The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

For Those on a 100% Whole Wheat No Added Gluten Mission

Elsie_iu's picture

For Those on a 100% Whole Wheat No Added Gluten Mission


First thing first, since I'm not sourdough masters like Trevor, Maurizio, Phil, etc, you're more likely to get closer to the result I achieved (6 months of experience is all I have).


There's a sudden trend of producing 100% whole wheat bread with no additives on TFL. To be honest, I'm a real fan of vital wheat gluten because it enables me to try crazy whole grain flour combination without severe compromisation of dough structure. However, for 100% wheat, its use might be less necessary.


This formula is designed for less proficient bakers who are eager to produce bread with open crumb. Rather than optioning for 100% hydration, I strove to achieve the balance between handling ease and crumb openness by dropping the hydration to around 93%. This formula also focuses on minimum dough handling so there is no stretch and fold, slap and fold or machine kneading involved.


Without further delay, here is the formula:


Total flour:

150g    50% Freshly milled hard white wheat

150g    50% Freshly milled hard red wheat



10g      3.3% Starter (50% dark rye, 50% red whole wheat 100% hydration)

40g    13.3%   Bran sifted from total flour

40g    13.3%   Lukewarm water


Final dough:

260g   86.7% Flour

240g      80% Lukewarm water

90g        30% Leaven

5g       1.67% Salt


Total hydration: 93.4%


Leaven build: 5 hrs at 28°C

Autolyse: Mix together the flour and water roughly. 10 minutes at 28°C

Bulk fermentation: Fold in the leaven and salt. 3 hrs 20 minutes at 28°C. No stretch and fold in between.

Final shaping: 5 minutes after preshape. This is my preferred shaping method: Sprinkle a light dusting of flour onto the dough then flip it. Pull up the dough from the edge furthest away from you and fold it towards yourself. Similarly, pull up the dough from the edge closest to you and fold it away from you. Roll the dough towards the left side. Sprinkle another light dusting of flour. With the help of the dough scraper, tighten the dough by pushing it to the left. Transfer to the banneton.

Proofing: Retard immediately for 15 hrs at 2°C (little difference if kept between the range of 8-20 hours)

Bake: Score and bake directly from fridge. 15 minutes steam at 450°F. 25 minutes dry heat (no convection) at 450°F. After reaching 208°F at the minimum, turn oven off, keep oven door closed for 5 minutes. Remove from oven, cool down for at least 2.5 hours.

Though the dough was considerably easy to handle, I still recommend you to wet your hands whenever you are working with it. Touch it as little as possible and only with your finger tips when shaping. This is key to preserving the bubbles and thus achieving an open crumb. It also makes the process fuss-free.

Dough after shaping

Lastly, one good news is that this was my first time baking without vital wheat gluten as well as using this formula, which means it likely has higher potential than what I’ve shown you.


All comments are welcome and please don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions. Good luck to all and Happy Baking.

clazar123's picture

Isn't it amazing that a beautiful and delicious loaf can be made in so many ways! Whole grain, natural leaven, minimal handling and voila! How can this be successful? Let me give my .02 on what was done right for this beautiful loaf given the great writeup here.

Bread structure as defined by clazar:

Bread (loaf) structure is a mix of bubbles of trapped gas that have starchy, gelatinous walls that are held by strands of stronger gluten (like a netting).The gelatinous walls have to be strong enough to hold the gas without breaking as it expands in the heat of the oven and then sets and dries. The gluten helps hold the bubbles in place (like a netted group of balloons) until the oven dries and sets them in place.

There are so many ways to achieve this effect of bubbles, trapped gas and netting and that is why there is so much conflicting information on "how to". Different ingredients and even different varieties or crops of the same ingredients can change how a dough will come together and behave, adding to the confusion.

Vital wheat gluten

The trend to use VWG has gone back and forth over the last 10 yrs. Like any tool, it has its uses but personally, I don't care for it as it makes the crumb chewy. I also find that most wheat/whole wheat loaves don't require additional gluten to develop a good structure. (CAVEAT: I've never tested it but I suspect there has to be at least 30% (maybe a bit more) wheat flour for my statement to be 100% correct.)  As long as there is: adequate hydration, time built in for everything to soak up the hydration (autolyze, double mix method, long, cold bulk fermentation), a reasonable effort to develop the starchy gel (anything from vigorous movement of the dough to tang Zhong) OR ingredients that naturally contribute the starchy gel (rye flour,starches and others),then an adequate structure will form and additional VWG isn't necessary.

