The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Real Ground Wheat = Brown dense brick shaped loaves (little rise) in my experience. Is something else possible?

Nick Sorenson's picture
Nick Sorenson

Real Ground Wheat = Brown dense brick shaped loaves (little rise) in my experience. Is something else possible?

Let me start by saying I'm a HUGE Sourdough and Italian bread fan so I'm basing this as my basis to whether or not fresh ground wheat is the way to go for my tastes. I grew up in a town with a large Italian population and probably 3 or 4 busy large scale Italian bakeries and several smaller ones. So nearly the entire town ate the Paielli's or Cardinali's loaves that were fresh every day in the grocery stores. Not many bought Wonder needless to say.

I've known some folks who ground their own wheat and though it may have been a healthier way to eat, it was 'healthy tasting' for lack of a better way to say it. Not something that I'd grab as a snack like I would a nice piece of Italian or SD toasted with butter.

Here are my thoughts on the fresh ground wheat bread I've had. Wondering if there can there be improvements?
-Not fluffy or with any nice light risen texture to it (short and about the bread pan in height)
-Tasted like the usual bitter wheat taste

What I like about white flour:
-I can taste the yeast and salt more than the flour (especially in Italian or Sourdough loaves)
-Makes great toast
-Light textrure, easy to chew, airy, rises great

If I go into the world (or at least try it) of grinding wheat, am I saying good bye to what I like about bread (white bread)?

FWIW The fresh wheat bread I've had was run through a Whispermill (or something similar micronizer) I believe. I've heard that micronizing mills can tear up something in the wheat's structure (can't remember what) making it not as good for baking bread. So I guess this is my curiousity here. If all fresh ground wheat is like my description above, I'll stick to unbleached white from the grocers. Seems like the price is the same for the wheat as the finished flour ($2.50 per 5 lbs flour, vs $25 per 50 lb sack of wheat -equals the same $0.50 per lb).

mrfrost's picture

Have you searched, here and elsewhere, for images and descriptions of the type breads you are looking to make. There are almost certainly some. Maybe whoever was making those "bitter bricks" were making what they liked, or were just bad at making that bread.

Some people just don't like the taste of (red)whole wheat. To them, it's just bitter, no matter the recipe. If you are in that category, try white whole wheat. It does not contain as much, if any, of the compounds that cause the bitterness. It also has been proven (enough t0 me) that it bakes up lighter and fluffier than the red, if only marginally so. Basically, it is just a lot more like "white flour", in taste and other characteristics, than red wheat.

Have you ever had 100% whole wheat bread, red or white, that you liked? If so, try to find out about that particualr bread, or for whatever breads you liked.

Finally, most people don't just start out(as beginners) baking perfect breads, even with the best of "pre-milled" flours, whole grain or white, much less milling their own wheat, I imagine(as I don't do any milling).

proth5's picture

Like you, I find hard red wheat to be somewhat bitter.  Some folks are just sensitive to the taste.  Luckily hard white wheat lacks that bitter taste. 

So why not grind a grain that you like?

Although whole grains will not ever have the exact texture of white flour - you can get amazing results with them (txfarmer on these pages makes and writes about fluffy  100% whole wheat bread.) In point of fact even I (considered by some on these pages to be quite an inferior baker)have been working with 100% whole wheat bread - in a bread machine - with no added vital wheat gluten - and it comes out soft and sky high...I'm at the 95% happiness with my formula on that and will be writing it up soon.

I have also made puff pasty with whole wheat flour.  Yep.  Good, too.

You might want to consider it a personal challenge to get nice, light breads from whole grains - if you want to do that sort of thing.

But why - because one mills one's own (and I do that, too) - does that mean one abandons white flour.  I use copious amounts of it.  Sorry, but a whole wheat baguette isn't the same (although they can be very nice...)

Or you can go really nuts on the whole milling thing and mill your own less than "whole grain" flour.  The possibilities are endless.

