The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Dough rise problem with whole wheat flour

mluciano's picture

Dough rise problem with whole wheat flour

I was wondering if somebody could help me because I made the recipe of Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Bread (I adapted the recipe to 1 loaf) using whole wheat bread on a 70% and white flour on a 30%. I also added 1 TBSP of gluten to help with the rise.

When I mix everything the dough is too dry... I try to wet my hands and knead the dough with my hands wet and also I added oil to the countertop as I was kneading (some technique I read somewhere) and the dough improved a little, but not that much. I knead it 10 minutes and the next of the recipe I made it exactly like it says in the recipe in this site...

First, what can I do to make the dough better and also how many time do I have to knead a whole wheat dough for it to be ready?

This is the adaptation I made:

  • 1 cup white flour minus 1 tbsp flour + 1 tbsp vital gluten
  • 2 1/2 cup Whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 208 ml water
  • 2 oz milk
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup soaked raisins.

Thanks for the help.

browndog's picture

mluciano, that's a pretty hefty load with the whole wheat, oatmeal and raisins, so I can see where rising might've been a challenge, but I'm sure you can get a nice textured bread with a little tweaking. My suggestions would be:

first to make a sponge by mixing your whole wheat flour with the recipe's water and and yeast, honey and oil (but not the salt) and let that work for an hour or two before mixing the final dough. It should be about the consistency of thick batter.

second, the higher whole wheat proportion might mean you need to add more water, too, there's no reason not to splash in more while you're kneading til the dough feels right to you. Don't just accept a dry dough, that's something you can control pretty easily. I like even a heavy dough to feel soft enough to move and 'breathe'.

third, there's been some debate about how much to knead whole wheat here, but I would say you won't lose a thing by kneading a good 15 minutes at least. And if it seems like it needs more rise time, let it have it. I've had doughs look like they aren't going anywhere finally get quite puffy and nice if I just give them the time to do so. Good luck.

mluciano's picture

Thanks for the help, I'll work on those tips tomorrow!!!


vickistg's picture

I would just add one thing I learned on another site. If you leave the oil out of the sponge, it rises better. I put about 1/2 the flour, yeast, water, and sweetener in the sponge and then add the oil and salt. I find I get a really nice, active sponge by leaving the oil out. It's something about the oil coating the gluten strands. Way too technical for me, but it works.

syllymom's picture

To me it looks like this recipe needs more liquid.  The oats can soak up a fair amout.  Try adding some more and see what happens.

Another thing for whole wheat recipes that you want a light airy texture is to pre-soak the flour.  What I do is mix the w/w flour with the liquid (I add some yoghurt or kefir for the lactic acid) and let it sit covered on the counter for several hours.  Then I add all the other ingredients and continue as usual.  This really has helped me with w/w breads.

bottleny's picture

The recipe you posted didn't have either one.

mluciano's picture

Hi. Do I have to add the gluten to the sponge as well? And all of the flour?

TRK's picture

For the sponge I would add all the WW flour, all the yeast, and all the water.  Add the other stuff (including the oil and the gluten) when you add the rest of the ingredients.  If you wanted to let it rise longer, you could add just a tiny fraction of the yeast, the WW flour and the water, and let it rise overnight, then add the rest of the yeast when you add the other stuff the next day.

KipperCat's picture

1- It's hard for me to guess the amount of water to increase with the ingredient list mixed between cups, ml, and oz. (I tend to list mine the same way, btw!) But I would guess at an increase of 100 ml.

--edited to say that after reading the original recipe, I might boost the water by 150 ml.  Whole wheat flour absorbs a lot more water than white, and I don't think that your recipe maintained the flour/liquid ratio of the original.  Maybe someone with more time can check the math.

2 - Subbing yogurt for the milk, or adding 1/8 tsp Vit. C crystals to the dough will help. (I do both) Why? Here's a quote from Grainlady on GardenWeb.
"I always add ascorbic acid (vitamin C) powder to yeast bread recipes when I add whole wheat flour. I do this to counteract the negative effects of Glutathione which comes from the wheat germ. The ascorbic acid helps prevent the gluten bonds from breaking down; and will help repair gluten bonds that have already been broken. It also helps sustain the leavening of bread loaves during baking and promotes yeast growth. I use 1/8 t. ascorbic acid powder per loaf. This is unnecessary if using a sourdough starter - it's acidic enough to counteract the effects of Glutathione"

3 - You could increase the gluten to as much as 2 Tbsp, imo.

4 - And finally, WW doesn't need to proof as long as a white flour dough. When you press on the dough with your finger, the indentation should fill in slowly to indicate that the dough is ready for the oven. For white flour dough, I wait until the indentation doesn't fill in at all.

5 - What king of whole wheat flour are you using? I really like a WW flour from white wheat (as opposed to red wheat). KA is the brand I use. You could also sub whole wheat pastry flour for some of the WW flour. It is a finer grind, so the germ and bran are less likely to slice the gluten strands in the dough.