Your method as described has all these basic, needed components: high hydration (93%? ),  some rye flour for gelling (it never takes much), a reasonable bulk fermentation to develop flavor (3 hr,20 minutes), a long, cold "proof" and I also believe baking cold contributes.

Great looking loaf. How does it taste? 

Elsie_iu's picture

so it's fruity and sweet, almost raisin-like.

I won't say 93% is a "high hydration" for 100% whole wheat but perhaps a moderate one. I don't really bake with white flour but I guess it's somewhat comparable to 100% white flour at 73% hydration.

It's true that VWG makes bread chewier but that's what I like about it too. Dough composed dominantly of wheat is often strong enough but there're some exceptions in my experience. For instance, sprouted flour and gluten-free/low flour weaken the dough significantly. This means the dough might still be weak with 30% unsprouted wheat flour and need the extra help from VWG.

Thanks for the comment and comprehensive analysis!

texasbakerdad's picture

Thanks for the writeup! I was going to take a baking break today, but... maybe not, i think I can squeeze a loaf or two in.

Elsie_iu's picture

I hope it is somewhat helpful to you.

dabrownman's picture

Wow.......That was a short autolyse for high extraction flour!

One if the things I learned about baking straight out of the fridge is that you have to increase the time you have the dough under the lid and steam.  15 minutes in the bare minimum for a dough that goes in at room temperature, 20 minutes is better.  Since the dough is cold it will take longer for it to warm up enough to even start to bloom and spring.  For a bread like this one I would think 475 F lid on and 25 minutes of steam and then lid off and 425 F convection after that would really help the dough to fully bloom and spring.

Also, since the baking was low and so short under steam and the resulting bloom and spring compromised,  it is hard to tell if the loaf was over proofed too - so who knows?  Here in AZ, 12 hours would be the max for a bread like this one to get it to 85% proof and maximise bloom and spring.  I hate final proofing in the fridge because it almost always overproofs while I am sleeping but if I can check it in 8-10 hours then It is the cat's meow :-)

All in all, for a whole grain bread that doesn't take much time or effort it is really nice and,as you say, it has a lot of potential for sure.  Another or couple of more bakes and you will get this down pat.  You have come a long way.

Happy baking Elsie

Elsie_iu's picture

of 10-30 minutes is all the dough can handle. Nor is a longer autolyse necessary really. Anymore then the enzymatic activities get out of hand for freshly milled flour bread like this (worse for sprouted). I've learnt the lesson the hard way a couple of times already...

My way of steaming is using a disposable aluminium pan to cover the dough, which is placed on a steaming hot cast iron pan. I spritz the dough heavily with water before hand. For the first time I did this, I let the steaming go for 20 minutes and when I uncovered the lid...I saw a huge steamed bun... Not sure why but the dough definitely looked over-steamed at 20 minutes so I cut it back to 15. As eager as I am to use the convection mode, my oven just doesn't allow it. Its temperature drops like crazy whenever I use it! What can I say, it has its own character :)

My fridge is super cold, I measured it recently and it's 0.2 ℃... Freezing fridge... I guess that's why the dough never shows much difference after it has cooled to the fridge temperature.  4 hours and 8 hours for sure make some difference but 8 hours and 14 hours? Not that I can notice. It's hot now in HK too, around 82-90°F in the kitchen (and the high humidity makes it difficult to breath). That's why I retard the dough directly after shaping.

Thanks for the detailed feedbacks! The formula does have some potential. I don't think I'm the one who's going to unleash it though since you know me: the same formula doesn't get a repeated bake unless it's exceptionally good like the 100% whole spelt half sprouted one :)

Elsie_iu's picture

But 100% whole wheat flour.

It was my bad for not writing it out: I got around 50g of bran, the leftover 10g was soaked in equal amount of water (the hydration has been taken into account) separately. It was added after the autolyse.

Since the amount the bran sifted out varies every time, I thought it might cause confusion if the exact amount was mentioned. However, not listing it out has obviously caused more confusion...

Hope this helps to clarify the formula.

Ru007's picture

I've never been brave enough to do a 100% whole wheat sourdough, let alone 93% hydration!! 

Well done Elsie, you're doing so incredibly well with your baking! 

Happy baking 


Elsie_iu's picture

for 100% whole wheat. I can surely up it to 100% with no problem as it's so thirsty.

Thanks for the compliment! It means a lot to me.