(BTW: micronizer mills have a reputation - deserved or not - for creating excess starch damage which can lead to a degradation of baking qualities.  Although many people get great baking results from wheat ground on micronizer mills.)

I am not terrible cost centric - but if you do not enjoy a whole grain taste and you want to keep costs low - why consider anything but white flour?   Really - what is motivating you to think of such a thing - because unless you are very dilligent in sourcing your whole grain, you may very well incurr additional cost.  If you understand what will make you happy - go for it.

Happy baking!

pmccool's picture

About you being considered an inferior baker, that is.  Anybody who can wrangle triticale has some serious baking chops!

Since I lack any milling experience, I will content myself with a "What she said!" about your milling commentary.


proth5's picture

That triticale is a devil.  I've been seriously thinking about pitting it against thre bread machine to see if I have been a mixing wimp.

Good luck with your upcoming classes!


Nick Sorenson's picture
Nick Sorenson

That's the word I was looking for... starch damage. I wonder how much merit there is to this as far as the feel and taste of the finished product.

proth5's picture

Excessive starch damage (there must be some starch damage for the wheat to properly ferment) will cause dough to absorb a lot of water during mixing and then release it during the fermentation and proofing resulting in a slack and poorly rising dough. 

Excessive starch damage is cause by "aggressive" milling.  In a roller mill this would mean that the initial rollers are placed too closely together.

Although micronizers get accused of causing excessive starch damage - and of all the milling methods open to home millers they have the most potential for causing excessive starch damage - only lab tests can confirm if this is the case.  Again, many people make great breads with flour from micronizer mills.  As cited below, it is a matter of properly handling the flour/dough.  I don't soak my whole grain flours, but some people have found it an effective way of producing soft whole wheat breads. 

I have always been convinced that the skill of the baker contributes more than the exact condition of the flour.  I have seen extraordinary bakers make high rising loaves from low protien whole wheat flour and I have seen middling bakers get bricks from excellent flour.

However, if you get that bitter taste from whole wheat - as all of us have suggested, try the whit whole wheat...

Happy Baking!

MangoChutney's picture

I make 100% whole grain sourdough bread from flour that I mill myself and it is not hard, brown bricks.  It is tender sandwich bread.  The grain used is 80% wheat plus 20% rye, which I plan to replace with barley when my supply of rye is finally used up.  As was stated in posts above, using white wheat instead of red wheat will avoid bitterness in the bread if that bothers you.  Adequate pre-soaking of home-milled whole wheat flour is in my opinion the most important step to preventing bricks.  Everything else is just getting whichever crumb, crust, and flavor that you desire.  Some combinations are not easily achieved with 100% whole grain flour because of the effect the bran has on the gluten, but various people here have done wonders in their attempts to achieve the less-achievable forms.  Mine is a rather simple version which happens to suit my family's needs.


loydb's picture

I also can bake 100% home milled WW loafs that make great sandwich bread. I don't, usually, because it's not a style we love, but it's very possible. Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Bread; is a fantastic book on how to wrangle home milled grain into submission, and makes a great Christmas present! :)


dwhitener's picture


I know where you're coming from -- I was there not long ago.  White bread is a wonderful thing.  It's light, sweet, and yeasty.  Nothing wrong with that.  

My wife gave me a mill for Christmas last year, so I got started on home milling and whole grain baking sooner than I otherwise might have.  I had to ease into it... starting with 20% whole wheat breads, then moving slowly to 50%, and eventually even a few 100% whole wheat loaves just to see how they were.  Honestly I found my sweet spot around 70%.  These days, I find I actually appreciate the flavor of whole wheat far more than I did this time last year before getting that gift.  

So my suggestion is to keep enjoying what you enjoy for now, and don't force whole grains on yourself.  Bake what you love and don't be afraid to experiment every now and then.  One day you may find yourself interested in a darker loaf... and when you do, you'll have a whole new set of baking challenges to enjoy.  

