The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Converting favorite family recipes for whole grain

LucysMutti's picture

Converting favorite family recipes for whole grain

We are now grinding our own grain at home (Restel ... Worth the wait). 

Been using Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads, with excellent results. 

Now, I want to try converting favorite family recipes (hot crossed buns, for example) to this method, using whole grains. 

I've searched the forums here, so please forgive me if I missed it, but does anyone have thoughts or advice on this process?

I've been working toward switching to baker's percentages, and maybe that's the key, but I'm not sure. 

Any help is most appreciated. 

Thanks, Jessica

isand66's picture

You have to keep in mind that whole grain type flours tend to be more thirsty and will require more water or liquids.  I'm not sure which method exactly you want to follow since in PR's book he has several different methods depending on the bread he is making.  My advice would be to experiment and gradually add in the whole grains as a substitute for AP or Bread flour but add more water to achieve a similar consistency. Take notes of what you are doing and certainly use bakers % and dough hydration to analyze what your procedure is and your results.  I constantly experiment with my bread formulas by using different flours and as you get more experienced you will instinctively know how much to use and if you need more liquid.

Start out with a simple recipe you want to convert and go from there.  Feel free to post your results and plenty of us will be glad to give you our 2 cents worth of advice :).


Yerffej's picture

Hi Jessica,

Welcome to the forum.  Whole grain breads and white breads are two very different products.  Converting from white to whole grain in the strickest sense of a "conversion" does not really happen.  What you are doing is essentially creating a whole new recipe using whole meal flour.  Follow Ian's advice and you will meet with success.



clazar123's picture

It may be doable to convert this to a yeast recipe but the sourdough does make it quite tasty. txfarmer has some delicious postings.

aikigypsy's picture

I use a white whole wheat when I'm converting a lot of white flour recipes, and just kind of wing it. I just use ww in place of 2/3 or more of the all-purpose flour, and it usually turns out fine. 

I use a modified version of Peter Reinhart's basic method from his whole grain bread book, and assumed that was the one you were talking about. If the recipe already calls for a soaker/biga step, then it should be easy to convert. Otherwise, I would just try to work the ingredients from the family recipe in to the method, and see if that works.

Also, I have not particularly found that I need to use more liquid with my freshly ground wheat, but I'm sure it varries a lot with the particular flour.

linder's picture

As others have said, more hydration along with soakers/bigas/wild yeast starters are key in using whole grains in place of AP or bread flour.  Peter Reinhart's cinnamon roll recipe and challah recipe in 'Whole Grain Breads' offer good techniques on making soft whole grain dough.  I would use those as a guide in trying to recreate family favorites.  His mash technique might also prove useful in adapting well-loved breads to whole grain. 


LucysMutti's picture

Thanks for all of the suggestions.  I have been making the hot crossed buns with a mix of whole-wheat, and white whole-wheat flours for some time now and I really like PR's whole grain cinnamon rolls.  I was hoping to marry the two somehow, but Ian is probably right, this will be a whole new recipe in the end!

Linda, I havn't tried the Challah recipie yet, but I think you are right, start with one of his recipes and work back towards the flavors I get from the family recipe.  It could be a simple addition of a bit more sweetener, currants, and spices.

I'll be sure to post the results.  If this goes well there is a sticky bun recipe I'd like to change as well.

barryvabeach's picture

While I often see the suggestion to add more water, in my limited experience, you need very little, if any, extra water when using home ground wheat flour.  When I use store bought wheat flour, I add more water, but usually not much if any using home milled.  I almost always autolyse.  Also, since you home mill, I assume you are playing with proportions of red and white berries.  When starting with a regular recipe, I usually start with white berries - the taste will be much closer to the taste of white flour - though of course it won't rise as much,  then gradually start increasing the percentage of red berries until I get the flavor I like the best.  For me, 60% white berries 40% red berries is a great compromise,  but it depends on what you are making and your taste buds.