The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads - do the techniques make better bread?

Cafemich's picture

Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads - do the techniques make better bread?

I bought this book a couple of months ago because the recipes looked so enticing. I've used Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book for many years and have always achieved very good results from her recipes and techniques. But, I wanted some new whole grain recipes and got pretty excited after reviewing the table of contents in the Reinhart book.

After making a few loaves from the Reinhart book, I'm perplexed and vaguely dissatisfied. The Reinhart breads seem much denser than Laurel's, and some of them have a sour, off-flavor. I've been able to achieve lighter loaves by kneading much longer than the recipes call for - like, 15 minutes instead of 4 minutes. Also, by using water in the soakers instead of milk, the sour flavor seems to have been alleviated.

My question is: do the techniques in the Reinhart book really produce better whole wheat bread than the traditional breadmaking methods? Is it really worth it to go through the prefermentation steps? Any feedback is truly appreciated. Or maybe someone can direct me to a book with updated whole grain recipes and traditional techniques. Thanks!

Yerffej's picture

In my experience bread baking is ALL about technique.  I would say that Reinhart's methods when followed exactly make a most definitely superior bread and again this is from experience.

It is all in the details.



JMonkey's picture

I like both books, though I have a particular soft spot for Laurel Robertson. I've got a few thoughts.

First, I find that Reinhart's breads have an earthier flavor. He's really pushing the limits of fermentation. Robertson's breads (desem excepted) generally have a clean, simple taste. I like both quite a bit.

As far as kneading goes, I've almost completely given up on it. I used to knead 10-20 minutes, per Laurel's books, but these days, I just let time do most of the work, with a little help from either the stretch and fold technique or the so-called French fold. Both take much, much, much less time and effort than kneading for 300 strokes per loaf, and I've not seen much difference in the lightness of the loaves.

These days, I tend to make three different breads most of the time. The first is a variant of Laurel's buttermilk bread. I use basically the same recipe, mixing it up around dinner time, but instead of kneading, I fold it three times. Then, after the first rise is complete, I shape it and let it rise outside overnight for a long, cool rise. (Obviously this works best in spring and fall.)

The other two breads are sourdough sandwich bread, which is pretty much Laurel's desem recipe with 1 Tbs butter and 2 Tbs honey (I also like to do an overnight rise and bake in the morning) and a mixed whole grain sourdough hearth bread.

I do like Reinhart's mash bread, though I've gotten so used to easy, no fuss breadmaking, I rarely make the time to make any of Reinhart's breads. Though, I do find that Laurel Robertson's breads do benefit quite a bit from either a pre-ferment or a retarded rise.

Cafemich's picture

Thanks for the ideas. I'd never heard of stretch and fold before. You can bet I went straight to the videos and watched all of them. Can't wait to try it.



hansjoakim's picture

My apologies for bringing an old thread back up!

My interest has gradually shifted more towards WW and whole grain breads, and Reinhart's book seems to pack lots of useful information. I don't own it and haven't read it, however. Also, I understand that he has employed a particular method to the breads presented in the WGB book: Preparing a biga and a soaker first, then mixing these two with salt and quite a substantial amount of yeast, before brief periods of fermentation and proof.

Reading about the method online and reading this thread, got me curious about it. Are there any bakers around these parts that routinely employ Reinhart's method in WW and whole grain baking? If so, do you think it's worthwhile compared to other approaches based on e.g. stretch+folds and long, slow fermentations?

kanin's picture

Reinhart's methods for Whole Grain breads are definitely worthwhile. Once the biga and soaker have matured, the dough is meant to rise quickly on baking day by using a lot of yeast so the scheduling is easy to manage.

dougal's picture

The point of the method is to allow different "cultural" developments for the different components -- to minimise the occasional unfortunate side-effects of doing it all together. 

Hence Reinhart uses more yeast than his usual, to minimise the time that the two components are allowed together, minimising the mischief they can wreak on each other!

This rationale is well explained in the book. Its the main point of the book. IMHO the recipe/formula section (with its odd mix of full instruction and reference to 'master recipes') could have been better organised (to be clearer, neater and briefer). The recipe section forms the bulk of the pages - and looks impressive on a store shelf. But to actually use, their layout is more messy than need be.

The "meat" is in the explanatory section.