I hope some of this helps. I've done a LOT of reading recently on whole wheat baking. My last loaf came out great, though I'm only up to 70% WW.

mkelly27's picture

Please tell me you don't really believe  this person "Grainlady" and her aversion to "Glutathione".  really .  Check it out first

 almost like Scientology.  Ascorbic acid has been added to dough forever, not just to combat bad juju


Two wrongs don't make a right. Three lefts make a right

KipperCat's picture

Hmmn, I think we've got a bit of miscommunication here. I know about the need for glutathione in the human body, since my doc has been known to give me injections of the stuff due to some quirks in my system that I won't detail here.

All Grainlady is saying is that the glutathione (which is in the germ and therefore not present in white flour) weakens gluten bonds. She likes to give them (the gluten bonds) a boost with the Vit C.

I've personally found it easy to break the gluten strands when kneading or shaping whole wheat dough, but not white flour dough. I've added Vit C to the last 2 batches of WW, and found the dough to be stronger, holding up to more handling without the gluten strands breaking. I've no idea if Grainlady is right about the reason. Her statement mentioned other benefits of using Vit C, which apply equally to WW and white flour breads.

I guess I should have given a bit of background on who she is - a baker and home grain miller with many years of experience who has taught me a lot about baking on another website. I've no idea what her real name is, Grainlady is the forum name she uses in a cooking forum.

mluciano's picture

I'll try this for tomorrow and yes, you were right, I had the math wrong... If I can find the vitamin C I'll add it to tomorrow's bread. One question, how much yogurt or milk in my recipe? Is it substituting, for example, one tbsp of milk for one of yogurt?

KipperCat's picture

Yes, you can do a 1 for 1 substitution with the yogurt for liquid (either milk or water.) I would try somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 cup of yogurt. I just used 1/3 cup in a loaf with about 2 cups of WW and 1 cup of white flour. I honestly don't know what amount would be best. The 1/3 cup is the amount called for in the Loaf for Learning in Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book. That loaf has 3 cups (450 gr) of whole wheat flour.

I'm glad you're working on incorporating more whole wheat into this.  It sounds like a recipe I'll enjoy. 

browndog's picture

I don't think you  can use too much as such, mluciano, it shouldn't harm your dough in any respect and will add tenderness.  I'm trying to decide if you used all yogurt, whether the increased acidity would interfere with yeast growth, and I'm guessing it wouldn't significantly, you're probably not looking to put in 2 or 3 cups anyway.

 What I've found, however, is that yogurt isn't as 'wet' as water or milk so the substitution doesn't quite play out at 1:1. For that reason if I need say 1 cup of liquid, I would take half a cup of yogurt and thin it with water or milk, and still be ready to add more if the dough feels at all dry. I hope you post pictures, you've created quite a stir! 

mluciano's picture

I'll make every suggestion at work today... Let's see how this bread turns out. I'll let you all know and also I'll put some pictures... Thanks everybody!!!

mluciano's picture

Jesus! This bread thing is HARD. I followed every suggestion, but I don't know how I forgot the salt (guess I was doing too much things at the same time), and second, the bread didn't rise the way I expected... The texture improved though. This is how I did it this time:

  •  ¾ cups white flour
  • 1 ¾ cups wheat flour
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  •  6 oz water
  • 2 oz milk
  • 1 tbsp yogurt plain
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 ½ tbsp aceite vegetal
  • 1 tsp ( plus 1/8 tsp) salt
  • 3/4 tbsp active dry yeast
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup raisins soaked in water

Everything was turning out fine until the last rise. It didn't rise enough.Final stage

The texture was a lot better though. The flavor was rather good (obsiously I left the salt out so, I couldn't be THAT good).

If somebody has a clue on what could have wrong this time, let me know. I'm beginning to feel a little dissapointed... My husband liked it though... That is motivating... :-)

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Sorry to read you got this far and then forgot the salt.  Good picture and the next loaf will be even better!  It was the lack of salt that stumped your loaf and made it hard to brown.  I'm sure that was all. Rest assured, you're doing good!  --Mini Oven

KipperCat's picture

I've done so many silly things at one time or another - like measuring the flour with the 3/4 cup measure instead of the 1 cup - talk about a wet dough! It didn't make a pretty loaf, but it tasted good.

This is a total SWAG, but here's my two cents - Is it possible that the dough rose too much the first 2 times and didn't have enough oomph left in it to rise as much as desired in the final rise? I think that salt sort of inhibits yeast growth, so the lack of salt might have meant the yeast multiplied faster than normal in the earlier phases.

At least you know what you left out, so that's a fairly simple thing to fix with the next step. 

ps  I should find something else to do with my time besides spend it on this site. All these pictures of bread are getting me hungry!