool's picture

That bake did turn out particularly well.

I haven't tried the Sour Cream Rye but it sounds really good.  It's hard to say that I have a favorite when there are so many great breads in the book but one I keep coming back to is the Honey Lemon Whole Wheat.  Good stuff!


dabrownman's picture

50% WW with lemon peel.  Sounds great and a perfect candidate for SD conversion.  Will give it a whirl soon - maybe with some WW sprouts and some sunflower seeds.

Linda Logan's picture
Linda Logan

What does the baking powder do in this recipe?