The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Finally -- a 100% whole grain hearth bread I'm proud of

JMonkey's picture

Finally -- a 100% whole grain hearth bread I'm proud of

As many of you know, I've been questing for a tasty, open crumb, 100% whole grain hearth bread for a long, long time now.

This weekend, I finally achieved my goal.

Nice open crumb, creamy texture, tangy and flavorful crumb, appealing slashes, crunchy crust.

Here's how I made it, and, to be truthful, it was mostly on a whim. The day before, I'd made some whole wheat sourdough sandwich bread, and had about 80 grams of starter left over. I didn't have time, really, to feed it, so I popped it in the fridge figuring I'd do something with it later.

The next evening, as I was thinking about what to cook for a visit from my folks (they'd come all the way from Atlanta, so I wanted something nice), I thought, "Why not try something akin to CrumbBum's miche?"

So here's what I did:

  • 40 grams of whole wheat starter at 60% hydration (Use 50 grams if at 100% hydration)
  • 375 grams water
  • 10 grams salt
  • 300 grams whole wheat flour
  • 150 grams whole spelt flour
  • 50 grams whole rye flour
So basically, its roughly 5 percent of flour in the starter, with a 60-30-10 wheat / spelt / rye flour combination at 75% hydration.

I mixed the starter into the water, added the salt until it was dissolved, and then stirred in the flour. I then did a stretch and fold at one hour, and then two more at half hour intervals. After the last stretch and fold, I shaped it into a ball, and let it sit overnight.

It's pretty chilly in our house at night, getting down to 63 degrees F, so your mileage may very, but the dough was ready to shape after about 12 hours. I preshaped it into a ball, shaped the dough into a batard after a 15 minute rest, wrapped it in baker's linen and then let it rise at 64 degrees for about 3.5 hours. After that, a few slashes and into a hot oven at 450 for 35 minutes.

I think the final piece that came into place for me was shaping gently, but firmly. And I suspect that the long fermentation helped with both flavor and texture. Anyway, I hope I can repeat this success.


susanfnp's picture

Wow, that is one good looking whole grain batard! I hope your family enjoyed it, and you enjoyed their visit.

Ramona's picture

I really think you did a great job!  I am going to copy this recipe and when I finally get a starter going, I am going to do this.  It really looks just like what I am looking for in a good, hearty, bread.  Nicely chosen variety of flours.  I guess I have held back from futhering my education in bread making, by not starting a starter, because I haven't come across much of anything to really motivate me to do it, because I really only want a true whole grain bread.  This bread has really put some motivation in me.   Can you hear it yet?  A rhythm of applause for you!


weavershouse's picture

We haven't heard much from you lately so I knew you were probably working on something wonderful. We dry apples every year and as soon as I get some cider I'm going to make the apple bread in your other post. Looks so good.


I also copied this whole grain bread recipe and I'm going to start it right now. Thanks for showing us some great baking. weavershouse

ehanner's picture

This looks great Jmonkey. Sort of a multi grain one step no knead with a long ferment. Must be that cool kitchen that gives you well developed and even air pockets. I hope it tasted as good as it looks. Thanks for sharing a very nice formula.


redivyfarm's picture

Another triumph- I plan to add this to my collection of formulas. You're already well represented in that collection, JMonkey!

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Looks good, easy recipe, and must taste good too,  a winner recipe!   :)

ivrib's picture

A marvelous loaf of bread! Such beauty!

This is definitely one I'm going to try.



L_M's picture

Wow, I'm so happy for you! You must feel so happy and relieved. Great work!


JMonkey's picture

It's really the culmination of everything I've learned since I started posting here a couple of years ago. I learned about stretch and fold from Floyd and Mike Avery, long sourdough fermentations with just a tiny bit of starter from Jim and Crumb Bum, shaping from (again) Floyd and MountainDog and all about starters from Bill Wraith and SourdoLady. I actually saw that 100% whole grain breads could be fairly open-crumbed from Jane and MountainDog.

And inspiration -- well, that comes from this fantastic community. It's really a gem.

I've actually been baking a lot, and have been working my way through Peter Reinhart's new book. I've just been so busy with my new schedule (up at 5am, working by 5:30am, off at 2:30, get my girl from school, cook dinner, etc. until 9pm -- and then to bed!), that I've not had much time to post. I've tried his potato-onion-rye as rolls (delicious, but I wouldn't recommend increasing the rye percentage unless you add vital wheat gluten -- otherwise, you'll get a pancake), multigrain hearth bread, raisin bread, sandwich bread, and even Volkornbrot. All have been wonderful. It's definitely the best bread book I've bought since the BBA and Hammelman's Bread.