So far, I've found the bread flavours interesting and worthwhile. But the actual "epoxy" combination of components is an awkward task. That, plus the degree of pre-planning required, are the only reasons I haven't baked more from this interesting book.

scottfsmith's picture

I own the Reinhart book but confess to have never tried his fermentation methods, only the formulas.  It is much simpler just to do a long slow bulk fermentation with a stretch and fold when convenient.  I do plan on trying his approach for comparison at some point, but I am busy and need a way to work the breadmaking into my lifestyle, not make it my lifestyle :-)




DanOMite's picture

I really like the reinhart technique for whole wheat breads. Although I admit its weird because of how muffin like the crumb is though. I really love the flavor, as someone mentioned before its very earthy. I just want a more fluffy somewhat softer crumb. I've been doing the "holy grail" whole wheat bread from king arthurs whole grain baking and its really good. I kinda adopted the robertson technique though and knead for a long time, for about 30 mins or so. I end up getting a remarkably light bread. When starting out the king arthur bread it is a little stiff and firm but after a good 20 some odd minutes of kneading the elasticity really builds and its much more soft. I definetely recommend that for people looking to try out a good soft whole wheat bread. It uses about the same amount of yeast as the the reinhart breads too, but because the grains haven't gone through all the complexity that the reinhart breads do, it does not rise quite as fast. I'm thinking this is probably the effect from the soaker because when you pull that out its just so wet and soft that the yeast must be able to really do its job well.

What I'm thinking about doing though is trying to add some of the robertson techniques to the reinhart dough.  maybe lighten up on the hydration just a liiiitle bit so it won't be so "tacky" Or I could possibly just add more flour. Then from there just knead the final dough into oblivion, of course I'm being overdramatic. Like I said I REALLY enjoy the flavor of his breads, but I admit I'm not so fond of the "muffin" like texture of the crumb. I crave something a little fluffier. Maybe I should take a percentage of whole wheat out and add some potato flour like in the king arthur recipe??

I guess thats just the fun of experimenting eh?  If anyones got any opinions or advice on this let me know, I'd love to hear and try them out. Hope to hear from you all  soon....I just love bread baking :)

charbono's picture

Reinhart doesn't use the stretch-and-fold.  I've found that adding one, four-sided S&R really strengthens the dough.  Try it and see if your crumb changes.



Rosalie's picture

Does anyone use Stretch & Fold in a book?


hansjoakim's picture

Hi Rosalie,

Hamelman is a strong advocate for stretch and fold in "Bread". He encourages brief mixing times followed by stretch and fold during bulk fermentation. His book is the only one I can think of...

dougal's picture

Dan Lepard is a great advocate of 'stretch and fold'. You'll find a description and photos in the introductory section on Mixing, (in which he calls it 'turning') in The Handmade Loaf - I presume it made it into the US edition (Art of Handmade Bread) without much alteration!

Similarly Maggie Glezer calls it 'turning' in Artisan Baking Across America, and it even merits an index entry as such!


I believe that this naming comes from puff pastry and viennoiserie, where exactly the same manipulation goes by the French name "un tour simple" - a plain turn.

Soundman's picture


If I recall correctly, and I rarely do anymore, Reinhart has pictures of himself and a helper stretching and folding ciabatta in Bread Baker's Apprentice.

Soundman (David)

razl's picture

Would you describe your Reinhart loaves as "fluffy" or "light and airy"?

Many of the reviews seem to suggest that they are... but many of the posts in this thread don't agree; yet other posts in this thread say "Reinhart's methods when followed exactly make a most definitely superior bread and again this is from experience."

I've been trying to achieve the promised light and airy loaf (see my thread) but with no success.. From the loaves I've made so far, I have to agree that "Reinhart breads seem much denser than Laurel's" and "I admit I'm not so fond of the 'muffin' like texture of the crumb. I crave something a little fluffier."

shakleford's picture

While I'm a big fan of Reinhart's books, I have found that his methods almost always yield a denser (and more complex) bread than using the same formula with the Laurel Roberton style of baking.  Your latest post from your other thread (the photo posted earlier today) looks quite similar to my typical results.

Which is better is entirely a matter of taste - I like both the Reinhart and the Robertson approaches.  Then again, I'm a freak who often makes extremely dense loaves with nontraditional grains (quinoa, barley, buckwheat, etc.), so clearly density doesn't bother me.