And the others are right in my opinion... whole grains don't have to be bitter or dense.  I have learned to make a few light and delicious whole grain loaves and I enjoy them regularly these days.  Sounds like you had a few bad loaves that may have tainted your view of fresh flour and home milling.

Home milling and whole grains will never be like white bread... it's a whole different set of flavors and challenges.  Just go there when you're ready and willing.


Nick Sorenson's picture
Nick Sorenson

I'd like to experiment a bit. I'm afraid when the time comes, I'll shell out the cash on a grinder and find that I HATE it! But you never know. Maybe I'll find it to be what I've been missing. One way to find out I guess.

I've never been one to eat based only on health. I'd rather eat bacon and eggs and 2 pieces toast with real butter and die smiling:) lol. There's a balance there of course.

But I think what you said is good advice. Ease into it and see how it goes.

Mary Clare's picture
Mary Clare

I have a Nutrimill (micronizing mill) and I found that the flour it produces is a bit different than the mill that attaches to my KitchenAid.  At first I adjusted the Nutrimill dials to make the finest flour I could, and the flour behaved as if it did have starch damage (the dough became more liquidy as it sat).  I now adjust the settings so the bottom dial is about at the 11:30 position as the manufacturer suggests (not at 10:00, as I had it before), and I have not noticed that problem anymore.  The grind is still for a fine flour.

I find it works very well to soak the whole wheat flour (or at least most of it) in liquid (water and egg, if using) for about an hour or two before mixing in the rest of the ingredients.  This allows the whole wheat flour to fully hydrate and get a head start on developing the dough.  You can definitely make light, tasty loaves this way.  I like to add 1-2 T. of potato flour for each loaf to increase the moistness, or perhaps add some cooked or soaked grain, some fat (or ground flax seed) and a bit of sweetener.

Be sure to add enough liquid to make a soft dough, and knead thoroughly until you can see a 'windowpane' -- whitish background around the flecks of bran (stretch and folding can be used to develop the gluten, too).  Like Daniel, when I want to make a particularly light loaf, I will use about 70-80% whole wheat flour and white flour for the rest.

I use white whole wheat.  I love freshly milled flour, which has no bitterness at all!

Mary Clare's picture
Mary Clare


I've had wonderful success with my Nutrimill after NOT trying to grind it as fine as possible.  When I first got it, I would put in the wheat and just turn the dial enough to get the mill grinding, so as to get the finest grind.  I did notice that after I mixed the flour, instead of getting stiffer as it absorbed water, it was actually more fluid as time went on -- quite a change.  Anyway, I worked with it, but it stopped working properly and I sent it back to the manufacturer.  

They were EXTREMELY helpful and gave me a brand new machine : )  This time, though, they included instructions on how to keep the mill functioning well, which meant for hard grains like hard wheat, to turn the dial to the "11:00 or 11:30" position (I had been used the "10:00" position).  I have done this ever since, have had no problems with the mill, and the flour behaves wonderfully, too.

For anyone wanting fluffy, tender whole wheat bread, I suggesst  a few things.  First, I mix the liquid ingredients like water and eggs  (nothing else -- no salt!), and add enough whole wheat flour to make a soft dough, and let it soak for 30 - 60 minutes.  Then I add the rest of the flour, and other ingredients.  I use some sweetener, fat, milk powder, and 1-2 T. potato flour (or some cooked grain).  Knead it THOROUGHLY.  There should be enough liquid to make a soft, stretchy dough -- really stretchy!  Add enough yeast to get a reasonable rise ( 1 1/2 tsp. per loaf or so).  Give it a stretch and fold after 45 minutes, rise another 45 minutes, shape, proof and bake. 

There is no reason whole wheat has to be dense, dry, or bitter!  I made some 100% whole wheat challah yesterday, adapted from Maggie Glezer's book, A Blessing of Bread.  Worked great : )