Thanks folks. You guys are awesome.

redivyfarm's picture

I appreciate the tip on adding vital wheat gluten to potato-onion-rye. I love rye but have found it very tricky to work with. Will do!


KipperCat's picture

OoWee!  That looks good.  I'm going to have to get more spelt flour.

Dave W's picture
Dave W

Will add it to the list of this weeks bread to make, (see bread bread & more bread) looks like i'll be in trouble again for making a mess!!!!!!!!!


Dave (W)

Susan's picture

You deserve BIG CONGRATS! Susan from San Diego

Srishti's picture

That looks like a work of art! A masterpiece ;P

I just saw it and started my own. I imagine you didn't knead it? Just mixed it up and started doing streches & folds after an hour?

Thanks so much


JMonkey's picture

Yes, that's pretty much how I do all my breads these days. I don't knead, unless the fermentation time is pretty short -- like less than 2 hours for the bulk rise.

mountaindog's picture

Wow, great job JMonkey! It's been so long since I've had time to read and post to TFL, so what pleasure to log on after a long absence and see one of your whole grain masterpieces...very inspiring as I sit here waiting to do the last stretch and fold on my Columbias before going to bed. (It's a brisk 26F outside here in the Catskills tonight, and my kitchen is at about 65F, so I'm doing the overnight ferment also).

I really like your formula, it sounds so simple, I must give it a try next weekend.

I also still need to get Peter Reinhart's new book. In fact, I was hoping to pick it up at King Arthur Flour in VT last weekend when I was supposed to take the Whole Grains Baking class with the master himself. Alas, it was not to be, my car broke down in the Adirondacks enroute, so I had to turn back and get myself, my husband, and our two large Bernese Mountain Dogs into a rental car to get home (we were planning to visit my sister in VT as well over that weekend). So I called KA and told them to pass on the slot to the next person if there was time (fortunately there was a waiting list and others who were able to fill my slot right away - the KA people were very nice about it and even refunded me already). I was so bummed about missing the class though!!! I'll probably not get that opportunity again soon.

So thanks for the formula and the tips, I hope I can get something half as beautiful and tasty as yours when I try's been a long time since I've done 100% whole wheat so I'm due.

--mountaindog (who has a LOT of TFL reading to catch up on and doesn't know where to start)

JMonkey's picture

So good to hear from you! And so sorry to hear that you missed Peter's class -- at least it wasn't snowing yet when your car broke down, but I suppose that's cold comfort.

I can't wait to hear about what you've been baking up there in up state NY. And I'm sure yours will be lovely -- I well remember these beauties. Heck, the loaf above doesn't even look THAT good!

pumpkinpapa's picture

Beautiful work yet again JMonkey!

I just bought a bag of freshly milled Red Fife whole wheat and it made incredibly scrumptious bread but here you have an excellent sourdough rendition.

And your crumb is stunning with so many holes which is something I've not ever been able to emulate. My bread is fine and everyone likes it very much but I do like the appearance of your bread so much more.

So what will will you do next? 

Srishti's picture

Yeasterday was a bad food day! Everything we cooked was a disaster!

I started this bread last night as well.... and forgot to add salt :(

That I remebered this morning before I got out of the bed.

Anyway, I decided to add the salt by doing some more S&Fs... When I dumped the dough on my counter, it was so beautiful and full of holes..... And I wanted to cry to ruin such a beauty!!! Anywas, that said.... it is shaped and all now and benching! I hope it develops some more holes!!!

BTW I made it with Kamut+Spelt+rye.

And I started a 100% spelt one this morning (as I was out of rye) cause I was pretty sure I had ruined the first one!

I thing after I shape it in the night, I'll put it in the fridge and bake it the next morning!

Will post some pictures if it is not too bad :)

Susan's picture

Your salt-added-late bread will most likely be beautiful! Let us know.

Susan from San Diego

jane's picture



I will try your recipe after I get back from my vacation. 

JMonkey's picture

I'm sure you could. I think the key to getting the open crumb was the way I handled the dough, actually. It took me a year, but I think I'm finally beginning to get the hang of shaping ....

Check out this whole wheat loaf from Jane. It's the most beautiful I've seen, and she includes her recipe in the comments. It's 100% whole wheat.

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

I'll be trying your bread just as soon as my spelt and new rye flour comes in next week from flourgirl 51.

Srishti's picture
Srishti turned out beautiful. The holes aren't as nice but wth practice I'm sure they would come! I also made an all spelt one with the same recipe! That has better holes. This definitely was my best slash-job!

Thanks so much JMonkey for sharing this great bread! I love it!!!

JMonkey's picture

Those are beautiful! Especially the spelt loaf -- did you use the same hydration? I find that whole spelt uses a lot less water and have had no luck making a decent freestanding loaf -- they all pancake out. I'll have to try it. Wow.

Srishti's picture

Hi JMonkey,

Sorry, I somehow didn't get the notification of your post...

Yes I did use the same recipe for spelt... ie... same % of water. The dough did seem a little slack but it rose quite a lot in the oven!

Thanks so much


bwraith's picture

Hi JMonkey,

I've been a little busy and not on the site quite as much recently, so I missed this. It confirms several important pieces of the whole grain puzzle that I feel have worked recently for me, too.

Some of the things I've focused on that seem to give better whole grain results:

1) A long soak for the whole grains.

2) A fairly low fermented flour percentage, even if the grains are soaked separately. Here the two steps are combined in the CrumbBum Miche approach.

3) Stretch and fold to develop gluten. You don't have to knead much initially other than to mix the ingredients, since the long soaks and fermentations along with some stretch and folds develops the gluten over time.

4) Soft but not overly slack dough.

5) Early shaping.

6) Don't overproof.

7) Spelt for about 10-30% of the flour.

Thanks for this post.


Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

How does the spelt help?Just curious as the spelt bread (granted it was 100% spelt) I've gotten in the store was an inedible lump. I love whole grain breads and even in my so early in my learning I'm finding my 100% whole grain breads are quite edible. Can't wait until I figure it out if they're this good when they're bad!!

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

How does the spelt help?Just curious as the spelt bread (granted it was 100% spelt) I've gotten in the store was an inedible lump. I love whole grain breads and even in my so early in my learning I'm finding my 100% whole grain breads are quite edible. Can't wait until I figure it out if they're this good when they're bad!!

zolablue's picture

JMonkey - I have been making an effort to bake more whole wheat breads and a few days ago I made this one. Wow! I love it! What happened - I really thought I would not learn to enjoy WW sourdough! (lol)


I think the Heartland Mill freshly ground WW flour has made a huge difference in flavor since I could not find a KAF type of WW I liked. I knew this would test that flour difference along with the oatmeal sandwich loaf recipe you posted that was also TDF.


I ended up adding about 450g of water so I'm wondering if it was due to the flour. I could have even added more and may next time just for fun. I mixed my dough at noon and it had almost doubled just before 6:00 pm so I refrigerated it overnight. I had to go out of town unexpectedly the next day so it was only out of the fridge about an hour before I shaped the batard and then it only proofed for 50 minutes before I baked it. I got great oven spring and wonderful texture. I ate the first slice the day following the bake and was blown away at how much depth of flavor this had and very mild sourdough flavor as well. Yum!


The time before I tried to make a 100% WW sourdough I hated it. I know now I allowed it to ferment way too long and way overproof. This one worked so well for me and I'm actually really pumped! Thanks again for being a WW trail blazer.


(PS...I cannot find your most recent thread on this bread where you showed the baked bread and the shaped batard - such a gorgeous loaf. Did you delete it?)



JMonkey's picture

Glad it turned out so well! Wow -- that's 90% hydration!! I've never had success with that much water -- if you've got a photo, I'd love to see it.

Here's the really pretty loaf you were looking for. I've not been able to get one to look that nice since ....

zolablue's picture

I didn't get a photo but next time I will. Thanks for the link to that other thread - that is truly a beautiful whole wheat loaf. Mine was pretty but not as pretty as that one. :o)


kranieri's picture

beautiful loaf -

what amount of starter would you recommend that i use if mine is 6:5 (flour/water)?

nicodvb's picture

Absolutely fantastic loaf!

Can I ask what kind of wheat you used? Although I grinded soft wheat myself many times I could never get such a dark color, not even remotely comparable. Surely rye and spelt were too little to influence the color.

Does it also happen to taste sweet?

Did you maybe use some kind of hard wheat?